Bargain Car-Buying Season: Best Affordable New Vehicles, and Strategies for Getting Them Cheap

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Some people say that Labor Day Weekend, or the end of October, or Black Friday is the best time to scoop up a new car at the best possible price. But an even larger consensus says that the end of the calendar year is even better time for bargain hunters in the new car market. With the end of the year rapidly approaching, here are tips on what, when, and how to buy.

CNNMoney rounds up 10 great cheap cars—all starting under $18K—recommending the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Cruze, and the Honda Fit, among other models.

U.S. News ranks its top 30 affordable small cars, with the Ford Fiesta earning top honors (and the Honda Fit and Chevy Cruze in the top ten).

Edmunds’ two top sedans under $15K are the Honda Fit and the Ford Fiesta—so if you’re not getting the message, these two vehicles are especially highly recommended by lots of experts as excellent values.

Kiplinger, meanwhile, weighs in with its suggestion that the Kia Soul is the best car for teen drivers, mostly because it is affordable (starting under $16K) and has excellent safety features—and I suppose also because the Soul is a cooler ride than a Fiesta or Fit. But I have to take issue with this one. I am of the opinion that the best car for a teenager is whichever one the teenager pays for himself. Or a ten-speed.

Now that you’ve got some vehicles in mind, on to strategy.

SmartMoney suggests this main tactic:

Figure out which models have been sitting on the lot the longest and score a new car for up to 35% off the sticker price.

Here’s why:

Dealers don’t want the newer cars to have to compete with the older, cheaper ones, so by mid-December, the automakers themselves will start offering incentive bonuses to dealers who clear out 2010 models. That’s typically when buyers will find the biggest discounts, lowest financing and most flexibility.

Based on what happened last year, the very end of December is when dealers will be happiest to get rid of cars, and therefore when buyers have the most bargaining power. So before you head off to your New Year’s Eve party, you might want to swing by the car dealership. Warning: It is inadvisable to hit the champagne before shopping for new cars, and it is an even worse (illegal) idea to booze it up after buying one. Unless you have a designated driver, that is. But you’ll have to really trust that designated driver: This is your new car, we’re talking about.

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