Trying to find a year-end car deal

December 21, 2009 2:39:39 PM PST
When December rolls around, car dealerships typically want to unload the old to make room for the new. But not this year.

"Traditionally, right now, you'd get a great deal on last year's models, but because of 'cash for clunkers' those cars are pretty much gone," said Jack Gillis of the Consumer Federation of America.

The program paid out thousands for gas guzzlers, prompting a summer buying spree.

So what's on the lot now? Next year's models, and they're on sale.

"The deals now are actually far better then they were under Cash for Clunkers. It's just the customer doesn't perceive it as that," said Tammy Darvish of DARCARS Automotive Group.

Since the government stopped offering incentives to buy, dealerships are back offering deals such as zero percent financing and cash back.

"Even if your clunker is only worth 3 or 4 thousand, you add the 0 percent and the savings on the finance charge, you're up to 7-8 thousand dollars in incentives that just weren't there," Darvish said.

However, finding a used car may be tough, as "cash for clunkers" took a lot of cars off the road.

"They either had to be crushed or used for parts, so those cars are no longer available, which has shrunk the market for used cars which has increased the price," Gillis said.

"When the clunkers were here and everyone was buying every new car, we were doing everything we could to be competitive on the pre-owned side," said Jon Wageman, who runs the pre-owned program for DARCARS.

As the car market stabilizes, experts say, so will the incentives to buy.

Experts say car buying may not be for everyone. If your plans are to buy a car and sell it after only a few years, you may want to explore other options, like leasing. They say there are some good leasing deals out there as well.