CARS.COM — What are the steepest discounts on new cars this Black Friday? Your best bet is to start with deals on cars already discounted through the month. Incentives for the holiday weekend are often regional or limited to a subset of inventory, so read the fine print carefully.
Dealerships have piled on the Black Friday bandwagon for some time now, but it's hard to assess whether the day after Thanksgiving really is the best time to buy a car. The weekend should at least bring decent deals, given its November backdrop; Autodata Corp. says the month of dry poultry and door-buster deals ranked second for new-car incentives in 2016, and it's averaged a little better than fourth over the past five years — so, not bad. But is Black Friday the best weekend within November? That's murkier.
The end of the month — and end of the year — are "generally" the best times to shop, said Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific. But "it would be oversimplifying" to assume that's always true, he added.
After all, vehicle prices depend on how well shoppers negotiate, and most incentives data looks at the deals by month, not day. Still, Black Friday deals should be strong amid a slow retreat in new-car sales.
"Automakers will almost certainly use Black Friday incentives to help minimize the impact of declining sales," Kim wrote in an email. "Given the industry's wide adoption of Black Friday in recent years, there is no reason they would back off now."
Look for Deals All Month
Automakers aren't just waiting until the week before Thanksgiving to trumpet such deals, however. Go back a few years and "you really did see Black Friday-focused initiatives — you'd see manufacturers put additional incentives in place just before the Thanksgiving weekend," said Thomas King, senior vice president of data and analytics at J.D. Power and Associates. "What we've seen over time is those Black Friday deals come earlier and earlier."
That isn't to say dealers won't move a little more on cars that already show big November discounts. Start with these:
- 2017-18 Chevrolet Cruze
- 2017-18 Chevrolet Malibu
- 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan
- 2017 Ford Fusion
- 2017-18 Hyundai Elantra, Elantra GT
- 2017-18 Kia Optima
- 2017-18 Mazda3
- 2017 Toyota Prius C
What about SUVs? Well, they're selling well. Truck sales — which include SUVs, pickup trucks and vans — are up 4.4 percent through October, according to Automotive News, while car sales (that is, everything else) are down 10.9 percent. The latter group, unsurprisingly, has some of the largest advertised incentives.
"The biggest discounts, at least on a percentage basis, are available on the cars, so if you're focused on a savings versus MSRP, typically a car is where you'll find the best deal," King said. But popular segments like SUVs can still have "significant" deals, he added.
Indeed, automakers are advertising big cash discounts on a few popular SUVs, per Automotive News:
That's especially true if you can hunt down an example from the 2017 model year. This year it should be easier to do just that, according to King.
"The one thing that's a little bit different this year is that there are more, older model years on the ground," he said. "We've had some slowdowns from a sales perspective, and folks are struggling to align supply and demand."
As you gear up for the weekend, don't expect door-buster deals like you might see at the local big-box store. It's unlikely your local dealer will knock 80 percent off a few cars for those who camped out all night. But regional specials on select examples might abound. Keep these tips in mind:
- Beware the bait-and-switch. Local ads might tout an ultra-low price on certain cars for Black Friday only to say in the fine print that the price is limited to a small percentage of dealer stock, or perhaps just one or two cars. If you can find those cars, have at it. Just don't be surprised if they're gone when you arrive.
- Keep the final price in mind. Don't let all the language on deals let you lose sight of the final price. Get a written out-the-door price on your prospective car, including sales tax, license fees and the vehicle doc fee. Negotiate on that number alone, not the MSRP (or worse yet, the monthly payment). Always get to a final negotiated price before you talk financing, and line up preapproved third-party financing before you go. Most dealers will offer competitive terms to earn your financing business, too.
- Know the incentives. Research factory incentives on a car before you arrive. Those are furnished by the automaker, not the dealer, and they should be a starting point — not an endpoint — for negotiations.
- Don't buy too much car. Black Friday deals might prompt you to get a pricier car than you can really afford, especially when it comes to leasing. Watch out; you don't want to end up on the leasing treadmill.
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