September is prime time to purchase luxury cars

  Dealerships are starting their everything-must-go sales to clear off lots. Car buyers this year face a different sales situation than they usually have. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, gives tips on what to watch out for when buying a car this fall.

Sales are off to a late start this summer, because shortages stemming from the Japan earthquake in March meant automakers were struggling to put cars on lots. September is a prime time to buy trucks, SUVs and luxury cars, which have some of the best sales right now. But wait until at least October for a small, fuel-efficient car. Japanese automakers are still beefing up supply, and should have better deals then.

With supply tighter than normal, deals are fairly varied by zip code. Use a site like Edmunds.com or Kelley Blue Book to see what deals are available in your area. Consider that some configurations of a particular model may have better deals, too, enough to make up for a higher sticker price.

Be sure to tell the dealership what you’re driving. You can often get even better deals for staying with the same brand you’ve bought before. Audi is tacking an extra $3,000 on some models, while Ford offers an extra $500 or so. On the flip side, a few brands offer extra if you’re trading in a car from one of their competitors. At BMW, that’s an extra $2,000.

Sales are so late this year that some brands already have 2012s on the lot, and are already discounting them. The 2012 Acura TL is, with current deals, just $800 more than the 2011. When weighing model year, consider any new features, as well as resale value if you plan to sell within five years.

Used prices have risen this year with summer demand for fuel-efficient cars, and those Japan shortages. So, buy a used car with caution. There are also fewer cars coming out of lease deals this year. If you’re thinking used, be sure to compare new prices, too, which may not be significantly higher.

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