What Are the Best Car Deals for May 2017?

CARS.COM — In Star Wars speak, the force remains strong for new-car deals. Discounts ebbed in April, as expected, but recent history suggests May could see the beginning of a summer ramp-up. What's more, it comes on the heels of a month where automakers and dealers still averaged $3,452 in total incentives per vehicle, according to Autodata Corp. That's up $400, or 13.1 percent, versus April 2016. We'll have to wait until the last of the Memorial Day barbecues end to see how May did, but you can chew on these deals while you plan that brisket rub.

Related: How Does Trading in a Car Work?

2017 Jeep Patriot

Jeep Patriot

How much can I save? A lot, given the Patriot's sub-$20,000 starting price. Until May 31, cash-back deals on the 2017 model range from $500 to $2,500, according to Automotive News. Read the fine print, though: In the ZIP codes we checked, the cash-back offers often exceeded that range but required financing through Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' credit arm, so your discounts may depend on how you pay. (Jeep is an FCA brand.) Cut-rate financing offers, meanwhile, are as low as zero percent.

But the Patriot has a poor reliability history and mixed safety grades. Yes, those are reasons for concern. But if you only want deals, there are plenty on the Patriot — and that's rare among SUVs, which are popular these days.

Isn't Jeep discontinuing the Patriot? Are there any left? Yes and yes. The redesigned Compass replaces the outgoing Compass and Patriot, two closely related SUVs. Production of the outgoing models ended around four months ago, and Patriot sales tanked 52.5 percent in April as the SUV averaged 148 days on dealer lots — more than twice the 60-day average. That's not for lack of supply, however: As of May 10, dealers on Cars.com still had about 15,000 in stock.

2017 Jeep Renegade

Jeep Renegade

How much can I save? Perhaps even more than on the Patriot. Sales slid 8.6 percent in April as the Renegade averaged 68 days on dealer lots, and Jeep is offering $500 to $3,000 off the 2017 Renegade through the end of the month. Discount financing runs as low as zero percent, too.

Is it any good? Meh. When the Renegade debuted two model years ago, it placed fifth out of seven contenders in Cars.com's Subcompact SUV Challenge. Safety-mind shoppers should note the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety hasn't published results for two of its five major crash tests on the 2016-17 Renegade, either.

I heard it has more Easter eggs than a Cadbury store. Well, that's a stretch. But there are a lot. The Renegade, like a lot of Jeeps, is chock-full of unexpected design cues, from spiders to Sasquatch. We spied plenty.

2017 Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla

How much can I save? Decent money for an affordable compact. Until May 31, Toyota has cash rebates from $500 to $2,000 on the Corolla sedan, or $1,500 to $2,000 on the Corolla iM hatchback. Even though both cars sold faster than the industry average in April (58 days for the Corolla, 47 for the Corolla iM) combined sales slipped 7.6 percent for the month amid consumers' flight to SUVs.

What about discount financing? Cut-rate financing runs as low as zero percent on both body styles, per Automotive News.

Does this mean I'll become like Ron Livingston's "Office Space" character? It's true, Livingston's hapless Peter Gibbons drove a bare-bones seventh-gen Corolla in the 1999 cult classic. Rest assured, however, that today's Corolla is a far cry from its forebear. The driving experience is still a bit humdrum, but the 2017 Corolla has an impressive roster of standard safety features, with solid reliability for the current generation to boot. That said, if you're in cubicle hell with a Lumbergh of a boss, a car probably won't change that.

The Returnees

We focus on cars new to the list or ones we haven't highlighted in the past few months. But many cars from recent months still have high discounts in May:

How We Look for Deals

To look for May deals, we considered sales in April among the top 100 best-selling cars, specifically eyeing models whose sales underperformed the market. We also looked at days-to-turn data from April, which measures how long it takes on average for dealers to sell a given car. Both factors illustrate April's slow sellers, cars on which dealers could be more willing to cut a deal.

Finally, we looked at factory cash discounts and low-interest-rate financing offers that are especially high for the price of the car. (After all, $2,000 is a lot more on a Ford Focus than a Ford Explorer.)

Sales and incentives data come from Automotive News and automakers' websites, while days-to-turn data come from J.D. Power and Associates. Remember, our numbers are national in scope and reflect advertised customer discounts, not unadvertised factory-to-dealer cash. Discount financing typically requires qualifying credit, too, and incentives may vary by region and trim level. In sum: Your discounts may vary, so check with your local dealer for specifics.

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