A New Car Under Sticker? It’s Possible — but Not by Much

Buying a discounted car isn’t as easy as it once was, but there are still ways to save.
Philip Reed
By Philip Reed 
Edited by Julie Myhre-Nunes

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After more than a year of crazy-high car prices, a new car's cost has dipped below the sticker price. The discounts aren't substantially significant: The average discount from the sticker price was $15. 

"Admittedly not a lot of money," says Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights at Edmunds, which provided the data. "So we're on track for some level of 'normalcy' but not there yet."

Moreover, "normal" is now an average new-car transaction price of $47,681, according to Edmunds. And rising interest rates — at 6.6% for new cars — brought the average monthly new-car payment to $718 in November.

On the used car side, it's not much better. Used car interest rates rose to 10.2%, making the monthly payment $565 over a 70-month loan. And leases were going for $583 a month with interest rates — called the "money factor" in a lease — at 5.8%.

OK, so it's not the perfect time to buy a car. But some people need wheels now and want to get the most for their money. Are they out of luck?

What's selling for sticker or less?

Car search engine site iSeeCars compiled a list of the best new car deals by comparing the actual sale price with the manufacturer's suggested retail price, or MSRP. 

Only two cars sold at the sticker price, the 2022 Infiniti QX80, at $80,529, and the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, commanding a more palatable price tag of $50,095. The cheapest vehicle on the iSeeCars list of best deals is the 2022 Honda Pilot, which sells for $44,696, a mere $1,399 over the window sticker. 

Edmunds data shows large luxury cars discounted by as much as $3,000. Dealers also took about $1,000 off the sticker prices for large trucks and luxury subcompact SUVs. 

Edmunds lists the most discounted models under $50,000:

Type of new car

Discount

GMC Savana cargo van

10.4% off $41,667 MSRP.

Mitsubishi Mirage subcompact car

8.8% off $19,511 MSRP.

Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class SUV

3.6% off $47,984 MSRP.

Mitsubishi Outlander SUV

3.6% off $35,130 MSRP.

Cadillac XT4 SUV

3.3% off $45,348 MSRP.

Ram 1500 Classic pickup

3.3% off $45,333 MSRP.

Ford Edge SUV

3.1% off $45,014 MSRP.

Mazda CX-9 SUV

3.1% off $45,795 MSRP.

Cadillac CT4 sedan

3.0% off $44,467 MSRP.

Volvo XC40 SUV

2.7% off $47,133 MSRP.

GMC Acadia SUV

2.7% off $48,296 MSRP.

Audi A4 sedan

2.6% off $49,027 MSRP.

Audi Q3 SUV

2.4% off $44,971 MSRP.

Lincoln Corsair SUV

2.3% off $46,404 MSRP.

What's hot and what's not

If possible, shoppers should postpone buying popular cars since they command higher prices. Edmunds data showed that large luxury SUVs were marked up the most, an average of $2,863 over MSRP. Minivans fetched $848 above sticker.

Most vehicles on the cheaper end of the market have at least some added dealer markup. The lowest-priced segment of the market, subcompact cars, which have an average MSRP of $24,148, are still being marked up by about $450. Subcompact SUVs went for $543 above the sticker.

If you're looking for a bargain 

To find a bargain in today's market, "it's important to search for cars in ways that most other shoppers aren't," says Mark Holthoff, senior editor at Carvana. "Demand drives up prices, so the bargains tend to be where most people aren't looking."

Here are a few ways experts recommend bargain hunting:

Look at the big picture. Remember that getting a good deal is a combination of the purchase price, finance rates and, in some cases, the trade-in price, Holthoff advises.

Take a carmaker's discount finance if you can. Buy a more expensive car that is likely to be discounted and finance it with a low- or no-interest loan through the manufacturer. In the long run, you save thousands in interest payments, says Drury.

Shop for older cars. Two- to 3-year-old models are commanding higher prices. So instead, look at well-maintained, low-mileage vehicles about 7 years old, says Holthoff. Some 10- to 12-year-old cars still provide great utility and are almost fully depreciated. 

Consider lesser-known brands. Brands such as Honda and Toyota command premium prices on the used car market because of their strong reliability reputations. But Holthoff says that other carmakers, such as Mazda, Kia and Hyundai, have been producing excellent models for years and are typically much cheaper.

Be flexible. Search for at least three different models from various manufacturers. Be ready to accept your second choice of color and features. 

Is there a bargain EV?

The words "bargain" and "electric cars" aren't often found in the same sentence. With high gas prices and increased environmental concerns, electric vehicles, or EVs, are in short supply and can be more expensive than gas-engine cars.

For example, the cheapest 2023 gas vehicle in the U.S. is the Nissan Versa at $15,730 plus destination. The cheapest EV is the Chevrolet Bolt at $25,600 plus destination.

But once you look at the big picture and include fuel savings, incentives and lower maintenance costs, an EV can be a bargain, says Brent Gruber, an executive director for J.D. Power. Once these factors are considered, "I think EVs in general present a bargain."

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