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Study: Sedans Dominate Year-End Deals

By Julie Blackley

December is a popular time to buy a car thanks to holiday discounts, and a new study by iSeeCars.com shows that year-end used car deals are dominated by sedans.

Automotive data and research company iSeeCars.com analyzed over 2.4 million one- to five- year-old used cars sold to determine which cars are most likely to offer savings of at least 5 percent during the month of December. “At the average used car price of $20,243, savings of five percent total a substantial dollar amount of over $1,000,” said iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly.

While the end of the year is considered to be one of the best times to buy a vehicle with 40.5 percent of all listings being deals, certain cars are more likely to be discounted than others. “Those who are looking to purchase a used car during the month of December should consider these models if they are looking for a good deal,” said Ly.

Top 10 Cars with the Most Deals in December
Rank Car % More Deals than Average
1 BMW 3 Series 26.6% More Deals
2 Ford Fiesta 24.2%
3 Ford Focus 24.2%
4 Chevrolet Camaro 23.1%
5 Volkswagen Passat 21.7%
6 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 21.2%
7 Volkswagen Jetta 20.1%
8 Ford Mustang 19.9%
9 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 18.9%
10 Audi A4 17.7%
Download Table

The cars that are most likely to be discounted by at least 5 percent during the month of December are predominantly sedans, which account for eight of the ten vehicles on the list. “Given the declining sedan segment, dealers are more likely to discount these cars in order to sell them,” said Ly.

Earning the designation as the vehicle that is most likely to be discounted by at least five percent is the BMW 3 Series luxury compact car, which has 26.6 percent more deals than the average vehicle. It is joined by three additional luxury cars including two compacts, the ninth-ranked Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the tenth-ranked Audi A4, as well as the midsize Mercedes-Benz E-Class. “The growth in popularity of auto leases in recent years has led to an influx of these often-leased luxury vehicles in the used car marketplace after their lease terms end,” said Ly.

Additional compact cars make the list including the second-ranked Ford Fiesta subcompact, the third-ranked Ford Focus, and the seventh-ranked Volkswagen Jetta. “Cheaper fuel prices have contributed to the declining popularity of compact and subcompact cars, which explains why this segment is so frequently discounted,” said Ly.

The list also includes two sports cars: the fourth-ranked Chevrolet Camaro and the eighth-ranked Ford Mustang. “Buying a used sports car often isn’t as attractive as buying vehicles in other segments because they are subject to a lot of wear and tear due to how they are driven,” said Ly. “Camaros and Mustangs are similarly priced, and a five percent savings on these vehicles amounts to over $1,000, which can help incentivize used car buyers.”

Rounding out the list is the fifth-ranked Volkswagen Passat midsize sedan. “Volkswagen paused production of the Passat in 2018 due to declining sales, which shows a lack of demand for this vehicle” noted Ly.

SUVs with the Most Deals

iSeeCars analyzed SUVs with the most year-end deals and found that 38.5 percent of all SUV listings included deals, which is less than the average vehicle at 40.5 percent.

Top 10 SUVs with the Most Deals in December
Rank Car % More Deals than Average
1 Ford Edge 21.9% More Deals
2 GMC Acadia 19.9%
3 Dodge Journey 17.1%
4 Nissan Pathfinder 17.0%
5 Buick Enclave 16.7%
6 Chevrolet Traverse 16.5%
7 BMW X5 16.5%
8 Lincoln MKX 14.3%
9 Ford Escape 13.5%
10 Chevrolet Equinox 8.0%
Download Table

American models dominate the list of SUVs that are most likely to provide the best deals in December and are exclusively midsize with the compact Ford Escape as the exception.

The Ford Edge earns the top spot as the SUV that is most likely to provide a year-end deal for consumers with 21.9 percent more deals than the average SUV. The compact Ford Escape is the second Ford model to make the list and ranks ninth. “While the Edge has below-average ratings, the Escape is one of the top vehicles in its class as well as the best-selling,” said Ly. “Typically best-selling and high-performing vehicles aren’t among the vehicles most likely to have the best deals, which makes the Escape an excellent cost-saving opportunity for those looking to purchase this vehicle.”

