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What's the Best New-Car Deal for December 2018?

'Tis the season to spend, but if you have a new car in mind and you're expecting your cash to carry you as far as it has in recent holiday seasons, the outlook isn't looking so jolly. With new-car sales down slightly year-over-year, per Automotive News, and sales for 2018 more or less leveled out at just a 0.4 percent increase, automakers have been tightening incentives and trimming deals in an effort to wring out some extra profit.

Related: Ready to Fall in Love? Meet Your Match With Cars.com's Shopping Tools

The good news? There's also extra incentive for those automakers to wrap up their years on a high note, and December has traditionally been a fertile month for consumers looking to exploit a year-end bargain. Where should you start? See below for more.

2019 Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento

How much can I save? A modest helping of holiday ham will be in order for this one. The Sorento's sales are down 13 percent versus a year-ago month as 2019 models averaged 61 days on dealer lots, well past the 38-day weighted average for all 2019 models. Now through Jan. 2, Kia is offering $2,000 to $2,500 off the four-cylinder L and LX trims and $3,000 to $3,500 off higher trims, all depending on region. It's not a huge chunk, but in a time where incentives aren't exactly plentiful, this strikes us as fairly straightforward in an attractive class.

What about discount financing? Now through Jan. 2, qualified shoppers can receive zero percent financing for up to 60 months plus $500 back in some regions.

I have a family and the Sorento seems fine ... but I want a larger one. If you mean a larger family, join the club and get ready for your September baby to resent your timing. If you mean a larger vehicle, though, Kia is planning for your latest procreation with the 2020 Telluride seven-passenger SUV. The Telluride is set to debut at the Detroit auto show in January; we expect to know more at that point about its exact on-sale date as well as if it will fit your growing brood. Stay tuned.

2018 Ford EcoSport

Ford EcoSport

How much can I save? An unreal amount of candy canes' worth. Now through Jan. 2, Ford is offering $1,750 to $3,530 off the 2018 EcoSport in most markets we surveyed, though one area — California —posted far lower discounts, at just $500. The Blue Oval brand's littlest SUV hadn't yet rolled out to U.S. dealerships this time last year, but it was already averaging a worrisome 101 days on lots in November 2018 — nine days longer than the 92-day weighted average for all 2018 models.

What about discount financing? For qualified shoppers, Ford is currently offering 2.9 to 3.9 percent financing for up to 84 months in most regions we surveyed. In some regions, however, discount financing was as high as 7.9 percent — a rate those with decent credit should be able to easily beat by financing elsewhere.

Are there any 2018 models left? As we'd say when asked which "Home Alone" sequels are bad: Nearly all of them. As of this writing, the 2018 model year still accounts for 96 percent of new EcoSport inventory on Cars.com.

Didn't you spend an inordinate amount of your autumn hating this thing? To be sure, the EcoSport has its shortcomings, many of which were reflected in our 2018 Subcompact SUV Challenge: Hefty A-pillars hinder visibility out the front, storage and safety need considerable work versus the competition, and the 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine has gotta go — for starters. On the other hand, 15 percent off a base S model may be worth your consideration if a runabout to fetch Charlie Brown's tree is all you had in mind.

2018 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

Chevrolet Cruze

How much can I save? If you finance with GM, enough to think you're pulling seasonal work for Chevy. Now through Jan. 2, the GM brand is offering an employee discount on 2018 Cruze models atop an already hefty cash allowance, which can total up to nearly $5,400 off MSRP on high trim levels. You should still find plenty in stock, as the 2018 model year still accounts for half of all Cruze inventory on Cars.com as of this writing. The incentives come in the wake of nosediving sales for the compact car, which has suffered a bad calendar year thus far and a 3.6 percent year-over-year drop in November, by Automotive News' estimate, as sedans sat on dealer lots for 153 days and hatchbacks sat for 160.

What about discount financing? We found none advertised at the time of this writing, but we wouldn't be surprised to see an offer on the table for shoppers again soon given its past appearances.

You just linked to a story that referenced how the Cruze finished last in a comparison of yours. Once again: True. The qualities that afflicted the 2017 model carry over for 2018, but so do its strengths — technology, interior space and a solid driving experience foremost among them. If the question of value held you back previously, now might be the ideal time to reevaluate.

2018 Nissan Rogue

Editor's Choice: Nissan Rogue

How much can I save? There will be plenty left over for extra tinsel this year. Combined sales for the Rogue and Rogue Sport fell 11.7 percent year-over-year, and the bigger of Nissan's smallish SUVs averaged 101 days on dealer lots for 2018 model years — the same as the EcoSport. Depending on region, Nissan is offering $1,000 to $3,500  off the 2018 model, which accounts for about 43 percent of new Rogue inventory on Cars.com. Finance through Nissan at standard rates and you can get another $500 off. Offers expire Jan. 2.

What about discount financing? Nissan has an attractive offer for that, too, with zero percent financing for up to 60 months plus up to an additional $500.

But what if I want a 2019 Rogue? Good question. Depending where you are, Nissan is offering $1,000 to $2,500 off the 2019 Rogue plus $500 if you finance at standard rates through the automaker. Discount financing amounts to zero percent for 60 months plus up to $500. Offers also expire Jan. 2. The price bump for most 2019 trims means you're still coming out ahead with most 2018 model-year discounts, but if you're weighing resale value for later, it's your call what a couple of grand is worth. Pour some glogg and mull it over.

The Returnees

We focus on cars new to the list or ones we haven't highlighted in the past few months. But a few nameplates from recent months still have deep discounts in December 2018:

How We Look for Deals

To look for December new-car deals, we considered sales through November among the top 100 best-selling cars, specifically eyeing models whose sales underperformed the market last month. We also looked at days-to-turn data from November, which measures how long it takes on average for dealers to sell a given car or truck. Both factors illustrate November'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. Note that low-interest financing is usually in lieu of cash discounts; you seldom get both deals on the same car.

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 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 vary 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.

Cars.com's Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

 
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