CARS.COM — Between that last-hurrah cookout and a slate of terrific college-football matchups, you may want to add car shopping to your Labor Day weekend. Incentives vary from month to month, but in recent years September has been one of the strongest months for discounts. Shoppers have already seen rising incentives this year — an average $3,148 per car through July, per Autodata Corp., up $358 versus the same period last year. This September could bring steeper deals still.
Labor Day marks an informal end to summer, and it's typically the end of the model year for many cars. Dealers want to get newer versions on the lot, and to do that, older versions must go. To move the metal, dealers cut deals. What's more, it may be the end of a car's generation. In many cases, when a redesigned version is arriving soon, dealers are doubly motivated to get rid of the older model as many shoppers want the freshest styling. You can turn that to your advantage and get a great bargain in the balance.
Here are some of the best deals we found from Automotive News that run until Sep. 6.
Ford offers up to $3,000 off the 2016 C-Max hybrid or up to $4,500 off the 2016 C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. You may not find that many of them, given both models account for less than 1 percent of all Ford inventory on Cars.com — a reflection of low consumer demand amid still-low gas prices. Add the C-Max Energi's $4,007 maximum federal tax credit for qualified buyers and you could get quite the deal. Meanwhile, discount financing on the both versions runs as low as zero percent.
Ford also slashed up to $2,950 off the 2016 Taurus full-size sedan; discount financing runs as low as zero percent. Granted, this is the same car that placed near the bottom in Cars.com's $38,000 Full-Size Sedan Challenge three years ago, but that was before Ford replaced its aggravating MyFord Touch multimedia system with the far better Sync 3. (Still, we'd like real buttons — not touch-sensitive panels — below it.)
If you can still find a 2016 model, Lincoln offers up to $2,250 off the MKC, a terrific little luxury SUV. A competitor to the Acura RDX, Audi Q5 and BMW X3, the MKC hides its Ford Escape roots well; it's among the best products from Ford's luxury division. The 2016 MKC might require a hard search, as it accounts for just 15 percent of new MKC inventory on Cars.com. But even the 2017 MKC has $1,000 off. Both model years are also eligible for financing as low as zero percent.
If you're looking for a Sonata, Hyundai has posted big discounts all year long. Cash rebates amount to as much as $2,750 apiece for the non-hybrid 2016 Sonata, with discount financing as low as zero percent. Availability should be easy as 43 percent of new Sonata sedans on Cars.com are 2016 models. Even the 2017 model year has sizable discounts, with cash rebates up to $1,500 or financing as low as zero percent.
Looking for cheap back-to-school wheels? Mitsubishi offers up to $1,250 in cash rebates or financing as low as zero percent on the refreshed 2017 Mirage. That may not seem like much, but the Mirage's sub-$14,000 starting price makes it the second-cheapest new car in America. (The cheapest is the Nissan Versa.) It's no-frills transportation, to be sure. But with these discounts, that car payment could fit a no-frills budget.
America's best-selling sedan has up to $2,000 off 2017 models or up to $3,000 if you can snag a remaining 2016. That might prove difficult, as the 2016s make up less than 10 percent of the new-Camry inventory on Cars.com. Toyota also offers discount financing as low as zero percent on both the 2016 and 2017 models.
You don't have to wait until Labor Day to get these deals: All of them are available right now, according to Automotive News. Bear in mind that financing offers generally require qualifying credit and local incentives may vary, so check with your dealer for specifics.
Editor-in-Chief Patrick Olsen contributed to this report.