Memorial Day Car Deals: Are the ‘Deals’ Really Deals? Or Just Hype?

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In recent years, Memorial Day weekend has become an especially big period for new car sales. The trend is expected to continue this weekend, and special promotions, rebates, and incentives—at least for certain vehicles—will help the cause.

After strong sales in early 2012 that kept pace through April, May is shaping up as yet another hot month for automakers and car dealerships. The latest estimates say that new car sales will be up nearly 30% this month compared to May 2011.

USA Today recently reported that due to strong demand so far in 2012, automakers such as Chrysler, Hyundai, and Toyota are hiring more workers and adding extra shifts to produce more cars. Honda and Ford have also recently announced their need to add overtime shifts or curtail planned summer shutdowns in order to boost production.

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A major holiday weekend like Memorial Day always tends to bring out plenty of car shoppers. Is it a good time to buy? The debate over when is the best time to purchase a car—in terms of the likelihood that you’ll get the lowest price—is one that has been discussed over and over.

Few of the experts point to Memorial Day as a top time for bargain hunters. This makes sense: Demand for cars remains relatively high for all of spring and summer, and so dealerships have less need to unload vehicles. While the end of the calendar year is probably better for finding deals on cars, drivers will probably find better selection now. Besides, Memorial Day weekend is at least a better time to shop than Easter Sunday, which is traditionally one of the worst days to get a deal.

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Data collected by Edmunds indicates that Memorial Day has become a bigger and bigger period for sales over the years. Between 2005 and 2009, the holiday weekend accounted for an average of 10.8% of all new car sales in May. But Memorial Day weekend sales were 14.7% and 13.1% of the totals for 2010 and 2011, respectively. A healthy weekend of sales is expected over Memorial Day 2012 as well:

“Until recently, the hype surrounding Memorial Day sales was met with little more than average sales volume,” says Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell. “But Memorial Day’s performance over the last two years – combined with strong momentum in the new car market this year – has the auto industry feeling especially optimistic going into this holiday weekend.”

There’s no shortage of incentives and promotions for the upcoming holiday weekend as well. Edmunds lists dozens, broken down by category of vehicle. Consumer Reports’ list of the best new car deals offered over the weekend consists entirely of vehicles that, once incentives, rebates, and negotiations are factored in, will all cost 15% to 20% (or more) lower than MSRP. Two Chevys—the 2012 Malibu and 2012 Avalanche—lead the roundup of discounts, and both should be able to be purchased for at least 20% off of the sticker price.

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Kelley Blue Book, meanwhile, points out that Chrysler, which is expected to show a sales increase of 40% in May by the time the month is over, is sticking with its formula of rebates and promotions through May in order to keep juicing sales:

The brand’s best deals are available on the 200 and 300 sedans, which are available each with more than $2,000 in cash rebates. In addition, shoppers of all Chrysler products, including Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Fiat that finance through Ally Financial or Chase Auto Finance by May 31 will be eligible to defer payments for 90 days.

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.