Why the End of December Is a Great Time to Buy a Car

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New or used? Economy, mid-level, or luxury? No matter what kind of vehicle you have in mind, the end of the year is when hardnosed bargain hunters head to the car dealership—for good reason.
Edmunds data shows that December was the biggest month for car sales in 2010, and December came in second place (behind August) for overall sales in 2009. The trend is expected to ride on through December of 2011.

And why has December become a hot month to move cars? It’s when consumers have come to expect some of the year’s best deals. MarketWatch points to numbers from TrueCar.com, which suggest that seven of the year’s biggest discounting days at car dealerships will occur in December. Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) was supposedly the best day of 2011 to snag a bargain on a new car, when the average vehicle would be selling for 9.5% below MSRP. The second-best day is expected to be New Year’s Eve, when the average discount should be 9.32%. December 24, 27, 28, 29, and 30 of 2011 should also be good days to buy, when the average discount will range from 8.7% to 8.9% off MSRP, according to TrueCar.

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On Kelley Blue Book’s list of top holiday car deals, the offers dominated by year-end discounts on American cars, including $2,500 rebates on the 2011 Chevy Malibu, up to $4,000 rebates on the 2011 Chevy Impala or 2011 Ford Flex.

Edmunds reports that dealerships anticipate an especially good end-of-year for sales of high-end luxury vehicles:

The end of the year traditionally provides a strong finish for luxury brands for a number of reasons, including tax considerations and the increasingly high-profile holiday- and seasonally-themed incentive programs that have become the end-of-the-year norm.

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This year, Mercedes and BMW are neck-and-neck in terms of which automaker will sell the most luxury vehicles in North America. The competition for the title of 2011 sales champ has sparked “a fairly steep war going on between [BMW and Mercedes] and they’re spending money at incentive levels that I’ve never seen before,” according to Ben Poore, a general manager at Infiniti.

The used-car segment should finish out the year with good deals as well. In a press release, CarGurus.com highlighted a dozen different highly desirable used vehicles with average list prices that have dropped at least 10% over the past few months.

The 2007 Hyundai Accent, for instance, had an average list price of $9,714 on September 9, 2011. But 90 days later, the average had dropped by 13%, to $8,678. The 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid, meanwhile, dropped an average of 10%, from $20,302 to $18,331, over that three-month span.

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Like always, as the month—or in this case, year—comes to a close, car dealerships only grow more motivated to sell vehicles. That goes for new and used cars alike.

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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