Following annual tradition, automotive advertising spools up to a turbo-like frenzy in late summer as dealerships seek to move the current metal and make room for the new—in this case, 2017—models. Large rebates and near-zero-percent finance rates can sure tempt shoppers, but such deals might not always be a smart move.

By definition, these discounted cars are in the last days of their model year. Buy one, and it will be considered a year old soon as the 2017 models hit the showroom. Sure, the rebates and added urgency to negotiate can mean real savings below the window sticker price, but the deal may not turn out to be as great as it initially looks.

Our car price analysts have studied the latest offers, finding that the national discounts on Consumer Reports’ recommended models—those that meet our high standard for test performance, safety, and reliability—are about on par with most months. While there can be a reason to buy a close-out model, such as personal preference for that generation or concern about year-one reliability with a redesign, cost savings alone don’t always add up. You need to do your homework before taking the plunge. If you do, there are some real savings available.

Scanning the whole market, August typically has the lowest average transaction price of the year. Historically, the fall tends to have the highest prices—when the shiny, new cars are just arriving and obligatory price hikes have been applied to carry-over models.

But if past trends remain true, prices only climb a few hundred dollars between summer and winter. Meaning, on average, any savings from buying in the summer are soon negated by depreciation and only nominal price increases for the newer model. If you're looking to lease, be aware that some banks won't lease left-over cars after the model year changes.

When there are huge incentives, you may need to decide quickly, as the choice inventory will rapidly disappear, leaving less-desirable colors, options, and trims. Incentives this season can show up mid-month and fade away in weeks.

Among the deals, you may find low-mileage “program cars” that were used as a demo vehicle or executive cars. These typically have just a few hundred to a few thousand miles on them. Despite being slightly used and marked down, the warranty on such cars would begin at time of purchase.

The key lesson here is to focus on other factors in choosing your car and the timing for the purchase. If you can align the stars with your needs, budgets, and sales, and therefore get a terrific deal, bravo. But if waiting is best, don’t fret. Either way, go into this process informed.

Generally, the model-year-end deals make sense only if you hold on to a car for a long time or if you are a high-mileage driver looking to change vehicles every 3-5 years. For those road warriors who rack up more than typical annual miles, a close-out car would give you one more year to spread those miles out, thereby preserving some trade-in value.

The exceptions may be those models where there is excess local supply, enabling deep discounts, such as some full-sized trucks and hybrids right now.

Driving a Bargain

Getting a great deal starts with identifying the best car for you, and then getting it for a fair price. The Consumer Reports car model pages contain a wealth of information to empower you to make a smart choice, and they provide detailed pricing that factors all the customer rebates and the hidden direct-to-dealer incentives. Take it a step further, and our Build & Buy program can help you configure a car online and see local quotes from more than 10,000 approved dealerships.

When shopping, be sure not to fixate on strictly the advertised deals. There may be even more room for negotiation, as the dealerships are likely to be anxious to sell and the automaker may even have hidden spiffs to pad the dealerships’ bottom line, giving the sales managers a little more flexibility.

Review our car-buying tips before sitting down to negotiate.

Consumer Reports Build & Buy

In addition to car research, ratings, and ranking Consumer Reports offers subscribers access to the Build & Buy Car Buying Service at no additional cost. Through this service, a nationwide network of about 9,000 participating dealers provide upfront pricing information, as well as a certificate to receive guaranteed savings off MSRP (in most states). The pricing information and guaranteed savings includes eligible incentives. Consumer Reports subscribers have saved an average of $2,954 off MSRP with the Build & Buy Car Buying Service.