Ahhh, the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s — when extended family are still around but planned activities are not. The holiday food means loosened belts and, if you’re not careful, loose-lipped bellyaching about your weeklong housemates. If car shopping was on your to-do list, it might prove just the right excuse to dodge the family drama.
If Great Aunt Bessie objects, claim deals as your defense. Overall new-car incentives are still waning versus a spike in recent years, but the end of the calendar year remains a historically good time for discounts. Tyson Jominy, head of J.D. Power and Associates’ data consultancy, says the week between Christmas and New Year’s has seen the highest new-car incentives of the year for four of the past five years. And two days in particular should see a lot of activity in 2018.
“Due to the calendar, we have two very strong-selling days to the end the year — Saturdays, which are always the strongest-selling days of the week, on Dec. 29, combined with Monday, New Year’s Eve, [which] is always among the top-selling days of the year,” Jominy stated in an email. “As we head into the period, it is important to note that incentives are still likely to be down overall for the industry versus last year. However, excellent deals can still be found on specific models.”
End-of-year deals should be bountiful as dealers look to sell the last of the outgoing 2018 model year. As of Dec. 19, that year still accounts for roughly a third of all new-car inventory on Cars.com. For six brands in particular, more than 45 percent of new inventory remains 2018s:
- Mazda: 62.5 percent
- Audi: 52.9 percent
- Dodge: 51.7 percent
- Ford: 49.7 percent
- Mitsubishi: 49.3 percent
- Jeep: 48.2 percent
Dealers from those brands should want to clear out the old given model-year 2018 cars averaged 92 days to sell on dealer lots in November — much longer than the 38-day average for 2019 models. If you shop the brands above, there’s a good chance you’ll find dealers motivated to move the metal. By contrast, dealers selling Subaru, Acura and Infiniti are almost all the way into the 2019 model year, with less than 10 percent of inventory still comprising the 2018 model year. That could signal fewer deals from those brands.
Which cars in particular have the highest cash discounts? We took the selection from our Best New-Car Deals for December 2018 and found a few more:
2019 Chevrolet Equinox: Parent company GM is offering employee pricing on select models, including the Equinox. In the automaker’s advertised example — a well-equipped Equinox Premier that sells for around $40,000 — total discounts amounted to some $6,000 if you finance with GM. Those who finance elsewhere or pay cash are still eligible for employee pricing, but total discounts will be lower, a spokeswoman for the automaker told Cars.com. Discounts are also variable depending on trim level, so lower trims are likely to have smaller incentives. And employee pricing doesn’t apply to the Equinox’s base trim, called 1SM. Deals expire Jan. 2.
2018 Ford EcoSport: $1,750 to $3,650 off, depending on region, though select markets, including California, have substantially lower discounts. Discount financing varies widely, too. We found 84-month rates from 2.9 percent all the way up to 7.9 percent, depending on region. That said, the 2018 EcoSport should be easy to find, as it accounted for nearly all new dealer inventory as of Dec. 19. Deals expire Jan. 2.
2018 Hyundai Tucson: $3,000 to $3,500 off, depending on trim, or 0.9 percent financing for up to 60 months plus $1,000 off. Persistent shoppers should be able to hunt down a 2018 model as they still accounted for about a third of new Tucson inventory as of Dec. 19. Deals expire Jan. 2.
2019 Kia Sorento: $2,000 to $3,500 off, depending on trim, or zero percent financing for up to 60 months plus $500 in some regions. Offers expire Jan. 2.
2018 Nissan Murano: $4,000 to $5,250 off, depending on region. In some areas, a small portion of that comes only on upper trim levels. Alternately, discount financing on the Murano amounts to zero percent for up to 60 months plus $2,000 to $2,750, region depending. The updated 2019 Murano is just around the corner, but as of Dec. 19, Nissan dealers are still full of 2018 models.
2018-19 Nissan Rogue: $1,000 to $3,500 off the 2018 model or $1,000 to $2,500 off the 2019 model, both depending on region, plus another $500 if you finance at standard rates through Nissan. Alternately, discount financing amounts to zero percent for up to 60 months with $500 off. Offers expire Jan. 2.
Sedans and Hatchbacks
2018 Chevrolet Cruze: Employee discounts knock some $5,400 off GM’s advertised example — a Cruze Premier priced around $30,000 — for those who finance through the automaker. Finance elsewhere, pay cash or choose a lower trim level, and your discounts are likely to be lower, albeit still substantial enough to consider. You should be able to find a qualifying example, as the 2018 model year accounted for about 44 percent of new Cruze inventory as of Dec. 19. The deals expire Jan. 2 and don’t apply to the base trim, called 1SM.
2018 Chevrolet Malibu: Employee pricing can shave off quite a bit. In GM’s advertised example, a Malibu Premier priced close to $40,000, the discounts slashed about $6,100 for those who finance through GM. Finance elsewhere, pay cash or choose a lower trim level, and your discounts are likely to be lower, albeit still substantial enough to consider. You should easily find qualifying examples, as the 2018 model year accounts for about two-thirds of new Malibu inventory as of Dec. 19. The discount expires Jan. 2 and doesn’t apply to the base trim, called 1VL.
2018 Ford Focus: $2,500 to $5,000 off, depending on trim level and region. Alternately, discount financing amounts to 2.9 percent for 84 months. Offers exclude the Focus Electric and high-performance Focus RS. You should have no trouble finding the others, however: With the Focus’ global redesign axed for U.S. showrooms, the 2018 model year is the nameplate’s final stateside example.
Related: How to Win the Car Financing Game
Our numbers are current as of publication for the markets we survey (generally Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and New York). They reflect advertised customer discounts, not unadvertised factory-to-dealer cash. Discount financing typically requires qualifying credit, too, and incentives may differ by region and trim level; automakers may also change them later in the month. In sum: Your discounts may vary, so check with your local dealer for specifics.
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