auto

Toyota offers incentives to entice buyers

Tara Baukus MelloWith the intense scrutiny on Toyota from congressional hearings and government investigations over its recent recalls, the company has launched sizable incentives on many of its models. It's a sharp departure from the company's typical approach of not offering incentives.

This week, Toyota is offering zero percent interest or $1,000 cash back on its Corolla small car, Sienna minivan and Tacoma pickup, while there is zero percent or $3,000 cash back on the Avalon sedan. The Matrix and the RAV4 have zero percent interest available or $500 cash back. A $1,000 rebate is available on the Camry and the Tacoma Double Cab models, while buyers of the Venza can get $1,500 cash back. However, there are no cut-rate loans on any of the three models. Finally, Toyota is offering zero percent financing on the Highlander model, though there was no rebate available. Toyota also is offering an additional $1,000 rebate to 2010 college graduates who buy a Camry, Corolla, Matrix, Tacoma, RAV4 or Yaris. The college rebate can be combined with the nationwide $1,000 cash-back offer. Use Bankrate's Car rebate vs. low-interest calculator to determine which offer is the best deal.

In addition to incentives from the automaker, some models also have dealer incentives -- cash that automakers offer to the dealer to sell certain models. This money can be used to further reduce the price of the car, but only if you know to ask for it. Use a vehicle information source like Edmunds.com or Kelley Blue Book to see what incentives Toyota is offering dealers on the model you want.

For shoppers interested in leasing, there's also a full spate of offers on seven Toyota models for 36 months with varying amounts due at signing, depending on the model. Leasing deals on the Corolla start at $169 per month and at $199 per month on the Matrix and the RAV4. A Prius can be leased for $239 per month, while monthly lease payments on the Venza are $269. Lease payments on the Highlander start at $299 and $469 for the hybrid version, while the seven-passenger Sienna minivan can be leased for $339 a month. To determine whether buying or leasing is better financially, use the Buy or lease a car calculator.

Despite all the media attention highlighting Toyota's recent problems and the attempt by competing automakers to lure away Toyota owners with incentives, Edmunds' data indicate that the recent selling price of new Toyotas, which it calls True Market Value, has dropped only slightly. That means dealers are not negotiating as heavily as previously projected, and these incentives may be the best you're going to get from the dealer.

Keep in mind that shoppers must qualify in order to take advantage of any of the incentives listed here and, while these deals are accurate for this week, they can be changed or withdrawn by Toyota at any time. Some analysts believe that Toyota's incentives will increase in the coming weeks as the congressional hearings continue and the company remains in the spotlight, so check Toyota's list of current incentives before you shop.

Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. If you have a car question, e-mail it to us at Driving for Dollars.

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