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SUV Sales Are Hot, But It’s a Great Time to Shop for a Car

New car and sedan sales in March took a backseat to SUV sales and crossovers and trucks being driven off dealership lots, continuing a trend in the U.S. auto industry.

But there’s a sliver lining to the rise in SUV sales and sagging car and sedan sales — especially if you’re a buyer who still likes a trunk.

"As I always say to bargain shoppers, go where the others aren’t if you want the best deals," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst with Autotrader. "In addition to incentives, cars generally get a bit better fuel economy, which may count for something with gas prices edging up."

Many automakers are offering big cash on the hood to buoy up sales of cars and sedans that have waned in recent months as consumers increasingly shift to buying SUVs and crossovers.

New compact car sales across the U.S. industry through March this year are down 10.2 percent compared to the same three months of 2017, according to Kelley Blue Book data. New full-size car sales dropped 9.9 percent and new midsize cars slipped 14.4 percent during the same period. Subcompact cars have fallen even harder, down 21.7 percent in the first three months of 2018 compared to the same period a year ago, according to KBB data.

In March, luxury makers such as Acura, Audi and Cadillac were offering large discounts on luxury cars. Acura was giving $7,000 off the recently refreshed and premium midsize 2018 RLX, while the midsize luxury 2017 Cadillac CTS had as much as $10,500 in money off last month, according to data compiled by Cox Automotive. The full-size Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger GT and Buick LaCrosse also had hefty incentives, Krebs said.

Already in April there are deals to be found.

Buyers who like a full-size sedan can save $6,000 or 21 percent off the 2018 Ford Taurus through July 9. The program requires shoppers finance through Ford Credit. The savings knocks the price of a 2018 Taurus SE down from $28,565 including destination to $22,565 before taxes and fees, according to Ford’s website.

Ford Taurus sales are down nearly 30 percent through March this year.

Chevrolet is also facing slowing car sales. In March, Chevy’s compact Cruze sales were down 13.4 percent from March 2017 and are down by more than a quarter for the first three months of the year. Sales of the midsize Malibu sedan in March were up 3.4 percent, but for the first quarter are down 2.4 percent compared to the same 2017 period. Chevrolet was offering deals on these two sedans earlier this month and we wouldn’t be surprised to see similar incentives offered in the weeks to come.

Autotrader’s Krebs said car shoppers interested in alternative fuel vehicles should be able to land a great deal, especially if they’re open to leasing.

Last month, the midsize Hyundai Sonata plug-in hybrid electric had a $9,419 lease cash incentive, while the compact Kia Soul electric SUV had a lease cash incentive of $18,200, according to Cox Automotive.

A 2017 Sonata plug-in hybrid currently is $3,500 off if purchased by April 30, according to Hyundai’s website.

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