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Black Friday shoppers should visit car lots, not just malls

Car lot (Laitr Keiows/Wikimedia)

While many shoppers head for the malls on Black Friday, some will be heading to auto dealerships instead.

The four-day Thanksgiving weekend is one of those holidays — along with Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Fourth of July — when auto dealers typically sweeten deals to draw out buyers.

“Black Friday is certainly a great time to go car shopping,” Jennifer Newman, editor-in-chief of Cars.com, said in a statement.

This week, it could be even better than in past years. Here are the reasons:

Incentives: Automakers piled on the sales inducements in October, a reflection of slightly lower auto sales this year. Sales were off 1.7% through the first 10 months of 2017, Autodata reports. That might not sound like a lot, but with more than 17 million new cars sold in each of the past two years, it means there are thousands of leftover models that dealers need to move off the lot. In some cases, that could mean dealers slash $5,000 off the list price. Incentives,which include things such as cash back or 0% financing, “have been strong all year,” said Jack Fitzgerald, whose Fitzgerald Auto Malls sells a variety of auto brands from 12 dealerships spread between Maryland, Florida and Pennsylvania. He said Black Friday “is usually good for us.”

Closeouts: Black Friday falls at a time of year when dealers are eager to move out 2017 models to make way for the 2018s. “The outgoing models are increasingly undesirable to dealers,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher for Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader. “They are going to do whatever it takes to move them” into the hands of buyers.

End of month: Dealers will often try to squeeze out a few last sales at the end of the month in order to make quotas, Brauer said, and Thanksgiving weekend falls just at the right time.

Demand shift: Buyers have made a dramatic shift to SUVs from cars. In October, SUVs made up nearly two-thirds of vehicle sales, Autodata figures show. Car sales were down 9.2% for the month while SUV sales were up 3.6% compared with the same month last year. As a result, the best bargains can be found on cars. They are particularly juicy on midsize sedans, Cars.com reports. The 2017 Ford Fusion can be had for up to $5,000 off the list price. The 2018 Hyundai Elantra comes with a $3,000 discount. And Kia will offer buyers a choice when it comes to its Optima: $1,500 in incentives on the 2018 model or a $3,000 discount on the 2017s. “They push those savings down to the customer,” said Bob Dixon, general manager of Greiner Ford in Casper, Wyoming.

Buyers on Black Friday typically get a better deal than the days preceding it, said Eric Lyman, chief analyst for TrueCar. But he cautioned that they shouldn’t feel pressured to buy a car that doesn’t suit them just because there’s a better discount.

As more of the 2017s are sold off, that leaves fewer of the most desirable cars on dealer lots. The remains may not have the features or colors that buyers want most.

“If the car’s exactly what you want, go for it,” Lyman advised.

But don’t fret. If you miss going to dealerships this week, there will still be a couple last chances to land a hot deal.

Brauer said the last day of the month — next week — would also offer a good opportunity as dealers try to make sales goal for November.

And the last week of December leading up to New Year’s Eve traditionally represents one of the best times of the year for buyers. Then, dealers not only want to make monthly quotas, but try to make one last effort to boost sales for the year.

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© 2017 USA Today

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.