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Frugal Shopper: Holiday-Weekend Sales Promise Sweeter Deals

May 28, 2010
2010 Lincoln MKZ

2010 Lincoln MKZ

2010 Nissan Altima

2010 Nissan Altima

If you're not among the 32.1 million Americans planning to travel this holiday weekend, as estimated by the AAA, and you happen to be shopping for a new vehicle, it could be a great time to buy.

Just a quick glance at the local newspaper or other local media sources, or a look at your local dealership's Web site, will assure you that it's not quite business as usual this weekend. Yes, dealerships are open through the weekend (except in a few rare places with blue laws prohibiting it), and yes, the discounts are typically a bit deeper that most other times of the year.

In addition to big national campaigns such as Toyota's National Sales Event, Ford's Swap Your Ride deals, GM's Spring Savings Event, and the Nissan Tent Event—all of which offer zero-percent in some form—local dealerships might be offering even deeper discounts in an effort to meet sales targets for the end of the month or for special holiday-weekend blowouts.

And to help make the deals even sweeter, both Nissan and Ford are offering additional $500 rebates on several models leading into the holiday weekend—both deals good through Monday. Ford's special deals apply to the 2010 Ford Focus small car, Ford Edge crossover utility vehicle, and F-150 pickup, as well as the Lincoln MKS and MKZ sedans and the MKX luxury ute. Nissan, meanwhile, was adding to its Tent Event in offering $500 in additional bonus cash that applies to most of its vehicles. With all the factory discounts, it was offering up to $2,750 off the 2010 Nissan Rogue compact crossover utility vehicle, $2,000 off Nissan Altima sedan models, and $2,500 off the Nissan Sentra compact sedan, for example.

Ford in particular has ramped up manufacturer incentives this month—to an estimated $3,307 per vehicle, up 15 percent from last year and eleven percent from April.

Although we haven't seen rival holiday-weekend factory offers yet from other automakers, you're likely to see dealerships stretching to match those prices on competing vehicles to win the sales and make sales targets.

Actually, Memorial Day itself is predicted by pricing-intelligence firm TrueCar to be the best day so far in 2010 to buy a car. The firm is anticipating an average new-vehicle discount of 6.9 percent—thanks, in no small part to the generous incentives still being offered by automakers on most of their vehicles.

As we reported a couple of months ago in a Frugal Shopper column, holiday weekends are windows of opportunity for smart shoppers, as in addition to manufacturer incentives, dealerships will often spend more money on advertising and, especially near the end of the weekend, look for a return on their investment. Long-weekend holiday shoppers tend to be in a better mood, too, so dealerships are out to capture the spirit.

In all, nearly $3.1 billion in incentives will be handed out in May. TrueCar calculates that Chrysler is still offering the most incentive money per vehicle—an average of $4,086—but GM will write off nearly $660,000 in incentives this month—the most of any automaker. In May, an average of $2,915 will be offered per vehicle—an 8.3-percent increase versus April and 1.7 percent higher than those of last May.

Even Honda is offering its highest-ever incentives, at $2,345 per vehicle—up 26.5 percent versus last year and 17.4 percent from April—while Toyota and Hyundai/Kia have raised their average incentives by about two percent from April 2010.

According to updated estimates for May released Wednesday from TrueCar, May light-vehicle sales are expected to total more than 1.05 million units—more than seven percent above April and 13.6 percent above last May.

Altogether, at street level, this means that a lot of deals will be had this weekend. If you're staying in town and ready to commit, the time is right.

[BNET; TrueCar; Bloomberg via Business Week]

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