Don’t Expect Great Deals on New Cars Over Labor Day Weekend

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When’s the best time of year to buy a new car and snag the most outstanding deal? Good question. There are many theories out there among car and bargain-hunting aficionados. Some people swear October is best. Or the end of the calendar year. Labor Day is usually in the mix as well. For the upcoming holiday weekend, though, the consensus seems to be that the deals on new cars will be underwhelming, and that consumers who wait for a few months to buy will be rewarded with much better prices—more options too.
CNN Money put together a gallery featuring the best Labor Day car deals, and frankly, they’re not all that exciting. The lineup features special financing offers and cash-back rebates on seven vehicles that aren’t exactly in high demand—like the Chrysler Town & Country minivan and the Buick LaCrosse. The roundup of Labor Day deals, in fact, starts by noting that the prices are only expected to get better in the months to come:

The deals will get better later in the year, said Jesse Toprak, auto sales analyst with TrueCar.com. But the selection gets slimmer, too. You might not find a great price on exactly the car you want if you wait too long.

The subpar promotions stretch back to early spring of 2011, when incentives dried up compared to previous years, due in part to dealerships facing supply problems. High prices continued through the summer, and now, the end-of-summer weekend that’s usually a smorgasbord for bargain-hunting car shoppers is looking more like a yawner with so-so offers from dealerships and automakers.

(MORE: Are Much Cheaper Car Prices Coming Soon?)

One year ago, a Kelley Blue Book expert named Labor Day as the “best time to buy” a new car. This year, however, the folks at KBB are making no such claims. Just the opposite, actually. Alec Gutierrez, manager of vehicle evaluation for KBB, made this announcement today:

If shoppers are not ready to buy a new car today, or perhaps they are unable to find exactly what they are looking for this weekend, don’t worry: the best is yet to come. Kelley Blue Book believes there will be better deals available at year-end….

In addition, there is more to look forward to than just getting better deals. Many highly anticipated redesigns will be hitting dealerships in just a few months. The Toyota Camry, Honda CR-V and Subaru Impreza are just a few of the fresh redesigns expected to hit dealerships soon, and these vehicles are likely to garner a lot of interest. While there may be some enticing deals to be had this weekend, those who wait will not be disappointed.

By waiting, you can have your pick of new 2012 vehicles—and you also stand a much better chance of buying a far more heavily discounted 2011 model. So feel free to skip the visit to the car dealership and hang out longer at the barbecue this Labor Day weekend.

(MORE: Could Buying a Car Be a Good Investment?)

True bargain hunters who have patience should actually welcome underwhelming incentives this weekend and in the near future. Why? An absence of great promotions is likely to lead to poor sales throughout the autumn. And if that’s the case, dealerships and automakers will drop prices later in the year as they grow increasingly desperate to move inventory to make space for the 2012 models.

Here’s the take from the experts at Edmunds:

If sales are slower than anticipated in September and October, there will be more pressure to add incentives in November and December. In other words, the worse sales are over the next couple months, the greater the odds that pricing will drive a sales lift the last couple of months.

So, at least for 2011, it’s looking like the end of the calendar year will be the best time for bargain hunters to buy cars. That’s just a theory, though.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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