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Reward Me

Rebates and incentives make buying all the more appealing.

December once signaled the end of inventory clearing-out. Now, new cars and trucks arrive at dealerships year-round. But dealers still need to clear out their inventory, and incentives and rebates often jump at year's end.

Cash-back rebates and incentives on new and leased vehicles have become part of the consumer and business landscape. They're popu-lar with buyers and dealers because each side feels rewarded-buyers with cash savings and dealers with sales. Edmunds.com, an online resource for automotive information, reported in June that the average manufacturer incentive per vehicle sold was $2,507, and that Chrysler, Ford and GM increased their offers $213 over the previous month, to $3,461. Analysts predict that rising interest rates will lead to even better offers. High oil prices and buyers' reluctance to shell out for large SUVs result in these vehicles carrying the highest incentives, averaging $4,350.

At Toyota, incentives vary from region to region, depending on market conditions. On Toyota's Tundra Double Cab pickup, buyers are offered $1,000 or an APR of 0 percent for a 36-month loan. GMC gives $3,000 away on its Savana cargo van and $3,500 each on the Sierra 2500 crew cab and the Sierra pickup. If you belong to GM's Owner Loyalty Program, the cash-back offers can jump thousands of dollars, depending on the vehicle.

Certainly, incentives and rebates on trucks are volatile and can change from week to week, so keeping up with the latest offerings is important if you want to save money. There are dozens of useful manufacturers' websites that provide up-to-the-minute information on incentives and rebates. Be sure to read the fine print before buying. With a lease, incentives and rebates can come in the form of reduced rates for perfect credit, a higher residual value (what the vehicle is worth at the end of the lease), or a lower monthly payment.

One cashless incentive to buy a vehicle comes from GM, whose 24-hour test-drive program allows potential buyers to take a model home overnight. You can also receive incentives for GM upgrades, such as partitions and winches.

While manufacturers regularly post the figures on their websites, the best place to find them is at your local dealerships. Some incentives and rebates aren't advertised in the local media, so a phone call or a visit to the dealer may be necessary to get the best deal.

Incentives and Rebates Online

Jill Amadio is Entrepreneur's "Wheels" columnist.

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