Bottom line: The best car in December could be the Lexus ES 350 Sedan

This time of year signals the march of the “big bow” car ads: new cars as big gifts. We looked at five popular luxury vehicles in the US in December 2016, and picked the most popularly configured model of each. To help you plan your gift list (Mercedes? Lexus? Acura?), and realize savings, Carjojo peered into our vast database of new cars nationwide to tease out which luxury models might be had at the best possible discounts across the country, and in some of the country’s largest cities.

Then, we looked at MSRP, the savings buyers got on purchases of those vehicles in October and early November, and any known rebates.

We also took a deep dive into how much inventory is sitting on dealer lots.  That factor is important. The more inventory “bloat” for a particular model, the more likely the manufacturer may add or increase rebates, and the more likely a dealer will discount the price.


When to Buy?


26019_083_032_mediumIf you’re buying, the Lexus ES 350 Sedan has a rebate of $1,000 (through the end of November).  That discount, added to the 3.6% pre-rebate savings that the average consumer recently paid, indicates that right now you may be able to save over $2,400 from MSRP.

If you want to wait until December, we looked at month’s supply, and the Lexus ES 350 has over a six-month supply of vehicles choking dealer lots.  Not only are dealers eager to make deals to clear the inventory, there is a reasonable chance that Lexus will increase the rebate come December.


Coulda bought a Mercedes… 


19766_775_032_largeIf you planned in advance, the Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC Coupe delivered the highest average savings for recent buyers at 5% – which translates to a discount of over $2,200 from its starting MSRP of $44,650.

So with 20/20 hindsight we can say that if you were going to give the gift of luxury, you shoulda bought the Mercedes.

And if you wait until December, well anything can happen, but we predict that a smart Santa sticks with the Lexus.

The chart below shows America’s five most popular luxury cars, MSRP for each, the average percent saving buyers got in Oct/Nov,, and the average number of month’s supply (the highest is highlighted green – that bodes well for buyers – and the lowest red).


Model MSRP Savings % Month’s supply  Available Rebates
Acura MDX Tech. SH-AWD SUV $50,360 3.8% 2.2 $0
 BMW 320i Sedan  $39,745 4.7% 3.9 $0
Lexus ES 350 Sedan $38,900 3.6% 6.2 $1,000
Lexus RX 350 4×4 SUV $44,420 2.4% 4.8 $1,000
Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC Coupe $44,650 5.0% 2.8 $0
AVERAGE 3.9% 4.0


What to Buy, Where 


1000007_1_032_mediumInventory and savings vary around the country, so to get a taste of the cities in which car shoppers may find deals, we looked into luxury cars in five of the nation’s biggest markets.

New York City takes the top spot in the list of destinations for bargain-hunting luxury car buyers, particularly if they’re craving a Lexus.  Both models average much more than five months of inventory in the city’s new-car lots, suggesting good deals to be had.  NYC is the only city studied to have two luxury cars with that level of inventory bloat. Philadelphia and Dallas both have plenty of inventory of the Lexus ES 350 and Lexus 350 4×4 SUV respectively. Atlanta looks good for its Lexus ES 350 inventory, too.

Inventory levels for the non-Lexus luxury cars are fairly low in all cities, with none topping the 5-month sweet spot.

Los Angeles and San Francisco both have relatively small amounts of inventory across the board, so you may want to rethink a luxury car purchase this holiday season in those towns if price is your number one consideration. But, if you happen to live in LA and purchased a Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC Coupe recently, you got an early holiday gift: those vehicles went for 6.8% off MSRP in Q3 2016, the biggest single discount for any car analyzed in any of the cites.

You’ll see the Q3 savings percent and inventory levels in the chart below; the models with more than 5 months are highlighted green. Those with less than three months are red.


Acura MDX Tech. AWD SUV Lexus ES 350 Sedan Lexus RX 350 4×4 SUV Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC Coupe BMW 320i Sedan (Note: Based on Low Inventory Data)
MSRP  $          50,360 MSRP  $         38,900 MSRP  $         44,420 MSRP  $               44,650  MSRP  $               39,745
City Savings Percent Month’s supply Savings Percent Month’s supply Savings Percent Month’s supply Savings Percent Month’s supply Avg Savings Avg Month’s supply
New York 4.9% 2.0 4.3% 9.5 2.9% 7.1 5.4% 3.1 4.4% 5.4
Philadelphia 5.3% 3.1 4.6% 8.2 3.2% 4.9 6.0% 4.3 4.8% 5.1
Dallas 4.2% 0.9 3.1% 4.7 1.6% 8.7 4.1% 1.5 3.3% 4.0
Atlanta 3.4% 3.1 3.7% 7.9 1.7% 2 5.0% 3 3.4% 4.0
Los Angeles 3.7% 3.4 5.5% 3.8 6.7% 2.2 6.8% 2.9 5.7% 3.1
San Francisco 5.3% 1.5 5.5% 4.4 3.4% 3.5 6.5% 1.2 5.2% 2.7
Average 4.5%                  2.3 4.4% 6.4 3.3% 4.7 5.6% 2.7 4.4% 4.0


NOTE:  This analysis was done in September, October, and early November, 2016.  Several 2017 models were introduced during this period, which could impact the results of the study with inventory or sales spikes.  We will repeat the study when the models have been in-market for a few months