Ford's 2004 Lincoln LS is one of many luxury automobiles that are now offering buyer incentives.
By
CNBC
updated 9/30/2003 12:06:41 PM ET 2003-09-30T16:06:41

With new 2004 models hitting dealers lots, the game of “Let’s Make a Deal” at car showrooms across the country has begun. Manufacturers and dealers have more incentives than ever, but you may have to look a bit harder if you’re shopping for a luxury car.

JUST BECAUSE you want luxury doesn’t mean have to lose out on savings. You probably won’t find splashy rebate signs at your local Lincoln or Lexus dealer. The incentives are more subtle, like special leasing rates and cash-to-dealer deals.

Still, when it comes to the upscale car market, most manufacturers are discounting at least five to six percent off the sticker price, according to CNW Research.

Incentives on the average car have run close to 20 percent below list price this month. The total discount was nearly $5,700 on a $29,000 vehicle. But there are still even bigger savings available on some luxury cars.

“It pays to do your homework because you may find loyalty discounts or first-time buyer discounts,” said Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of the car buying Web site, Edmunds.com.

You could potentially save more than $9,500 on the 2003 Lincoln Town Car. The sticker price is about $43,000. But you’ll get a $7,000 rebate for lease customers, $2,500 cash back whether you lease or buy, and another $400 or more if you’re a recent college grad, in the military or a member of AARP.

Even if you want a brand new model, the 2004 Lincoln Town Car offers the same perks to college grads, the elderly and those in the military. It also kicks in another $500 cash back thanks to a manufacturer to dealer incentive.

“That’s money that the factory will pay the dealer that you the customer don’t see, and the dealer is able to then give you a bigger discount by applying that cash,” said Chris Denove, who tracks incentives at J.D. Power and Associates.

You will need to do some digging to find out about these incentives. But Edmunds.com and other Web sites make it easy for you. Edmunds.com, for example, offers a list of incentives for each vehicle that you can bring with you to the dealer.

Finally, when it comes to deciding whether to go with the old or new, generally speaking 2003 models will offer more incentives than 2004. But consider this:

“If you try to sell it in two to three years, the ’03 will be worth a little less when you go to sell it,” said Denove. “So even though you may save some upfront now, it may cost you on the back end.”

That’s why it’s important to crunch the numbers before you go to the dealer. Lease rates may be better for ’04 models, so compare leasing, rebates and financing — Carsdirect.com, Kellybluebook.com and Edmunds.com are some great resources.

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