Four mid-size SUVs from General Motors make the list including the second-ranked GMC Acadia, the fifth-ranked Buick Enclave, the sixth-ranked Chevrolet Traverse and the tenth-ranked Chevrolet Equinox. “The Acadia, Traverse, and Enclave share the same platform and other mechanical components, and these similar vehicles don’t sell as well as their competition in the midsize SUV segment” noted Ly. An additional American SUV, the Dodge Journey earns the third spot. “The Journey has earned below-average ratings, which could be why it is one of the most often discounted SUVs,” said Ly.

The fourth-ranked Nissan Pathfinder earns the fourth spot and is the only Japanese vehicle to make the list. “Similar to the Journey, the Pathfinder lags behind its competitors in the segment in terms of reliability, which could explain why it’s deeply discounted” said Ly.

Two luxury SUVs make the list including the American Lincoln MKX and the German BMW X5. “The Lincoln MKX earns consistently good ratings, but fails to stand out in the competitive luxury SUV segment as Japanese and German luxury vehicles tend to carry more prestige,” noted Ly. “However, the German BMW X5 also makes the list, but it is likely frequently discounted to offset its high repair cost.”

Chances of Finding a Deal on Light-Duty Pickup Trucks

iSeeCars analyzed the findings to determine the light-duty pickup trucks that were most likely to provide deals during the month of December when compared to the 34.1 average for the vehicle segment.

Chances of Finding a Deal on Light-Duty Pickup Trucks in December
Rank Car % More Deals than Average
1 Nissan Frontier 9.7% More Deals
2 Ford F-150 5.6%
3 GMC Sierra 1500 2.6%
4 Ram Ram Pickup 1500 -0.6%
5 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 -3.1%
6 Toyota Tacoma -8.1%
7 Toyota Tundra -10.9%
Download Table

Three pickups are more likely than the segment average to have deals of 5 percent or more including the Nissan Frontier, the Ford F-150, and the GMC Sierra 1500. “Due to their high demand, pickup trucks are the vehicles with the lowest percentage of deals at 34.1 percent, while SUVs are at 38.5 percent and cars are at 43.4 percent,” said Ly.  “However, deals do exist on certain models and can be found if the shopper is willing to look around.”

Deals on Discontinued Cars

As American automakers announced plans this year to discontinue their less popular models, iSeeCars looked at some of the cars currently in production but with plans to be discontinued to see which models offer the best deals.

“The cars that are being discontinued all have more deals when compared to the average vehicle, which has deals for 40.5 percent of its listings” said Ly. “Discontinued cars are likely the result of a low demand for these vehicles, which means that these models are likely to be discounted to make room for more popular inventory.”

Chances of Finding a Deal on Discontinued Cars
Rank Car % More Deals than Average
1 Ford Fiesta 24.2% More Deals
2 Ford Focus 24.2%
3 Ford Flex 12.5%
4 Ford Taurus 11.3%
5 Cadillac ATS 11.1%
6 Chevrolet Cruze 8.0%
7 Buick LaCrosse 7.7%
8 Chevrolet Sonic 6.7%
9 Chevrolet Impala 5.1%
10 Chrysler 300 2.1%
Download Table

Ford models take the top four spots, led by the Fiesta and the Focus which also appear on the overall list of the cars with the most year-end deals. These sedans are joined by the Ford Taurus midsize sedan in fourth. The third-ranked Flex is the lone SUV on the list with 12.5 percent more deals than the average vehicle. “Although it has not been confirmed, insiders have pointed to the discontinuation of the Flex after 2020,” said Ly.

The Cadillac ATS compact luxury sedan ranks fifth. “While Cadillac doesn’t have the strongest brand reputation, the ATS has been favorably reviewed as a sporty luxury sedan and could be a great deal for someone who wants a sophisticated car but doesn’t require a lot of cargo space,” said Ly.

