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What Are Car Rebates?

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With current car prices so high, you may be looking for something to bring a vehicle’s price tag back down, closer to earth. Car rebates can provide price breaks to the tune of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, if you and the car you want qualify.

What is a car rebate?

In the world of cars, a rebate is a discount on a new car given by the automaker. The most common rebates are worth $400 to $500, but you can occasionally find larger ones. The biggest rebates can be worth a few thousand dollars – and you could even combine them – especially when you’re looking at more expensive cars.

Where can you find one?

Almost all automakers offer car rebates. Look online at a couple of brands to see their current offerings. Note that higher-end automakers such as Land Rover and Porsche may not offer any.

How long do they last?

Rebates are typically good for a month. For example, if a $500 cash rebate applies to an SUV one month, it might change and apply to a pickup truck the next month.

You may be able to combine a rebate with other incentives to save even more money. Remember to also check out the best auto loan rates to be sure you’re getting the best deal.
What about used cars?

You may be able to find a rebate or two on a certified pre-owned car, but you won’t find any for regular used cars. Read more if you’re debating whether to buy new or used.

What is a car incentive?

An auto incentive is anything that a car seller offers to incentivize you to buy. Besides rebates, incentives can include:

  • Complimentary service: Some dealerships may offer free oil changes.
  • Discount programs: If you’re a first responder, diplomat or automaker employee, you could qualify for a discount on a new car, depending on the brand. There are also fleet car discounts for businesses and mobility aid reimbursements for devices, including ramps and hand controls.
  • Special financing: If you have great credit – or no credit – special financing offers could help you get a car loan at low cost. Check your credit score here.

What is special financing?

Special financing for cars typically means 0% APR financing. You may be asking, why do automakers offer no-cost loans? When a driver has stellar credit, they could feasibly get a loan from anywhere for any car (within reason) and automakers want these customers. They don’t want people with great credit to buy a competitor’s car, so they offer 0% APR loans on their own vehicles.

First-time buyer programs. If you’ve never financed a car before and you need to buy a car with no credit history, you may qualify for a low-APR loan without a cosigner.

Is a rebate better than a 0% APR offer?

In some cases, you may have to choose between a rebate and 0% financing.

Because the value of a 0% APR loan is drawn out over the entire loan term, it’s generally better to get cash upfront. The average new car loan term is nearly six years, according to Experian. Many people don’t keep their car for that long.

What are some commonly offered rebates?

Here are common rebates offered by many of the big automaker brands. Each is typically worth $400 to $500, but some go up to $1,000.

Program rebateWho may qualifyWhat to bring as proof
Military rebatesIf you, your spouse or a member of your household currently serve or have been honorably discharged within 24 months from the U.S. military.A Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) or DD-214. Military ID badges aren’t accepted because making a photocopy of them is illegal.
Graduate and student rebatesCurrent students who are within six months of graduation or who graduated within the last 24 months from an accredited school or a registered program.Your student ID, diploma or transcript. You may also need to show either proof of employment or a job offer.
Educator rebatesIf you teach at a public or private school (elementary through post-secondary), you may qualify for educator rebates.A valid school ID, a pay stub that’s dated within 30 days and shows your name and the school’s name.
Loyalty and conquest rebatesA loyalty rebate is for customers buying the same car brand again. A conquest rebate is for drivers switching brands. To qualify, you or someone in your household should currently own either the same brand or a competing brand of vehicle.The car registration for the qualifying vehicle and proof that you live at the same address, such as your driver’s license or a utility bill.

These are common examples, but not the only ones available. Always check the exact qualifications required by the automaker before you hit the car lot. Qualifying vehicles will change over time, and, during some sales events, such as Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, rebates can have more lax qualifications.

If you’re still early in your car-buying journey, check this guide on how to determine what car to buy.

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