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How to Find Best Memorial Day Auto Deals

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According to the latest consumer price index from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of new vehicles and used cars and trucks have skyrocketed in the past year, increasing by 13.2% and 22.7%, respectively.

On top of those higher prices, dealer lots are emptier than usual, making scoring a sale even more challenging.

Even if you’re not as likely to find holiday deals quite as good as in the past, Memorial Day is just around the corner. Here are five tips for finding the best Memorial Day auto deals.

5 tips for finding best Memorial Day auto deals

No. 1: Shop around online first

While heading to the nearest dealership may be tempting, consider shopping online instead. You’ll be able to see what’s available and how it compares, and you can start to try to figure out the car payment you may owe.

Inventory will likely be limited, but you should be able to get a broader view of what’s out there rather than sticking to the availability of one or two local dealerships.

No. 2: Check out manufacturer deals

“If you want a new car and you have strong credit — 740, 760 and up — pay attention to manufacturer financing deals,” says Jenn Jones, LendingTree autos expert.

If you’re able to qualify, here are some manufacturer deals for new cars that are open through Memorial Day weekend:

  • 2022 Mazda CX-9 SUV: 1.9% APR for 24 months or 3.9% APR for 72 months; $359 a month for a 24-month lease, with $3,499 due at signing (valid through May 31, 2022)
  • 2022 Jeep Renegade SUV: 0% APR for 48 months (valid through May 31, 2022)
  • 2022 Toyota RAV4: 1.75% APR for up to 48 months (valid through May 31, 2022)

And here are some used and preowned deals available this holiday weekend:

  • Ford: 0.99% APR for 36 months on select models (must take delivery by July 5, 2022)
  • Lincoln: 0% APR for 36 months on certified MKZ, MKC, Corsair, MKX and Nautilus vehicles (must take delivery by July 5, 2022)
  • Volvo: 1.99% APR — or $500 purchase cash — on all Certified by Volvo 2018 to 2021 models (must take delivery by May 31, 2022)

No. 3: Be open-minded

Flexibility will be your friend if you’re looking to buy a car this Memorial Day weekend. Knowing will give you more options, even with a limited market.

“Keep an open mind about which vehicle you want, but stick to your budget,” Jones says. “Most of the time, car shoppers drive away in vehicles different from those they came to see.”

No. 4: Get preapproved

“Always walk in with a preapproval in your back pocket,” Jones says. “When dealers help you find a car loan, they can inflate your APR and take the difference as profit.”

It’s important to note that preapproval is not the same as prequalification, and each comes with different consequences and benefits.

Prequalification only requires a soft credit pull, which won’t impact your credit, but the results will only give you a ballpark estimate. Meanwhile, a preapproval — also known as a hard credit check — will let you know the rate for which you qualify. Doing so will not unduly hurt your credit

No. 5: Time it right

Consider the timing if you’re applying for more than one auto loan.

“The three main credit bureaus allow for at least a two-week window for consumers to rate-shop,” Jones says. “Within a 14-day window, several applications won’t hurt your credit any more than one.”

Similarly, you’ll want to know when deals start and end — something that’s typically easier if you have a specific brand in mind. Before signing any loan documents, make sure to test-drive the vehicle of your choice.

It’s important to understand that the car-buying circumstances at this moment don’t make for a great time to buy, so your expectations should reflect the challenging times.

“Memorial Day is typically not the best time to buy a car,” Jones says. “Overall, the best time to buy a car is before you need one so that you can take your time and find a good deal.”