Surprising Car Deals Available Now

( ) - It's a buyer's market for cars this year. With auto sales reaching ten-year lows in April, dealerships are often willing to negotiate to lure new buyers, and automakers are offering impressive discounts on some vehicles.

Forbes reports, "In a bid to rid lots of inventory, some automakers are offering previously unheard-of incentives to new-car buyers." Though it's common even in strong sales markets for automakers to offer incentives on vehicles consumers otherwise wouldn't consider buying, manufacturers now "are heaping incentives onto vehicles considered by auto experts to be reliable and of good quality." Nissan's Altima Hybrid, for instance, "scored 'very good' in Consumer Reports' 'predicted reliability' rating," earned five-star safety ratings from the federal government and, according to the EPA, manages an impressive combined fuel efficiency rating of 34 mpg. But Nissan dealers are "selling the Altima with customer rebates averaging $1,249 in March and April, according to the Power Information Network, an automotive analysis group. Altima hybrid buyers also get a federal tax credit of $2,350," something no longer available on Toyota or Honda hybrids. Why are dealers discounting a vehicle that seems like an obvious sales hit in a world of $4/gallon gas? According to Forbes, Nissan only sold about 800 of the vehicles in April -- well below what they need to sell to recoup their investment in the model.

Kicking Tires finds other impressive offers sitting on dealership lots this month.  The V6 model of the Toyota Camry, "The best-selling sedan in the country, has quite a nice price on its hood this month." Toyota is offering $1,500 cash back on the car until June 2.  Even luxury cars aren't immune to slow sales.  KT says the Mercedes-Benz CLS is now available with a $6,000 rebate. 

The Chicago Tribune has published a table of current rebate offers, ranging from $500 cash back on a Kia Rio, up to $12,000 on a Mercedes-Benz SL550.

Some automakers are reluctant to offer cash back incentives at a time when their profits are already low. Instead, they're putting together unusual incentives meant to lure buyers into the showroom without costing the automaker as much as a simple rebate. VW has offered minivan buyers $1,500 towards a college account for their children. Chrysler is offering to guarantee that gas will cost only $2.99 for three years for buyers of most new Chrysler vehicles, though that deal has been almost universally criticized in the automotive press.

It may be generating consumer interest, anyway. Edmunds Inside Line reports, "Chrysler's own soundings confirm that consumers at least are demonstrating great awareness of and interest in the campaign. Traffic on Chrysler's Web site jumped by about 25 percent on the day after the unveiling of Let's Refuel America and has climbed another 10 percent this week."

Whether you decide to pursue a rebate offer or not, you'll negotiate a better deal if you arm yourself with the best available information about the car you want, and its competition, before you enter a dealership. To do your research efficiently, visit U.S. News' car rankings and reviews.

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