The holidays might be just around the corner, but automakers are feeling none too generous with incentives — at least relative to recent history. J.D. Power and Associates forecasted that October would mark the fourth month in a row for new-car discounts to fall, year-over-year, with average discounts at $3,742 per car; that's down $143 from October 2017. Still, automakers eked out a 0.4 percent increase in total October sales, per Automotive News.
Unsurprisingly, the pickings for November discounts were slimmer than usual, with many would-be candidates offering steep discounts only for select trim levels, certain regions or hard-to-find outgoing model years. We focused on cars with widespread discounts available to most shoppers.
See our picks below:
How much can I save? More than 10 percent in certain areas. Malibu sales fell 12.1 percent in October, by Automotive News' estimate, as non-hybrid 2018 models averaged 96 days on dealer lots — well beyond the 81-day weighted average for all 2018 model-year cars. Now through Nov. 30, Chevrolet is offering $2,500 to $4,000 off the 2018 Malibu, depending on where you live. The offer excludes the base L trim, and it's unclear if it applies to the Malibu Hybrid, but both variants are flyspecks in Cars.com new-car inventory.
Are there any 2018s left? The vast majority, in fact. As of this writing, the 2018 model year still accounts for 88.7 percent of new Malibu inventory. You'll miss out on the visual updates for the 2019 Malibu, but these are serious discounts.
What about discount financing? Qualified shoppers can get zero percent financing for 60 months on the 2018 Malibu on all trims except the Malibu L.
How much can I save? Plenty, though it varies on what you buy. Ford is offering $1,750 to $5,000 off the 2018 model, trim level and location depending. That comes amid Fusion sales tumbling 9.1 percent in October as non-hybrid 2018 models averaged 96 days on dealer lots. Expiration dates for these incentives vary, however. The vast majority we observed expire on Jan. 2, 2019, but some of the higher-dollar deals are done as soon as Nov. 30, 2018.
What about the Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi? The 2018 Fusion Hybrid gets up to $4,500 off, depending on trim level and region, while the 2018 Fusion Energi — that is, the plug-in hybrid — gets up to $3,000 off. The deals we observed expired Jan. 2.
What about the 2019 Fusion? Ford is offering $750 to $2,000 off the 2019 Fusion, depending on trim level and location, but cash incentives ramp up to $2,500 on the 2019 Fusion Hybrid and 2019 Fusion Energi. The offers we observed expire Jan. 2.
What about discount financing? Rates vary. For both model years, qualified shoppers can get 2.9 percent for up to 84 months in most regions we surveyed, but 84-month discount financing in some regions went as high as 7.9 percent. At that, shoppers with decent credit are likely better off financing elsewhere.
How much can I save? Ten percent or more, if you get a lower trim. Sales for the Soul tumbled 14.1 percent in October as the hatchback averaged 156 days for the 2018 model and 39 days for the 2019 (both excluding the all-electric Soul EV). Now through Nov. 30, Kia is offering $2,000 off all trims on the 2019 Soul.
What about discount financing? Also through Nov. 30, qualified shoppers can get zero percent financing for up to 60 months.
Editor's Choice: Hyundai Sonata
How much can I save? Lots. Sonata sales slipped 4.3 percent in October as non-hybrid 2018 models averaged 121 days on dealer lots. The 2018 model year accounts for just over half of all the new Sonata inventory on Cars.com as of this writing, and Hyundai has cash discounts of $2,750 to $3,750, depending on trim level, through Dec. 3. The Sonata Hybrid, meanwhile, gets $2,000 off.
What about discount financing? On the 2018 Sonata, Qualified shoppers can get zero percent financing for up to 60 months plus another $2,000 off. On the 2018 Sonata Hybrid, the financing offer amounts to 0.9 percent for up to 60 months plus $1,000 off. Both offers also expire Dec. 3.
Any deals on the 2019 Sonata or Sonata Hybrid? None that Hyundai advertised in the regions we surveyed, but see your dealer for details.
What's with all these hatchbacks and sedans? I want an SUV. You and everyone else. Read on: The returning picks below include a couple examples.
We focus on cars new to the list or ones we haven't highlighted in the past few months. But two nameplates from recent months still have deep discounts in November 2018:
How We Look for Deals
To look for November new-car deals, we considered sales through October 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 October, which measures how long it takes on average for dealers to sell a given car or truck. Both factors illustrate October'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.