Don't be misled. The automotive market did not experience a sudden recovery in September; and with a few exceptions, like trucks, October wasn't all that much better.
The news merely looked good on paper because automakers traditionally compare current sales to sales figures from one year before -- and September 2009 was the first month of the Cash fo Clunkers hangover, when no one bought a car. It isn't hard to look good next to that.
Still, though dealerships know they aren't doing well, we are seeing fewer formal discount programs with each passing month. Transaction prices are on the rise, as automakers have learned to better manage their inventory. As we head into the traditionally-slow winter months, we can't expect to see many heavy incentives. Just a lot of slow sales.
Still, there are deals to be found. You have to look around for them, but a handful of very attractive, fun-to-own cars are available now with discounts that will help you afford them...if you know where to look.
2009 MAZDA3Enlarge Photo
2010 Mazda3 -- 0% APR financing for 60 months, PLUS $500 cash back rebate
The Mazda3 is one of our favorite small cars. It's fun to drive -- it gets a lot of thrust from its four little cylinders, and handles like nothing else its size except for, of course, the Mini Cooper. It's also quite pleasant inside -- as close to upscale as a car available under $16k can be. But Mazda has simply built too many of the things. This month, they're available with a low interest rate AND a cash-back rebate. It's a great time to steal one while everyone's attention is focused on the Chevy Cruze and the Ford Fiesta.