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Best Deals on the Best Cars for the Money

With our Best Cars for the Money awards, we've identified the best values in each segment of the market by considering initial cost, cost of ownership, and the collective opinion of the automotive press on the quality of each car. 

But the process of buying a car has changed. With the economy in recession and automakers on the brink of collapse, even the most attractive cars are now discounted - in some cases, heavily.

Below, we'll call out special offers to help you buy our award-winning cars.

Toyota took home five awards, so its "Toyotathon of Toyotathons," which offers cash-back rebates or 0 percent financing on many models, leads to some of the best deals. Its Lexus division claimed three - and while Lexus doesn't usually discount cars at all, its December to Remember Sales Event means some award-winning luxury cars can be leased for less right now.

But buyers might want to look beyond the winners as well.  We'll also point out the runners-up in each class - some of those are available with deals that make them hard to pass up.

The best deals on the Best Cars for the Money in December are:

Subcompact Cars


MSRP:$14,550-$18,760
Invoice:$14,044-$18,085

2009 Honda Fit

Deal: Although there are no National offers there may be a local deal.  Contact your local dealer for special offers
Summary: The Fit has been redesigned for 2009, and with a popular new car on its hands, Honda hasn't seen a need to discount the car yet. But with an MSRP under $15,000, it's not terribly expensive to begin with - and with great fuel efficiency and low cost of ownership, it's worth the money
Also worth a look: 2009 Kia Rio: $400 Cash Back for Recent College Grads. 2009 Nissan Versa: 0% Financing for 36 Months or $750 Cash Back

Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Honda Fit using our new dealer quote tool.

Compact Cars


MSRP:$14,120-$17,820
Invoice:$13,735-$17,090
2009 Hyundai Elantra

Deal: $500 Cash Back on 2009;  0% financing or $1,000 Cash Back on 2008 Summary: Buyers of 2008 Elantras can choose between a $1,000 rebate and interest-free financing (which, with most Elantra purchases, will save you more than the rebate over the long run).  The difference between the 2008 and 2009?  Good luck finding one.  Hyundai has scheduled a few updates for the car later in the year, but the car that wins our award is indistinguishable from last year's Elantra.
Also worth a look: 2009 Toyota Corolla: 0% Financing for 36 Months or Up To $1,000 Cash Back.  Lease for $149/Month for 36 Months with $2,499 Due at Signing
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Hyundai Elantra using our new dealer quote tool.

Midsize Cars



MSRP:$19,145 - $28,695
Invoice:$17,516 - $25,536
2009 Toyota Camry

Deal: Lease for $199/Month for 36 Months with $2,699 Due at Signing (excludes hybrid model)
Summary: Most domestic automakers have stopped leasing altogether, or altered lease terms to make it impractical for most buyers.  But Toyota still offers the option, and this one has a lot of appeal.  Lessees could drive the best midsize car for the money for three years, then enter the 2011 car market.  By then, the current industry turmoil will probably have sorted itself out and exciting new green technologies - like more efficient hybrids and all-electric cars - will be available.
Also worth a look: 2009 Mazda6: Lease for $229/Month for 36 Months with $2,824 Due at Signing.  2009 Chevy Malibu: Red Tag Sale Pricing Plus $1,000 Cash Back
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Toyota Camry using our new dealer quote tool.

Full Size Cars


MSRP:$27,845-$35,185
Invoice:$24,878-$30,960
2009 Toyota  Avalon

Deal: Although there are no National offers there may be a local deal.  Contact your local dealer for special offers
Summary: Most of the Avalon's competition is available at more significant discounts this year.   But this car won our award because of its high rank and low cost of ownership - this is one you keep for a very long time.  Buyers might be drawn toward a $1,000 cash-back offer on the 2008 Avalon, but keep in mind that the 2009 car has added safety features, like active front head restraints, that weren't offered on the 2008 edition.
Also worth a look:  2009 Mercury Sable: Discounts of over $3,500 with Employee Pricing Plus Sale2009 Ford Taurus: Discounts of over $3,500 with Employee Pricing Plus Sale.

Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Toyota Avalon using our new dealer quote tool.

Upscale Cars


MSRP:$34,320-$34,320
Invoice:$30,431-$30,431
2009 Lexus ES

Deal: Lease for $389/Month for 36 Months, Cash Due at Signing Varies
Summary: The ES, with its butter-smooth V6 and sumptuous interior, is offered with a discounted lease deal as part of the annual Lexus December to Remember Event.
Also worth a look: 2009 Infiniti G37: 0% Financing for 36 Months.  2009 Lexus IS: $329/Month for 36 Months, Cash Due at Signing Varies
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Lexus ES using our new dealer quote tool.

Luxury Cars


MSRP:$44,850-$53,320
Invoice:$39,467-$46,388
2009 Lexus GS

Deal: Although there are no National offers there may be a local deal.  Contact your local dealer for special offers
Summary: The GS is not currently offered with a discount, but what won the car our award is its low five-year cost of ownership compared to other luxury cars. That's a powerful argument for giving it a test drive before placing money down on another luxury car - even without a price break.
Also worth a look: 2009 Infiniti M: 0% Financing for 36 Months.  2009 Cadillac DTS: Red Tag Sale Pricing plus $2,000 Cash Back
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Lexus GS using our new dealer quote tool.

