What’s the Best New-Car Deal for September 2020?

Though deals for the Labor Day weekend are now behind, the traditional back-to-school month still holds sizable discounts for cars from the 2020 model year.

By Kelsey Mays

September 11, 2020

Special Offers

2020 Ford EcoSport

  • Factory discount: $3,750 to $6,250
  • Approximate price after discounts: $16,500 to $25,500
  • Approximate factory savings: 16-23%
  • Offer ends: Sept. 30

Through most of August, Ford’s subcompact SUV averaged 136 days for the dealership to find a buyer on 2020 model-year examples. That’s more than double the industry’s 66-day average for all model-year 2020 vehicles over the same period. Predictably, Ford has kept the incentives spigot open on the EcoSport, a regular candidate among our top monthly deals.

The 2020 model still accounts for some 95% of new EcoSport examples on Cars.com as of this writing, and Ford is offering $3,750 to $6,250 in cash discounts through the end of the month in the markets we surveyed. Amounts vary by region but generally ratchet up for higher trim levels, with overall discounts topping 20% off list price in some cases. Alternately, Ford is offering 84-month financing to qualified shoppers, but at not-so-plum 8.9% interest. Depending on your credit profile, you may be able to negotiate better rates from a third-party lender.

2020 Ford F-150 XL, XLT

  • Factory discount: $4,000 to $6,250
  • Approximate price after discounts: $25,500 to $58,000
  • Approximate factory savings: 7-17%
  • Offer ends: Sept. 30

Ahead of the redesigned 2021 F-150 pickup truck hitting dealerships this fall, the outgoing 2020 model averaged 77 days at the selling dealer through most of August. Ford is offering big discounts on the work-truck XL and mainstream XLT trims, which together account for roughly three-fourths of new model-year 2020 F-150 inventory on Cars.com as of this writing.

Depending on region, cash on the hood ranges from $4,000 to $5,000 on the XL and $5,250 to $6,250 on the XLT. Those amounts should drive double-digit percentage discounts for many shoppers, and they’re far higher than the advertised incentives on pricier trim levels of the pickup truck, which max out at just $2,500 in the markets we surveyed. Alternatively, Ford is offering 5.9% financing for 84 months to creditworthy shoppers for the XL and XLT.

2020 Jeep Cherokee

  • Factory discount: $3,750 to $4,500
  • Approximate price after discounts: $23,000 to $43,500
  • Approximate factory savings: 8-16%
  • Offer ends: Sept. 30

Jeep’s popular compact SUV averaged 125 days on the dealer lot through most of August. That’s for 2020 model-year examples, which still account for 91% of new Cherokee inventory on Cars.com as of this writing. Unsurprisingly, the Cherokee carries heavy incentives this month.

Depending on region and trim level, Jeep is offering $3,750 to $5,000 off the SUV, depending on region and trim level. Shoppers who finance at standard rates through Jeep parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles can get another $750 off — a bonus not reflected in our numbers above, as it isn’t available to all shoppers. Tack it on, though, and you should easily be able to get a double-digit discount on the Cherokee.

Alternatively, high-credit shoppers can get 0-3.9% financing for 36 months plus $2,000 to $2,750 in bonus cash, with both ranges depending on region and trim. Sans bonus cash, the 0% offer extends to 72 months or, in select markets and trim levels, 84 months.

Editor's Choice

2020 GMC Acadia

  • Factory discount: $5,250 except on base model
  • Approximate price after discounts: $29,500 to $57,000
  • Approximate factory savings: 9-15% except on base model
  • Offer ends: Sept. 30

The Acadia, a two- or three-row SUV with plenty to like, averaged 73 days at the dealership through most of August. Now through Sept. 30, GMC is offering $5,250 off all but the base trim level for the 2020 model. That shouldn’t constrain your choices too much: The 2020 model year still accounts for nearly 9 in 10 new Acadia SUVs on Cars.com as of this writing, and the incentive-ineligible trim, called the SL, is virtually impossible to find anyway. Four higher trims get cash on the hood equal to a double-digit percentage discount in most cases; that said, GMC didn’t advertise any special financing offers in lieu of cash, so shoppers will have to contend with standard finance rates on the SUV.

More From Cars.com:

The Returnees

We focus on cars new to the list or ones we haven’t highlighted in the past few months. But a few cars from recent months still carry deep discounts in August:

How We Look for Deals

To look for September deals, we looked at days-to-sell data among the 100 bestselling models in August — specifically Aug. 1-26, the window we gathered the data — which measures how long it takes on average for the selling dealer to move a given car. That illustrates slow sellers, cars on which dealers could be more willing to cut a deal. Then we looked at factory cash discounts and low-interest-rate financing offers that are especially high for the price of the car. After all, $4,000 is a lot more on a Ford Escape than a Ford Expedition.

We lead with cash deals available to shoppers at large, not those that require financing with the automaker or having certain qualifications (e.g., military or college-graduate discounts, loyalty or conquest bonuses, etc.). In calculating the overall percentage discount and pricing after incentives, we focus on the vehicle’s price range from the cheapest incentives-eligible trim level with no factory options to the priciest eligible trim with all factory options. We include the destination charge in such pricing, but we exclude a few other items: taxes and fees, which vary considerably by region, and dealer accessories, which vary considerably by automaker.