Additional General Motors cars account for four vehicles that are being discontinued including the sixth-ranked Chevrolet Cruze, the seventh-ranked Buick LaCrosse, the eighth-ranked Chevrolet Sonic, and the ninth-ranked Chevrolet Impala. “While GM announced the Sonic’s discontinuation months ago, it recently announced the discontinuation of the Chevrolet Cruze, Buick LaCrosse, and Chevrolet Impala,” said Ly. “There may not be as many deals on these vehicles compared to other discontinued models, but these cars are likely to be discounted for many months to come.”

The Chrysler 300, the lone car from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to make the list ranks tenth. “Although the discontinuation of the Chrysler 300 hasn’t been formally announced, multiple reports have claimed that it will be discontinued in 2020,” said Ly.

Cars With the Most Deals by State and Metropolitan Area

iSeeCars also determined the cars with the most deals in the 10 most populous states and the 20 most populous metropolitan areas.

Cars with the Most December Deals by State
State Car % More Deals than Average
CA BMW 3 Series 28.9%
FL BMW 3 Series 31.0%
GA BMW 3 Series 42.6%
IL Ford Focus 29.1%
MI Ford Focus 18.9%
NC Ford Focus 28.2%
NY Ford Focus 33.4%
OH Hyundai Elantra 27.1%
PA Ford Focus 24.8%
TX BMW 3 Series 27.3%
The car that appears most often on the list is the Ford Focus as the car that is most likely to be a year-end deal in five states. The BMW 3 Series is the car with the most December deals in four states, leaving the Hyundai Elantra to round off the list in one state. “The Ford Focus and the BMW 3 Series were among the cars with the most year-end deals on a national level, which shows that state-level data mirrors national trends,” said Ly

 

Cars with the Most December Deals by Metro Area
Metro Area Car % More Deals than Average
Atlanta, GA BMW 3 Series 39.5%
Boston, MA-Manchester, NH Ford Focus 46.4%
Chicago, IL Volkswagen Jetta 32.2%
Cleveland-Akron (Canton), OH Ford Fusion 19.9%
Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX BMW 3 Series 37.3%
Denver, CO Ford Focus 22.0%
Detroit, MI Ford Focus 17.0%
Houston, TX Mercedes-Benz E-Class 31.8%
Los Angeles, CA Mercedes-Benz E-Class 31.2%
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL Volkswagen Jetta 28.9%
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN Ford Focus 41.2%
New York, NY Hyundai Elantra 33.2%
Orlando-Daytona Beach, FL Hyundai Accent 54.2%
Philadelphia, PA BMW 3 Series 32.5%
Phoenix, AZ BMW 3 Series 34.5%
Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA BMW 3 Series 26.4%
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA Mercedes-Benz C-Class 39.4%
Seattle-Tacoma, WA Hyundai Accent 22.7%
Tampa-St Petersburg (Sarasota), FL Volkswagen Jetta 43.3%
Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD) BMW 3 Series 39.5%
 

When examining the in the 20 most populous metropolitan areas, the BMW 3 Series is the car that has the most deals in six metro area followed by the Ford Focus in five. “Similar to state-level data, the list of cars with the most deals by metropolitan area is exclusively sedans with the 3 Series and the Focus in the most areas,” said Ly.

While December is a popular time for consumers to buy cars thanks to year-end and holiday deals, not all cars are subjected to the same year-end sales. “The most popular cars typically aren’t as frequently discounted because the demand is still high even without a cost reduction,” said Ly. “It is important that even when customers are presented with a great deal that they shop around because they may find an even better deal elsewhere that can either become their next car or provide a negotiation opportunity.”

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 2.4 million one- to five-year-old used cars sold in December between 2015 and 2017 and identified the percentage of cars of each model that were deals. A deal is defined as having savings of five percent or more off fair market value. Cars that were no longer in production as of the 2018 or 2019 model year, work vehicles, and models with low sample size were excluded from further analysis. For each model, the percentage of cars that were deals was compared to the overall average percentage of deals.  

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is an online car search engine that helps consumers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN report. iSeeCars.com has saved users over $168 million so far by applying big data analytics powered by over 25 billion (and growing) data points and using proprietary algorithms to objectively analyze, score and rank millions of cars and thousands of dealers. Based in the Boston area, iSeeCars.com was founded by former TripAdvisor and SAP executives determined to improve the car shopping experience for consumers.

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