— Is the Labor Day weekend a good time to buy a car? It depends what you want. New-car sales fell 6.9 percent in July, per Automotive News, and they're down 2.9 percent for the year amid signs of an incentives plateau. Still, shoppers this Labor Day have one thing going for them: recent history.
According to Autodata Corp., September notched the highest incentives per vehicle in 2016 and 2015, and it was the second-highest month in 2014. Through the first seven months of 2017, average discounts per car are still up 12.8 percent so far, at $3,549 versus $3,147 over the same period last year. That means September should still have plenty of deals in store.
Which brings us to Labor Day. If you skip the barbecues and college football (for a little while, at least), you could find some deals at your local showroom. Here's a sampling of the best cash-back and financing discounts we found that run through the long weekend:
2017 Malibu: Through Sept. 5, $3,500 cash back or 1.9 percent financing for up to 60 months, except on certain base models.
2017 Camry: Through Sept. 5, up to $3,000 cash back depending on the region or zero percent financing for 72 months. Note that this is the outgoing Camry, however, not the 2018 redesign.
2017 Corolla: Through Sept. 5, up to $2,500 cash back depending on your region, or zero percent financing for 72 months. That's for the Corolla sedan. The 2017 Corolla iM hatchback gets up to $2,500 cash back depending on region, or zero percent financing for 60 months (not 72), also through Sept. 5.
2017 RAV4: Through Sept. 5, up to $3,000 cash back depending on your region, or zero percent financing for 72 months.
2017 Escape: Through Sept. 5 (or Oct. 2 in some areas), from $3,500 to $5,000 cash back depending on region and trim level, or 2.9 percent financing for 84 months.
2017 Focus: Through Oct. 2, from $3,350 to $4,500 cash back depending on region and trim level, or 2.9 percent financing for 84 months. These deals include the Focus ST and Focus Electric but exclude the Focus RS.
2017 Sentra: Through Sept. 5, $2,000 to $2,500 cash back, depending on region, or zero percent financing for 72 months.
2017 Altima: Through Sept. 5, up to $3,500 cash back depending on region and trim, or zero percent financing for 60 months.
2017 Sorento: Through Sept. 5, $3,000 to $4,000 cash back or zero percent financing for 66 months.
Remember, discount financing requires qualifying credit. We looked for large cash-back deals on popular cars in five metro areas — Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Denver and Atlanta — and excluded any amounts with strings attached, like a military or college-grad discount or a requirement to finance through the automaker. We also look only at advertised factory incentives, not unadvertised factory-to-dealer cash. In sum, your local discounts may vary, so see your dealer for specifics.
Looking to shop later on next month? Check back in the coming weeks for September's best new-car deals.