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December A Great Deal Time for Car Shoppers

Put a new car under the tree and save a bundle.

by on Dec.08, 2011

Forget the sweaters and ties. You may get a better deal on a new car this holiday season.

Becky Poston admits she’ll be spending a little less on ties, sweaters and the other small gifts she normally puts around the family’s tree for Christmas.  She’ll need the cash she saves for a downpayment on a new BMW 328i she decided to buy.

“I wasn’t really serious, just looking,” says the New Jersey administrative assistant, “but when I heard the deal they were ready to make I couldn’t say no. So, the new car is the real present to my family this year.”

Ho, ho, ho...!

Poston isn’t alone.  As many savvy buyers have discovered, some of the best deals of the year are usually offered between Thanksgiving and New Year, a time when shoppers usually turn their attention to more traditional gift-giving purchases like clothing, toys, consumer electronics – and bad ties.

“December is going to be the best month of 2011 to buy a car with manufacturers offering attractive year-end incentives and dealers motivated to move inventory to get to their sales objectives,” notes Jesse Toprak, head of Industry Trends and Insights for TrueCar.com.

That’s echoed by research form another tracking site, CarGurus.com, which suggests that buyers will do better shopping before Christmas than waiting until later in the winter.  In fact, car sales often pick up as the cold months wane and motorists get tired of dealing with the repairs that seem all too common when there’s snow on the ground.

According to TrueCar’s analysis, the second-best day of the year for buying a car is December 31st, as dealers race to close the books on the old year.  The typical discount, the site suggests, should run about 9.3% off list.  On a $25,000 sedan that would mean a $2,325 savings.  On a luxury car like the BMW 328i, the discount could push thousands higher.

TrueCar data suggest the seven best days of the month – and the likely discounts — for new car shoppers are:

  • 12/10/2011 8.9%
  • 12/24/2011 8.7%
  • 12/27/2011 8.8%
  • 12/28/2011 8.7%
  • 12/29/2011 8.7%
  • 12/30/2011 8.9%
  • 12/31/2011 9.3%

And those are averages.  While you may not do as well on some high-demand models you could also score even better on other products, such as the 2011 Chrysler 200, which TrueCar expects to be going this month for about 24% below its average $21,995 MSRP – a savings of more than $5,000.  That BMW 328i could come with a holiday present in the form of an $8,000 discount, according to TrueCar, or 17% off the $45,025 average sticker price.

The good news, adds CarGurus, is that the deals are likely to cover both new and used vehicles this year.

“In these challenging economic times, adding ‘car’ to the holiday shopping list might seem crazy, but now is actually the optimal time of year to find a great deal on a used model,” says Langley Steinert, founder and CEO of CarGurus.

Prices for used cars hit record levels in August 2011, in part because of shortages of new Japanese products resulting from that country’s devastating March earthquake and tsunami; though many budget-constrained buyers have been forced to scale back to “previously-owned” products this year.  But Steinert predicts they will steadily drop in the weeks to come, bottoming out by January 8, 2012 at 4.6% lower than the past summer’s peak.

That could add up to about $800 in savings on a $20,000 vehicle, he notes –but CarGurus warns that prices will likely begin surging on used cars soon afterwards, climbing by as much as 4% by mid-February.

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