If you decided to look at this story because you want a ranking of the cheapest cars on the market, you are, unfortunately, in the wrong place — but don't leave, because we have something more exciting for you.
This guide to the best car deals is a sampling of some of the best cars on the market that are currently selling for good deals. We felt that this would be a more useful and interesting guide than a list of mediocre cars that are only selling with generous rebates and finance rates because they've sat on dealers' lots for a long time.
Although 2005 is still a quarter of a year away, 2005 model cars are already in showrooms. Therefore, car companies are ramping up discounts on 2004 models in order to change their stock over to the '05s. You may have noticed that General Motors recently flooded your television with advertisements for a sale in which customers could receive zero-percent financing and six-year loans on 2004 models.
What this means is that now is a great time for automotive enthusiasts, who can find great deals on '04 models — not just models that the carmakers are having a hard time selling, but models that “must go” simply because they are '04s. You will find excellent, world-class cars in the slide show that follows, such as Honda Motor's Acura NSX coupe, the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Motor's Land Rover Range Rover. In fact, you can get a rebate on the Corvette that is $1,000 higher than the one you could get at this time last year. At the end of last September, for example, the poor-selling Acura NSX had no rebates-and now it has a $5,000 dealer incentive (read on to see what this means). Some of the cars you will see in the slide show — such as Porsches and Audis — rarely go on sale.
Just because a car has discounts doesn't mean that it is not selling well. After all, you will find the three best-selling cars in America on our list — Ford's F-Series, Chevrolet's Silverado and DaimlerChrysler's Dodge Ram. Some cars appear to be discounted because of slow sales. For example, sales of Audi's A6 line are down for the year, but sales of Mercedes-Benz's E-Class line are up, which may be why the Audi comes with cut-rate financing and the Mercedes does not. Some other cars typically don't have discounts; you won't see any cars from ToyotaMotor or its upscale Lexus subsidiary on our list, because the company is able to sell most of its vehicles at or near their sticker prices.
So, we have just a few caveats before proceeding to the hot cars:
1. Different trim levels of a particular nameplate may carry different incentives (e.g., the Dodge Ram may have a different deal than the hot rod Ram SRT-10).
2. The incentives in the slide show that follows are a general idea of what is out there, not a comprehensive guide. The rebates and financing rates you are about to see are not etched in stone, and may vary from region to region. Manufacturers set retail prices for the dealers and suggest incentives, but dealers themselves determine the ultimate cost of a car.
3. You will see the words “dealer incentive” in some of the deals that follow. Dealer incentives are what the parent car company offers dealers for individual vehicle sales. Customers see whatever percentage of the bonus the dealer decides.
Some dealers are stingier than others, so arm yourself with the information in the slide show. If one dealer is not offering the kind of great deal you have read about here, move on to another one. Now is a great time to buy a great car for a great price.