Car shoppers this month might wish they could rewind the clock to just before the decade of Kraken memes, Fyre and Vine expired. The final weeks of the 2010s saw ever-accelerating discounts on new cars — J.D. Power projected December incentives to reach a record-high $4,600 per vehicle — as automakers and dealers poured on the steam. Don’t expect such sky-high discounts now: January has ranked among the weakest two months of the year for average new-car incentives during six of the past seven years, per vehicle sales data provider Motor Intelligence.
That’s not to say you can’t find any deals. Automakers have largely cleared the outgoing model year, with 2019 models accounting for only about 28% of inventory on Cars.com as of this writing. That’s down from 35% in mid-December. Such cars should sell at steep discounts this month, and if you’re looking for brands with a glut of ’em, try Ford, Ram or Volkswagen. Some 40% or more of new Cars.com inventory from all three brands remains model-year 2019.
What about discounts on 2020 models? See our picks below. And if you can’t settle on a car this month, keep an eye out for more picks come February.
How much can I save? Roughly 9% to 13% off list price, depending what you buy. The 2020 Trax averaged 58 days on Cars.com through most of December, significantly beyond the 41-day average for all model-year 2020 cars. Now through Feb. 3, Chevrolet is offering $3,000 off the pint-size SUV — but take note: Although such discounts make the Trax affordable, it remains one of a shrinking group of cars that still don’t offer automatic emergency braking, an important crash-avoidance technology.
What about discount financing? In lieu of the full cash rebate, qualified shoppers in most markets we surveyed can get 0% financing for 72 months plus $500. Find a leftover 2019 model — they account for about 13% of new Trax inventory as of this writing — and the cash triples to $1,500. Both offers expire Feb. 3.
How much can I save? Between about 7% and 13%, with potentially more if you have a current vehicle from parent company GM. The 2020 Terrain averaged 61 days at dealers through most of December, and now GM is offering $3,750 on all trim levels except the base model, called the SL. In some markets we surveyed, shoppers who own a GM vehicle can get another $750 in loyalty bonuses. Offers expire Feb. 3.
What about discount financing? In lieu of the cash rebate, qualified shoppers can get 0% financing for 72 months on the 2020 Terrain, excluding the SL. GM owners in some markets can get another $750 atop that.
What qualifies as a GM vehicle? GMC generally stipulates qualifying cars as model-year 2006 or newer, which would mean anything from Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet or GMC, plus a quartet of now-shuttered brands: Hummer, Pontiac, Saab or Saturn.
What if I own a 2010-12 Saab? Such cars may fall into the 23-month era between when GM jettisoned Saab and the ailing automaker finally bought the farm. Congratulations: There must be tens of you. That’s a gray area, so talk to your dealer for details.
How much can I save? From about 6% to 11%, depending where and what you buy. The 2020 Rogue averaged 51 days at dealers through much of December, and now Nissan is offering $2,000 to $3,000, depending on region. That’s on an SUV that placed last among seven contenders in Cars.com’s latest compact SUV comparison. The popular SUV still offers competitive safety and driver-assistance tech, but unrefined drivability and spotty interior quality lower its appeal.
What about discount financing? In lieu of cash rebates, creditworthy shoppers can get 0% financing for 60 months plus $1,000.
This SUV is getting pretty long in the tooth, no? It’s no megalodon, but the current generation is getting up there. It enters its seventh model year for 2020, and in a segment as popular as this, we’d expect a redesign soon. In the meantime, the often-steep discounts for the current generation make the Rogue eminently affordable.
Editor’s Choice: Ram 1500
How much can I save? Lots, if you’re looking for the popular Big Horn or its Texas-market counterpart, the Lone Star. The 2020 Ram 1500 is just a year removed from winning Cars.com’s highest award for a pickup truck, but it still averaged 53 days in Cars.com inventory through most of December. Now through Feb. 3, Ram is offering some $3,500 to $4,500 off most variants of both trims, with another $500 to those who finance at standard rates through parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Certain crew-cab Big Horn variants are eligible for even more: We observed discounts that add up to some $6,500 to nearly $8,000, region depending.
This truck has dozens of configurations. Isn’t a crew-cab Big Horn a needle in a haystack? Only if the needle is this big. While the Big Horn and Lone Star are just two out of seven available trims on the Ram 1500, they account for some 6 in 10 model-year 2020 examples on Cars.com as of this writing. We reckon it shouldn’t be too hard to track down the specific variants eligible for jackpot discounts, which could amount to around 10% to 20% off.
What about discount financing? Qualified Big Horn and Lone Star shoppers can get 0% financing plus up to $4,000 to $5,000, depending on trim and region.
What about those other trims? Incentives vary widely, but we’ve generally observed discounts outside the Big Horn and Lone Star trims of $1,500 to $4,500, depending on trim level and region, with $500 bonuses in many cases for those who finance at standard rates through FCA.
More From Cars.com:
We focus on cars new to the list or ones we haven’t highlighted in the past few months. But a few cars from recent months still carry deep discounts in January:
How We Look for Deals
To look for January deals, we looked at days-to-turn data from December — specifically Dec. 1-24, the window we gathered the data — which measures how long it takes on average for dealers to sell a given car. That illustrates slow sellers, cars on which dealers could be more willing to cut a deal. Then we looked at factory cash discounts and low-interest-rate financing offers that are especially high for the price of the car. After all, $3,000 is a lot more on a Ford Escape than a Ford Expedition.
Incentives data come from automakers’ websites, while days-to-turn data come from Cars.com inventory. Remember, our numbers are current as of publication for the markets we survey (generally Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and New York). They reflect advertised customer discounts, not unadvertised factory-to-dealer cash. Discount financing typically requires qualifying credit, too, and incentives may vary by region and trim level; automakers may also change them later in the month. In sum: Your discounts may vary, so check with your local dealer for specifics.
Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.