Sports Cars


MSRP:NA
Invoice:NA
2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Deal: Although there are no National offers there may be a local deal.  Contact your local dealer for special offers
Summary: The Miata isn't offered with any formal discount program this month.  But it already undercuts most of its sports car competition on price.  And you might be able to negotiate a deal on one despite the lack of a formal discount from Mazda.  Because a new Miata is on the way for 2010, many potential buyers will wait - leaving Miata shoppers this year in a good negotiating position.
Also worth a look:  Pontiac Solstice: Red Tag Sale Pricing plus $500 Cash Back
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Mazda Miata using our new dealer quote tool.

Compact Crossovers


MSRP:$17,995-$22,675
Invoice:$16,865-$21,229
2009 Mazda5

Deal: 0% Financing for 36 Months, No Payments for First 90 Days
Summary: The Mazda5 is a unique vehicle that fits the needs of most any driver without fitting neatly into any category.  It also squeezes into most any budget right now, with an extraordinary offer including no payments at all for the first three months, and no interest at all over the life of the loan.
Also worth a look: Toyota RAV4: No Special Offers on 2009, $500 Cash Back or 0% Financing for 36 Months on 2008 Model.  Honda CR-V: 1.9% APR Financing for 36 Months. 
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Mazda5 using our new dealer quote tool.

Midsize Crossovers


MSRP:$27,600-$34,520
Invoice:$24,564-$30,722
2009 Toyota Highlander

Deal: Although there are no National offers there may be a local deal.  Contact your local dealer for special offers
Summary: If you're interested in a four-cylinder Highlander, you'll have to live without a special offer.  That model is new for 2009.  But all other 2009 Highlander models are identical to 2008 Highlander models - so buy the 2008 and take the financing or rebate
Also worth a look: 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser: No Special Offers on 2009, $2,500 Cash Back or 0% Financing for 36 Months on 2008 Model.  2009 Mazda CX-7: 0% Financing for 36 Months, No Payments for First 90 Days.
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Toyota Highlander using our new dealer quote tool.

Luxury Crossover


MSRP:$37,700-$39,100
Invoice:$33,365-$34,604
2009 Lexus RX

Deal: Lease $399/Month for 36 Months, Cash Due at Signing Varies
Summary: The December sale marks the first time all year that this popular, thoughtfully-designed crossover has been available with any discount at all - although this lease offer does not apply to the hybrid edition. 
Also worth a look: 2009 Acura RDX: 0.9% APR Financing for up to 36 Months or Lease for $399/Month for 36 Months, $3,500 Due at Signing.  2009 Infiniti EX: 0% Financing for 36 Months
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Lexus RX using our new dealer quote tool.

Full Size SUVs


MSRP:$36,465-$50,900
Invoice:$33,365-$46,574
2009 Chevrolet Tahoe

Deal: Red Tag Pricing plus $1,000 Cash Back; Up to $8,000 Cash Back on 2008 Models
Summary: There are a few differences between the 2008 and 2009 Tahoe - most significantly an improved six-speed transmission that boosts fuel economy over last year's model.  But with a $7,000 price difference, you still might profit from buying the older car over time
Also worth a look: 2009 Mazda CX-9: 0% Financing for 36 Months, No Payments for First 90 Days.  2009 Chevrolet Suburban: Red Tag Pricing plus $1,000 Cash Back; Up to $9,000 Cash Back on 2008 Models
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe using our new dealer quote tool.

Minivans


MSRP:$24,540 - $37,865
Invoice:$22,084 - $33,698
2009 Toyota Sienna

Deal: $1,000 Cash Back or 0% Financing for 36 Months
Summary: While most of Toyota's discount offers apply only to 2008 models, the new 2009 edition of Toyota's refined minivan is available interest-free. Buyers also have the option of taking $1,000 cash back, but the financing deal will beat that over the life of the loan.
Also worth a look: 2009 Honda Odyssey: 1.9% APR Financing for 36 Months.  2009 Dodge Grand Caravan: 0% APR Financing for 36 Months or $3,000 Cash Back
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Toyota Sienna using our new dealer quote tool.

Compact Pickups


MSRP:$15,170-$27,075
Invoice:$14,058-$24,539
2009 Toyota Tacoma

Deal: $1,000 Cash Back or 0% Financing for 36 Months
Summary:  The Tacoma was already the best small truck on the market, but for 2009 Toyota has added significant safety upgrades and a new electronic limited-slip differential to pull further ahead of the competition.  It also wins the cost of ownership argument by a huge margin. 
Also worth a look: 2009 Nissan Frontier: $2,500 Cash Back or 1.9% Financing for 36 Months.  2009 Ford Ranger: Employee Pricing Savings Over $2,000.
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Toyota Tacoma using our new dealer quote tool.

Full Size Pickups


MSRP:$18,575-$40,555
Invoice:$17,553-$37,108
2009 Chevrolet Silverado

Deal: Red Tag Sale Pricing Plus up to $2,000 Cash Back; Up to $10,000 Cash Back on 2008 Models
Summary: Truck shoppers should take a hard look at the 2009 Silverado.  Both of its major rivals - the F-150 and the Ram - are all new for this year, and winning a lot of press.  The Silverado is somewhat overlooked.  It shouldn't be.  It ties the new F-150 for first in our Full Size Truck rankings and beats it on cost of ownership over time.  The 2009 Silverado has a more fuel-efficient transmission and some safety gear not found on the 2008.
Also worth a look: 2009 Ford F-150: Up to $1,500 Cash Back.  2009 Dodge Ram: $1,000 Cash Back.
Get free, competing car price quotes on a 2009 Chevrolet Silverado using our new dealer quote tool.

If you still havent found what you are looking for please check out out Best Car Deals this month