Cars with the Biggest Discounts

With the well of government money for car shoppers drying up and new 2010 models rolling on dealer lots, maybe now isn't the best time to go looking for a deal. Dealer stock has been depleted and the free-flowing government vouchers may have actually driven car prices up -- as buyers didn't feel as much need to negotiate when they were spending Uncle Sam's money.  

So, if you need a new car and want a good deal, maybe now is not the best time to get it.

Then again, maybe it is.  While supply is low in the wake of Cash for Clunkers, so is demand.  It seems like everyone who wanted a new car has gotten one, leaving dealers competing for the few shoppers who are left.  Also, Cash for Clunkers did spike demand for new cars, but only for small, fuel-efficient models.  The supply of models that didn't qualify for the program is still good; in some cases, so are the deals.

Of course, getting the few discounts that are still out there requires savvy shopping.  To help, we've used new car pricing data from TrueCar. TrueCar processes thousands of new car transactions every day, tracking the actually price buyers pay.  When you know the kind of discounts others are getting, you can target your shopping to the most discounted models -- and some of the discounted cars may surprise you.

Shop by Brand

Courtesy TrueCar Inc.

The TrueCar data shows that some brands have more discounts overall than others. Between August 20 and 27, Dodge buyers paid 18 percent below MSRP on average, while Chrysler vehicles saw an average sale price of 17 percent below MSRP.  Part of those discounts may have been because both companies were offering $4,500 off some models, but even companies that weren't running significant promotions had vehicles at significant discounts.  Last week, Volvo's quirky Scandinavian cool was heading home with buyers for 16 percent below sticker on average, and Hyundai buyers were getting their rides with a 15-percent average discount on 2009 models.

Let's put that in perspective. If you were able to get the average discount for a Hyundai on a 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe, you'd save $3,254 off the MSRP of $21,695, bringing your final price down to $18,441 - which means you would get a midsize SUV for about the price of a midsize sedan. Not too shabby.

When focusing your shopping on the best deal, it also helps to look for brands that missed out on the sales jolt from Cash for Clunkers.  TrueCar's data shows brands that had plenty of small cars to sell, like Scion, Mini and Honda, saw sales jump 146 percent during the Cash for Clunkers program. Brands that didn't have many cars eligible for the program -- such as Hummer, who saw a 26 percent sales decline -- might be willing to negotiate to generate sales.

Shop by Year

Not surprisingly, if you're willing to buy a 2009 model, you're more likely to get a deal.  For most car companies, the 2010 model year has begun and that means dealers have to clear the 2009s off their lots to make room. The top five discounted 2009 models all saw buyers driving off the lots for at least 20 percent below MSRP, on average.  In the case of the top two discounted 2009 models, the Dodge Caliber and the Chrysler PT Cruiser, buyers paid an average 27 and 23 percent below MSRP, respectively.

However, when it comes to the top five discounted 2010 models, the story changes.  Even the most discounted 2010, the Ford Explorer, only saw buyers paying 11 percent below MSRP on average.

Still, if you want a 2010 model, 10 or 11 percent off is nothing to sneeze at.  Take the 2010 Toyota Camry, the fourth most discounted 2010 model for August 20 through 27 (yes, even industry leaders like Toyota are offering discounts). TrueCar found that, on average, buyers paid 10 percent under MSRP for the 2010 Camry. That's a $1,935 savings off the base MSRP, which brings the base price of the Camry -- which is redesigned for 2010 -- down to $17,415.  That's less than you'd pay for some trims of the compact Toyota Corolla.

Track Prices and Incentives

Courtesy TrueCar Inc.

If you're interested in a particular car, one of the best things to do is track the prices other buyers have paid over time. TrueCar has highlighted some of the biggest week-by-week price drops on particular models. Between the week of August 20 and the week of August 28, the price of a Honda Odyssey Touring dropped $879.74. Luxury cars can also have big price drops -- the 2009 Mercedes Benz R-Class model equipped with a BlueTec diesel engine saw its price drop $719.97 over that week.

While the TrueCar data is based on the actual prices buyers paid, including manufacturer incentives and buyer negotiation, it still pays to shop by the brand that's offering the biggest discounts right from the start.  For example, between August 20 and 27, Dodge was offering $6,000 in incentives off the 2009 Dodge Nitro, a 26 percent discount. That same week, Toyota offered $6,000 in incentives on two-wheel-drive models of the Tundra -- another 26 percent discount for buyers.  Plus, the best incentives aren't limited to trucks and SUVs: Mazda recently offered $5,000 off the 2009 Mazda6 -- a 26 percent discount -- bringing the price down to $13,550.  With that deal, buyers were able to get a midsize car for the price of some subcompacts.