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The Best Week of the Year to Buy a Car

Jerry Edgerton

If you are not worn out from holiday shopping, the best week of the year to buy a car is just ahead. The week between Christmas and New Year's always offers big discounts as dealers try to  reduce their inventory and meet their annual sales targets.

Even with a strong sales year headed for 15.6 million annual U.S. sales, high inventories are prompting especially big discounts this year, says Kelley Blue Book analyst Alec Gutierrez -- as much as eight to 10 percent off list price.

Your very best deals likely will be on 2013 models. "Dealers are trying to clear out their 2013s to make room for the 2014s, so consumers would be wise to seek out last year's model," says Gutierrez. For instance, 2013 models of the Cadillac ATS and Ford Taurus both are offering $5,000 cash rebates to buyers. In both cases, the 2013s are almost identical to the 2014 version.

But even 2014s can carry big discounts, especially in certain categories. "Consumers shopping for a mid-size sedan or a compact car will find especially good deals since these segments have grown so hotly contested over the past year," Gutierrez adds. The Dodge Dart compact, with a $2,000 rebate and Chrysler 200 midsize with $4,000 back to the buyer offer examples of these deals

In checking which of your target cars has the best price, look at the Kelley website kbb.com to see their "fair purchase price" reflecting the average selling price for that model in your region. The site also will also detail incentives -- whether cash rebates or low-rate financing deals. Double check also any incentives posted on a local dealer's web sites, since in some cases these deals are regional.

In addition to big rebates and financing deals, luxury car brands often combine sweetened lease deals with major holiday promotion efforts. For instance, Lexus ads featuring cars with huge red bows on top promote a lease for an ES sedan at $359 a month for 27 months, with $3,200 down at signing.

If you have been thinking electric, Chevrolet is offering the 2013 Volt plug-in hybrid with a $7,000 rebate. And that is before a $7,500 federal tax credits and additional credits in some states.

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