Aug. 9, 2009 -- The hyped-up version of the Audi A8 comes with a unique W12 engine that produces 450 horsepower and does 0 to 60 miles per hour in five seconds. Audi's super-sedan costs $122,000--but if you play your cards right, you can get it for much less.
With an auto market down 35% this year and 2010 models set to hit showrooms in a few short months, prospective buyers are in the perfect position to bargain with dealers eager to clear their lots.
The A8 joins the Land Rover Range Rover, Acura MDX and Chrysler 300 on our list of the easiest cars to bargain for this summer. They're all selling for thousands of dollars off their manufacturer suggested retail prices.
Behind the Numbers
To compile our list, we used information provided by Kelley Blue Book, the Irvine, Calif.-based vehicle valuation company. Its analysts tracked new-car sales nationwide for the first two weeks of July, noting both the price for which the car actually sold (its "new car blue book" price) and the MSRP. We then determined which models sold for significantly less than MSRP. Where vehicles with different trim levels had differing MSRPs, we evaluated only the model with the biggest price cut. The 10 vehicles with the largest difference between their selling prices and listed MSRPs made our list. (We didn't use day-supply data for this analysis; it's a moot point when virtually every automaker has cut production but still faces surpluses on most models.)
The new-car blue book value reflects a vehicle's actual selling price based on tens of thousands of recent real sales transactions from auto dealers across the U.S. It does not include manufacturer or dealer incentives.
The road to a sweet deal begins with understanding that vehicles are a commodity and should be treated as such, as well as discerning what you don't know--but should find out--before you hit the showroom.
For starters, know that the listed MSRPs and invoice prices are outliers in most sales transactions. In fact, 80% of the new-car sales nationwide last month occurred below both numbers, according to Truecar.com, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based automotive data aggregator.
Scott Painter, CEO of the company, says consumers should find out exactly what the dealer paid for a vehicle (its true cost); research incentives, including those from third-party vendors like USAA and American Express; and determine how much others are spending on the same vehicle--all before hitting the showroom.
The availability of that data on the Internet adds some much-needed transparency to the auto industry, Painter says, since the price differential between someone who pays $15,000 more for an SUV than someone else "almost perfectly" correlates with how much information the buyer has.
"Every dealer that we sit down with, when they first hear that we're publishing costs, says, 'What are you guys doing? You're going to kill us! It's a race to the bottom now,'" Painter says. "Our answer is, 'Actually, it's not. An educated consumer who realizes that there's no more for you to give has a sense of what's fair. A sustainable transaction is what people want--a sustainable, fair deal.'"
Expect Bargains, Not Blowouts
You'll likely get a good deal on a $53,000 Lincoln Town Car. Earlier this month, it sold nationwide for an average of $4,500 less than its sticker price. The model sold just 1,416 units last month, down 50.5% from June 2008 and down 32.5% for the year, so dealers will be eager to negotiate, even though Ford Motor is doing the best out of Detroit's carmakers. Competitors like $46,280 Cadillac's DTS and $28,000 Chrysler 300 are down 50% and 52% for the year, respectively.
But be realistic, counsels Jack Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book. He says that just because large sedans like the Town Car are going for lower-than-normal prices this summer, consumers shouldn't expect "some kind of homerun, once-in-a-lifetime deal. It's not like a half-off kind of thing or a going-out-of-business sale that you might expect," he says. Instead, arm yourself with sales data that will help to realistically set pricing expectations.
Of course, most experts say the sales trough will have permanently bottomed out by later this year and certainly by 2010. So get those deals while you can.