Memorial Day signals summer’s imminent arrival and invokes thoughts of road trips, outdoor adventures and quality time spent with family and friends. Once upon a time (aka prior to the inventory shortage), new-car shoppers would look forward to this time of year for a different reason: Automakers offered some of their best incentives leading up to the holiday. While incentives have recently started to bounce back according to JD Power’s latest sales report, the good old days of abundant seasonal deals remain in the past.
Related: What’s the Best New-Car Deal for May 2023?
Even so, while fewer models are discounted, shoppers can still have reasons to be optimistic: Inventory is steadily improving, special auto loan offers help with rising financing costs, and trade-in values remain elevated. With improving inventory levels, vehicles are spending more time on dealer lots, too: In April, the average vehicle spent 30 days on the lot compared to 18 days the same time a year prior, estimates JD Power. This means finding the right car with the features you want should prove easier as the month draws to a close.
As average auto loan rates continue to rise alongside monthly payments, select automakers are offering special financing deals with lower rates alongside cash incentives. For shoppers who qualify, the savings can add up in the long run, and should be factored into the purchase equation. According to JD Power, the average interest rate for new-car loans reached an estimated 6.8% in April — up 2.27% from the same time in 2022. Meanwhile, deals finalists like the Hyundai Elantra and Jeep Compass below offer special rates of 0.9% for 36 months and 1.9% for 36 months, respectively, for qualified shoppers.
Finally, your trade-in may be worth more than you think. Even as used-car prices and trade-in values have started to fall, the average trade-in value in April was estimated at $9,162, which is more than double the pre-pandemic average. As the weather warms up, it’s a good idea to give your current ride a thorough cleaning inside and out as you prepare to sell or trade it in.
Joining our finalists features in the link above, the following cars bring additional savings along with road-trip-ready features just in time for summer.
2023 Hyundai Elantra
- Factory discounts: $750
- Approximate price after discounts: $21,500-$28,500
- Approximate factory savings: 3%
- Offer ends: May 31
Boasting EPA ratings of up to 37 mpg combined, the 2023 Hyundai Elantra is one of the most efficient gas-only vehicles on the market, which makes it a good choice for those long summer drives. In addition to potential fuel savings, Hyundai is offering a $750 cash discount on all Elantra trims including SE, SEL, Limited and N Line through the end of the month; note, however, that this excludes the Elantra Hybrid and performance-oriented Elantra N. Qualified shoppers who finance with Hyundai can choose to skip the cash offer in favor of a special rate of 0.9% for 36 months or 1.9% for 48 months, region depending. All cash and finance offers are available through May 31.
- Factory discounts: $1,500-$3,500
- Approximate price after discounts: $30,500-$43,000
- Approximate factory savings: 3%-10%
- Offer ends: May 31
The Compass’ latest redesign increased storage and added creature comforts — including larger touchscreen options with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity — to its list of road-trip-friendly features. New for the 2023 Compass is a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that brings a boost in power. The 2023 Compass also brings cash discounts of $1,500-$3,500 on all trims excluding the base Sport in the regions we surveyed. In lieu of cash deals, shoppers who finance with Jeep parent automaker Stellantis can take advantage of special financing offers including 7.26% or 4.9% for 60 months with up to $2,000 bonus cash, and 1.9% for 36 months with up to $2,000 cash. All offers are trim- and region-dependent, and they run through the end of the month.
- Factory discounts: $1,500-$2,000
- Approximate price after discounts: $31,500-$67,000
- Approximate factory savings: 3%-5%
- Offer ends: May 31
As the most capable off-road model in Jeep’s stable, the Wrangler can accommodate most of the items on your summer bucket list — even when they require leaving the pavement. The refreshed 2024 Wrangler adds new tech, safety and comfort features along with enhanced capability for select trims, but shoppers who can’t (or don’t want to) wait for the updated SUV can save $1,500-$2,000 in the current model year; note that such discounts are available on all trims excluding the Rubicon and Rubicon 392, and they don’t include the Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid variant, either. In place of cash-only deals, Jeep is offering a 7.26% rate for 60 months with up to $2,000 cash bonuses for qualified shoppers who finance with Stellantis. As with the preceding discounts, all cash and finance deals are available through the end of May.
How We Look for Deals
To help car shoppers find the best deals for Memorial Day, we lead with cash offers available to shoppers at large, not those that require financing with the automaker or having certain qualifications (eg, military or college-graduate discounts, loyalty or conquest bonuses, etc.). In calculating the overall percentage discount and pricing after incentives, we focus on the vehicle’s price range from the cheapest incentives-eligible trim level with no factory options to the priciest eligible trim with all factory options. We include the destination charge in such pricing, but we exclude a few other items: taxes and fees, which vary considerably by region, and dealer accessories, which vary considerably by automaker.
Because these are factory discounts, they should be available to all participating dealers. As such, use them as the starting point for negotiations, not a reason to skip haggling altogether.
Incentives data come from automakers’ websites. Remember, our numbers are current as of publications for the markets we survey (generally Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and New York). They reflect advertised customer discounts, not unadvertised factory-to-dealer cash. Discount financing typically requires qualifying credit, too, and incentives may vary by region and trim level; automakers may also change them later in the month. In sum: Your discounts may vary, so check with your local dealer for specifics.
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