auto

Is this the best time to buy a car?

Tara Baukus MelloThere are those who believe that the next few weeks in September are the best time to buy a car and to get a great deal. Is it really?

It depends on what kind of car you buy. Here's how to figure out if you should buy a car now.

Do you want a 2010 or 2011 model? If you don't mind buying a 2010 model, then you'll likely get a much better deal than if you shop for a 2011 model right now. Cars and trucks that have been significantly redesigned for 2011 will have the deepest discounts, since dealers are anxious to get rid of the "old" design and tout the latest and greatest features of the new models.

If you've got a 2011 model in your sight, then you'll most likely be better off waiting a couple of months to buy a car, when the "newness" of the new models has worn off a bit. Edmunds.com reports that incentives will be offered on many 2011 later this fall, and that there will be more room for negotiation on the newly-designed 2011 models.

Are you shopping for an inexpensive car or something with a bit more luxury? Consumers with small budgets who are considering the least expensive cars on the market will have a harder time getting great deals if they buy a car now. After all, a car priced below $20,000 has less wiggle room that one that is priced higher. Two notable exceptions are the Toyota Yaris and the Ford Focus. The 2010 Toyota Yaris, which TrueCar.com says is priced 11 percent below MSRP, is one of the least expensive cars on the market, starting at just under $13,000, and it currently has a $500 rebate. Another good bet is the 2010 Ford Focus, with a starting MSRP of $16,640. TrueCar.com says it is priced at 16 percent below MSRP and currently has incentives up to $2,000.

On the other hand, luxury cars offer much better deals for those planning to buy a car in September. Dealers that carry luxury brands are generally more anxious to get rid of last year's model as it carries less cache than the current year model, even for cars that haven't undergone a redesign. Luxury cars have seen an average price drop of $1,480, according to TrueCar.com data. Edmunds.com reports that rebates and incentives also are likely to increase in the next month for this segment.

Are you in the market for a pickup or an SUV? Pickup buyers have some great deals now, primarily because the two top-selling pickups -- the Ford F-150 and the Chevrolet Silverado -- have been redesigned for 2011. Ford is currently offering rebates of up to $5,500 on the 2010 Ford F-150. There's up to $5,000 in rebates on the 2010 Chevrolet Silverado, and TrueCar.com reports this model had the biggest price drop -- it is selling at 23 percent below MSRP on average -- of all the vehicles it studied.

In the SUV segment, the good deals are hit-and-miss for those who plan to buy a car now. Overall, Jeep models, except for the Wrangler, have some good deals right now, with rebates ranging from $1,500 to $5,000. The luxury SUV segment as a whole has seen an average price drop of $1,150, according to TrueCar.com data. Edmunds.com is also predicting that rebates will increase in the next 30 days for these SUVs.

If you do opt to buy the 2010 model of one of these cars, then you'll want to start shopping soon to have the best selection. Car inventory levels are up only slightly over this time last year, and the 2010 models of the most sought-after cars will go fast.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this Web site, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this Web site is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.

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