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Cheap SUV, Questionable Deal?

Just because SUV dealers are offering deals that sound great, it doesn't mean they are great. Learn how to read between the lines.
January 18, 2006

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So SUVs, finally, are losing their luster. While auto sales overall fell 7.5 percent in September, sales of SUVs and other light trucks plunged by nearly 20 percent, as consumers decided that at 50 bucks per fill-up, they shouldn't have to fill up quite so often. Instead, Americans are buying more modest wagons and crossover vehicles. And even vehicular wallflowers like the Nissan Sentra and Dodge Neon economy cars are suddenly popular.

That shift in buying habits is expected to continue for the next couple of months, as gas prices remain high and consumers retrench after a summer of blowout sales. There will still be some spectacular deals. With buyers abandoning big, gas-guzzling utilities, for example-sales of the biggest SUVs, like the Chevy Suburban and Toyota Sequoia, plunged 52 percent in September-dealers are cutting as much as $10,000 off sticker prices. But that doesn't necessarily make big discounts a bargain. Some rules for buyers in today's careening market: