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Buying a Car: How Do You Qualify for an Incentive?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2015

If you've been shopping for a new car, you've probably heard about incentives, which are also sometimes known as manufacturer rebates or special offers. Incentives can be important to shoppers interested in buying a car, as they can lower a vehicle's price and provide an extra incentive to buy the vehicle -- hence the name. But how do you qualify for an automaker incentive? We have the answer.

No Qualification Needed?

In general, there are two types of automaker incentives: those you must qualify for and those that don't require any qualifications. Although you may think the majority of incentives require steep qualifications in order to get a good advertised deal, that usually isn't the case. Instead, most incentives require little to no qualifications, though some do require shoppers to have an excellent credit score.

As an example, an automaker offering $2,000 cash back on a new model typically doesn't require the buyer to have any sort of special qualification in order to get the deal. Instead, the buyer must simply be paying with cash and must be aware of the rebate -- typically because he or she found out about it online or learned about it at the dealer or through a friend.

By comparison, a special interest rate may require drivers to have certain credit scores in order to qualify. While this type of incentive doesn't require any other qualifications, drivers with only average credit usually won't get the best rates advertised by automakers. The same is true for shoppers interested in the very best lease deals.

Some Require Qualifications

In addition to incentives without major qualifications, there is a wide array of automaker incentives that do require qualifications. For instance, in order to take advantage of the best lease deals, some shoppers must agree to keep mileage below a certain figure -- in some cases, a very low figure that isn't tenable for the majority of drivers.

Additionally, some incentives require that you own a certain type of vehicle in order to take advantage of them. For instance, an automaker may offer $1,000 in loyalty cash back to a shopper trading a vehicle manufactured by the same brand. Or a manufacturer may offer $1,000 in conquest cash if a driver is trading in a vehicle manufactured by a competitor.

Finally, some automakers offer further incentives for drivers who work in certain careers. For instance, a few brands tout special deals for members of the military, while other automakers occasionally offer incentives to police officers, firefighters or other public servants.

Incentives Are Important

Although some incentives require certain criteria in order to qualify, many others can be used by virtually any shopper who walks through the door. If you're buying a car, we urge you to check out all the latest manufacturer incentives on the model you want, as you may be surprised to find out what kind of excellent deals are available.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: How Do You Qualify for an Incentive? - Autotrader