We research all brands listed and may earn a fee from our partners. Research and financial considerations may influence how brands are displayed. Not all brands are included. Learn more.

Published: May 24, 2024 9 min read
Photo Illustration of a car on the road with a drawn sunny background
Money; Shutterstock

Memorial Day weekend is the first major car-buying holiday of the summer season, and you’re bound to see an ad or two encouraging you to shop a hot sale.

But are the "deals" genuinely good deals? While automakers sometimes improve their financing offers for Memorial Day, the reality is that holiday car shopping events are mainly marketing more than anything else.

“Generally, for many dealers, holidays are a promotion rather than a time of great value,” says Pat Ryan, CEO of the car shopping app CoPilot.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to buy a new car, however. There’s actually a case that it’s a pretty good time to shop.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
New or used, your car is an investment. Make sure it's protected!
Get the coverage you need without breaking the bank. Click your state to get a free quote today.
HawaiiAlaskaFloridaSouth CarolinaGeorgiaAlabamaNorth CarolinaTennesseeRIRhode IslandCTConnecticutMAMassachusettsMaineNHNew HampshireVTVermontNew YorkNJNew JerseyDEDelawareMDMarylandWest VirginiaOhioMichiganArizonaNevadaUtahColoradoNew MexicoSouth DakotaIowaIndianaIllinoisMinnesotaWisconsinMissouriLouisianaVirginiaDCWashington DCIdahoCaliforniaNorth DakotaWashingtonOregonMontanaWyomingNebraskaKansasOklahomaPennsylvaniaKentuckyMississippiArkansasTexas
View Rates

First of all, the last few days of any month can be favorable for shoppers because dealerships are trying to meet sales goals. Memorial Day has historically been considered a good time to buy for this reason. The next car-buying holiday, Independence Day weekend, doesn’t have that going for it.

“Frankly, instead of buying July 4 weekend, I’d buy June 30,” Ryan says. “There's a lot of dealers who are going to be trying to make their month.”

He especially likes late June given that it's the end of the second quarter, which matters because some automakers have quarterly targets they'll be eager to hit. Here are more strategies to consider if you want to buy a car this summer.

Look for new car incentive offers

Automakers are offering some of the best incentives that the market has seen since pandemic-era supply shortages caused car prices to skyrocket four years ago.

Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief of Cars.com, says the new vehicle market is more attractive than the used car market right now because of the available incentives.

For some brands, the inventory of new vehicles has reached levels that are uncomfortably high for dealers and manufacturers. Automakers are offering cash back and subsidized financing to lure shoppers to help clear out dealership lots.

Car buyers can take advantage of deals like an $8,000 cash back offer on a 2023 Chevrolet Silverado or a 0% APR for 60 months financing promotion for the electric Hyundai Ioniq 5. Stellantis brands including Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram are also in high supply, meaning buyers have a good chance of securing discounts or incentives.

According to Cars.com, new vehicle inventory is at 2.23 million units, reflecting a 35% year-over-year increase. The increase in inventory is largely the result of lower demand due to high car prices and high loan rates.

Improved supply means that this summer’s shoppers will have an easier time finding the trim they want in their area, and they’ll likely pay under the sticker price. In 2022, for comparison, it was common to pay thousands of dollars over the MSRP (or the manufacturer's suggested retail price).

“It takes away that fear factor or that need to rush through the car shopping and purchasing process,” Newman says. “It's a huge relief for car shoppers. It just allows them to take a breath."

As the market improves, there's not necessarily a rush to go out and buy a new vehicle. Waiting until the traditionally slower sales periods in fall or winter could be a better move than shopping this summer.

If dealerships continue to build up more inventory, automakers will be forced to increase incentives even more and dealerships will be more willing to negotiate. Additionally, there’s a solid chance the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates at least one time this year, which would help car buyers in terms of auto loan rates.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
One of the best ways to pay less for Car Insurance is by comparing quotes
Click below to begin finding your rate today.
View Rates

Search for deals on less popular cars

The most in-demand cars right now are hybrid vehicles, as well as most models from Toyota, Honda and Subaru. Car shoppers shouldn’t expect to find major discounts on these cars — at least for now.

“As you get into the fall and winter, the market tends to slow down, and there's nothing that suggests that the supply will dampen at all,” Ryan says. “So people who can wait, maybe the hybrids will start to get better, maybe the Toyotas will start to get better, but it's a good market for I think most people.”

If your car search is flexible, major deals are out there currently. According to RealCarTips.com, there are 0% APR financing offers on more than two dozen models right now. A similar number of cash back offers of $5,000 or more are also available.

“You're seeing quite a bit of cash back from manufacturers. We expect that to continue and possibly even accelerate as we get into the fall,” Ryan says.

One thing to keep in mind: Automakers typically only offer the best financing deals to people with high credit scores. If your credit needs work, consider tackling that issue before buying your next vehicle.

In general, looking beyond popular models can help you buy a car with a monthly payment you can afford. While the average new car price is about $49,000, you don’t have to pay anywhere near that much.

Cars.com came out with a report last month on the best value new cars. Their list includes the Kia Forte LXS at a little over $20,000, the Nissan Kicks, a subcompact SUV that costs about $22,000, and the Ford Maverick, a compact pickup truck that’s going for around $27,000.

On the EV side, Newman says the Cars.com teams likes the value of the Hyundai Ioniq 6, which costs about $40,000. New electric vehicle prices are down across the board in the past year, and inventory levels are high. If an electric car suits your driving needs, you'll probably be able to find a deal, and the federal EV tax credit can take another $7,500 off the price.

Take your time shopping and negotiating

When new cars were in shorter supply, shoppers didn't always have the luxury of time. Vehicles were flying off dealers' lots, which meant people felt rushed to sign paperwork when the car they wanted became available.

The car market looks much more normal now, so you should try to compare prices at multiple dealerships and negotiate with salespeople before pulling the trigger. When you find the car you want in stock at a dealership, you can start a conversation online or over the phone about the price to avoid the hassle of making a trip out there.

"They may tell you what the price is and at the same time, you can be talking to another dealer and seeing what their pricing is like," Newman says. "Then you can compare those options and you can see if maybe one is willing to come down."

This extra work can easily lead to hundreds or even thousands of dollars of savings.

If you're not making any progress negotiating with a dealership, walk away and look at other options, Newman says. You can always return a few days later and they might be ready to come down on price at that point.

"We're back to the days where negotiating for a car, it's the norm again because we're through that inventory crunch, we’re through all the issues that we saw in the pandemic, and so some of those standard practices are coming back into play," Newman says.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
With Auto Insurance, you'll be looking after your car and yourself
There's a wide range of insurance policies available for you. Find the one that best fits your particular needs today. Start shopping now by clicking below.
View Rates

More from Money:

8 Best Car Loan Rates

To Save Money on Insurance, Drivers Are Agreeing to ‘Incredibly Intrusive’ Monitoring Technology

5 Tips to Help You Save Money on Soaring Car Repair Costs

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.Ad
Don't overpay for Car Insurance. Compare rates with Progressive today!