Is a new car a realistic holiday gift?

If you really need one, it just might be

Photo credit: Infiniti

Lexus, Infinityand other luxury carmakers usually air TV commercials during December promoting a new car as a Christmas gift. But isn't that a little extravagant? Do people really buy cars as gifts?

They do – often for themselves – because industry experts point out late December is not a bad time to go car shopping. says buying a new car at the end of the calendar year remains a good strategy because it's based on when the dealer is most eager to negotiate. At the end of the year dealers may discount vehicles on their lot in order to meet annual sales goals. Salesmen sharpen their pencils in an effort to boost their end-of-the-year bonus.

You may have to compromise

That's not to say December is the best month to buy a new car but it isn't the worst either. That said, the Autotrader experts caution not to expect to find a bargain price on the car of your dreams, unless it happens to be a less-than-popular model. The more demand there is for a particular car, the less the dealer will be willing to negotiate.

December is even good for used cars. A recent survey by found used car shoppers usually get a better deal if they shop close to the Christmas holiday rather than later in the winter.

Historical data shows used car prices typically hit their lowest average of the year in the period between Thanksgiving and the first week of January, before rapidly correcting by February as demand comes back in the New Year.

Black Friday deals

There is some evidence to suggest that this holiday season, car dealers are doing a little better than other retailers in the scramble for the consumer dollar. Dealers' commercials on the airwaves leading up to Black Friday weekend were nearly as frequent as those of jewelry stores and electronics retailers.

GM actually aired a commercial in which two neighbors compared their Black Friday savings. One battered and exhausted consumer bragged about “saving hundreds” at the mall while the other smugly replied they “slept in and saved thousands” on their new car with a sweet Black Friday deal.

Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book (KBB), says the big bump from last weekend should make November a great sales month, once all the sales figures are tallied.

Improving economy

"Black Friday vehicle deals should have a large impact on sales and make the final weekend of the month a busy one for car buying," he said. "Shoppers continue to return to the dealership as economic conditions remain favorable, with the unemployment rate at its lowest in six years and with consumer confidence nearing pre-recession levels."

Gutierrez thinks Honda may have been November's big winner with an anticipated 4% sales increase. So far 2014 hasn't been the strongest for Honda but KBB predicts sales of its core products, including Accord, CR-V and Civic, remain healthy with all three models in the top two of their respective segments.

Should you do anything different when trying to get the best deal possible on a new vehicle during the holidays? Besides doing thorough research, picking the right day in December just might get you an extra edge.

Automotive site TrueCar says there are 7 days in December when deals are best. The 2 days with the biggest savings? Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

If a new car is a legitimate need, then turning it into a holiday gift might not be such a bad idea.

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