Seasonal car savings: How to score a deal

When you make your holiday shopping list, keep in mind that this is the best time of the year to buy a new car.

Celebrating the Holidays 2011

According to TrueCar.com, December is the most inexpensive time to buy a new car. The average discount in December is around 6.5 percent off the manufacturer's suggested retail price, compared to 4.5 percent in a typical month. Used car prices are also at their lowest at this time of the year.

But why is now such a good time to buy?

"A lot of it is seasonal," CBS News personal finance contributor Carmen Wong Ulrich said on "The Early Show."

"They've got monthly quotas to fill. The end of the year is a great time to buy because they want to move out 2011 models and some 2012s. They got a new fleet of new cars coming in so they have to push the merchandise," she explained.

So how can you score a good deal on a car this season?

Wong Ulrich said you can find deep discounts on cars and trucks that aren't moving so quickly because people are looking for fuel economy. She suggested models such as the Chevrolet Silverado, the Volvo S80 and the Ford Escape.

The date you buy your car is also important, Wong Ulrich said, according to information provided by TrueCar.com.

She said, "(It's) a crazy thing. Of course, it depends on the make and model. However, on the average, next weekend or this coming up weekend, December 10th, we are talking about an 8.8 percent of a discount. And New Year's Eve is the biggest discount (time). It's the end of the year and the end of the month, so they want to move those vehicles -- a 9.3 (percent) average (is the) discount on new cars."

But what about used cars?

Going the used route, Wong Ulrich said, may not be the best deal at this time of the year.

"For years, I've been saying buy certified pre-owned, right?" she said. "Here is the thing. Everybody took all of our advice to do that over the past couple of years because everyone's budget is tighter, right? (They're) driving up the price of used cars -- especially hybrid models, subcompacts. So if you're in the market for one of those and looking for new and used, do the math. You might be surprised, with incentives you can pay less for the new model."

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