NEW YORK — Even though holiday shopping may already be stretching consumers' budgets, the last two weeks of the year can be the best time to shop for a new vehicle.
In fact, according to Bankrate.com, a leading provider of financial rate information, it might be worth curtailing gift-buying and other holiday expenses to take advantage of outstanding purchase and lease deals only available at this time of year.
In December, "dealers are very eager to sell the outgoing year's models," notes Jeremy Acevedo, Edmunds supervisor of pricing and industry analysis.
The Guaranteed Asset Protection Alliance, a group of companies that provide GAP protection plans, agrees: "That's when dealerships are trying to reach annual quotas while making room for new vehicle models. With these incentives, dealers can be motivated to slash prices on brand-new vehicles by several thousand dollars from the original asking price."
And if consumers can do their car shopping on snowy or rainy days, the deals can be especially good, according to Bankrate.com. While holiday activities already curtail dealership traffic, people also tend to stay inside during bad weather, making the sales staff particularly eager to work with the customers they do encounter.
In addition to dealer incentives, many auto companies are running end-of-year promotions that offer special purchase and lease deals on leftover 2014 models and even the latest 2015 model-year vehicles.
BMW is running the even cheerier Happier Holidays event, with low APR financing and up to a $3,500 credit on select 2015 and some 2014 models, as well as special lease pricing on a variety of sedans, coupes and SUVs.
The Ford Dream Big sale offers special pricing on many outgoing 2014 vehicles, in addition to 0.9 percent financing for 36 months and a $500 cash incentive on new models like the 2015 Ford Mustang. Lease deals include $199 per month for 24 months with $611 cash due at signing for a 2015 Ford Escape compact SUV.
Cadillac's Season's Best Event offers current owners and lessees $4,000 toward the purchase of a 2014 Cadillac CTS, $2,000 toward the purchase of a 2014 Cadillac ATS, XTS or ELR and $750 toward the purchase of many 2015 models.
The Chrysler Big Finish event features a number of sign-and-drive lease offers, including $289 per month for 39 months on the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan. Similar sign-and-drive deals are available on the 2015 Town and Country minivan and 2014 Chrysler 300 sedan.
The Mazda Drive for Good holiday program not only donates $150 to charity for each test drive between now and January 2, 2015, but also celebrates the season with zero percent financing and special lease deals on select 2014 and 2015 models.
Another event with a charity tie-in is the Subaru Share the Love promotion, in which the company will donate $250 to a local charity for each vehicle purchased or leased through January 2. The offer also includes 1.49 percent APR financing on select Subaru models.
Nissan's Holiday Event offers buyers $1,350 cash back on top of existing deals on select vehicles. That includes $2,250 total savings on a 2015 Nissan Altima sedan and a lease at $239 per month for 36 months with $2,199 due at signing on a 2015 Nissan Rogue compact SUV.
Mercedes-Benz is running its Winter Event, which includes up to a $2,000 bonus on a 2015 C?Class sedan, E?Class sedan or M-Class vehicle. There are also purchase and lease deals available on the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250.
The Season of Audi sales event celebrates "the most festive time of the year" with lease, incentive and special financing offers on many vehicles. Incentives range from $500 to $3,000, depending on model and buyer status (returning customers get higher incentives), and there are even reduced finance rates on certified pre-owned Audis.
Edmunds says: For consumers in the market for a new vehicle, these offers provide yet another reason to celebrate the season.