Because these are factory discounts, they should be available to all participating dealers. As such, use them as the starting point for negotiations, not a reason to skip haggling altogether.

Incentives data come from automakers’ websites, while days-to-turn data come from Cars.com inventory. 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.

How Do I Decide if a Deal Is Right for Me?

Shopping for new-car discounts can introduce a lot of confusing terminology. Not to worry: Each month, we’ll highlight the best cash and financing deals among today’s popular models. To determine the best deal for you, you’ll need to consider the terms of the discount — whether it’s a cash rebate, discount financing or some combination therein — and decide what lowers the cost of your prospective car the most.

What Are Cash Rebates, Factory Cash or Cash Back?

Whether they go by cash rebates, factory cash or cash back — or some other related phrase — cash offers function as direct discounts off a car’s price. They’re generally available to all shoppers regardless of credit ratings, though they aren’t always available on all examples of a given model.

Cash offers might be restricted to all but the lowest trim; in the same vein, certain performance or luxury variants might be exempt. Make sure to read the fine print, and take any sky-high offers with a dose of skepticism. It’s possible they’re limited to a hard-to-find outgoing model year or only a certain percentage of dealer inventory.

It’s also important to frame any given offer against the overall price of the car. After all, $3,000 off a Chevrolet Equinox is a much higher percentage discount than $3,000 off a Chevrolet Tahoe. Always calculate the discount as a percentage off the total vehicle price — out the door, including all taxes and fees, if possible.

Some brands make it easier by advertising cash discounts as a percentage off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, but you’ll need to consider a few customary fees beyond the MSRP, such as the destination charge and the documentation and license fees. Pay full price on those, and your percentage savings out the door will be a little bit lower than the advertised discount.

Finally, remember that some cash offers may require you to finance at standard rates with the automaker’s lending arm — groups like Ford Credit, Toyota Financial Services, GM Financial and the like. That eliminates the option of financing your purchase with third parties like a bank or credit union, and it may result in a higher interest rate because you can’t shop competing lenders.

Just because you see such an offer doesn’t mean you have to take it. It’s still worth shopping among third-party lenders to see what your interest rate elsewhere might be. If the automaker presents you with a substantially worse rate to get the additional cash offer, use Cars.com’s Car Loan Calculator to decide if it’s worth it.

What Is 0% Financing?

Most new-car shoppers still finance their purchase, even after substantial cash discounts. As an alternative, discount financing offers — sometimes called discount or special APR (annual percentage rate) — give a subsidized interest rate in lieu of big cash bonuses. Sometimes they work out to the same monthly payment: Say a cash discount knocks $4,000 off a car that’s $34,000 out the door, leaving you with $30,000 to finance. You qualify for a standard interest rate of 5% on a 60-month loan, working out to a monthly payment of $566. But in lieu of that $4,000, the automaker is also offering discount financing at 0% for 60 months. Financing the full $34,000 at such terms works out to $567 per month, or virtually the same payment. You’ll have to decide what works best.

In virtually every case, automakers restrict discount financing offers to creditworthy shoppers, with the plummest deals reserved for those with sterling FICO scores. Bankrate notes that only about 1 in 10 shoppers qualify for 0% loans, so check your credit score before you go and set your expectations accordingly.

The good news is that finance rates, like many other aspects of car buying, are negotiable. A red-hot APR deal for the creditworthy few may still mean lower-than-normal rates for other shoppers.

What’s Bonus Cash?

Automakers seldom allow you to combine discount financing with the full cash offer — meaning, in the above scenario, you can’t get $3,000 off and 0.9% financing. But sometimes automakers offer a hybrid of the two, with discount financing and some (albeit not the maximum) cash discount. Often called “bonus cash,” such offers mix special financing terms with a small amount of cash off.

Credit limitations still apply, but such cases may produce the best deal overall. Again, we recommend using Cars.com’s loan calculators to decide what works best.

What’s Military, College Grad, Loyalty or Conquest Cash?

Although we focus on cash deals available to all shoppers, some consumers may qualify for additional discounts. Automakers generally offer extra cash to first responders, members of the U.S. military and recent college graduates. Additionally, shoppers with cars in the same competitive set as a prospective purchase, or vehicles from the same automaker, may qualify for competitive or loyalty discounts. In some cases, it’s not even necessary to trade those vehicles in as part of the purchase.

You might be able to combine such bonuses with discount financing or cash deals, but specifics will vary. If you fit any of these categories, see your dealer to learn more.

What Are Deferred Payments?

Offered sometimes as a sales promotion, payment deferrals are exactly what they sound like: a holiday, lasting one to several months, from making car payments.

Make sure to read the fine print, however. Some deferred payments are actually payments the automaker makes — often expressed as payments made “on us” — which function as a discount off the financed amount of your loan. Others are simply deferred payments tacked onto the end of the loan. That may offer some relief in the near-term, but you’ll be responsible for them on the back end.

What’s a Lease Deal?

About a third of new-car purchases are leased, but such deals vary by region depending on trim popularity and residual values. Because of such widespread variances and limited accounting of what a lease should cost at full price (and, thus, how much of a deal any particular offer really is), we devote most of the coverage here to cash and finance deals. That said, if you’re looking to lease, read our primers on how leasing a car works and how much it costs to lease a car. We also have a glossary of car-leasing terms.

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.