J.D. Power Picks: Great Deals on the Best-Made Cars

Last Updated Jun 18, 2010 9:41 AM EDT

After surging spring sales, inventories of 2010 cars are shrinking, along with some of the best deals. (See Grab These Car Deals While You Can). Edmunds.com believes, however, that a few models will still see lower prices between now and summer's end. Three of them are also on the list of winners in the 2010 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, released today: the Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan and two SUVs: Chevrolet Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade.

The annual Power survey ranks manufacturers and their new models to find the ones with the fewest initial problems, based on a survey of 82,000 buyers. Porsche, Acura, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz are the top four best-made brands, with Ford moving into the top five for the first time after nine years of steady improvement. Toyota, capping a tough year with its recalls, fell to 21st from being sixth in last year's survey. For the first time, domestic brands averaged better than imports, though just slightly.

Among individual models, Power listed the top three in 20 categories. But MoneyWatch narrowed down those lists to come up with the best-made models you can likely get good deals over the next few months, according to Edmunds' price forecast. Here they are, in order of price-lowest (though not that low) to highest:

Mercedes-Benz C-Class-Topping the entry-level luxury class in Power's quality survey, the C-Class sports the eye-catching styling Mercedes has been known for in recent years. Couple that with top safety ratings and a comfortable ride and you've got a first-rate luxury sedan. (Though some reviewers say performance-oriented drivers will be happier in a BMW 3-Series.) The C300 with a 3.0-liter V-6 engine (18 mpg city, 26 highway) recently was selling for an average $32,224, according to Edmunds. That's $2,251 below list and jut $101 over the dealer's invoice price. The sportier C350 with a bigger 3.5-liter V-6 (17 mpg city, 25 highway) is selling for $37,903--$2,722 below list and $500 over invoice.

Chevrolet Tahoe- For people who tow horse trailers or boats, Tahoe has long been a top choice. Reviewers also like its seating for up to nine and off-road abilities. Though Tahoe may be too big for some SUV shoppers, drivers used to the size find its handling sprightly. The Tahoe's 320-horsepower V-8 is rated for 15 mpg city and 21 highway and Edmunds' latest average sale price is $37,139, or $5,151 below its $42,290 list, including a $3,000 rebate.

Cadillac Escalade-A favorite of athletes and hip-hop artists, the Escalade is top-ranked not only by Power but by reviewers surveyed by U.S. News.Those test drivers liked its style and luxurious, eight-seat interior, coupled with the ability to haul heavy loads. Edmunds expects further price declines with the Escalade Hybrid whose 21 mpg rating in city driving, 22 highway is about 50% better than the standard engine; it recently was selling for $68,074, according to Edmunds. That's $5,351 below the $73,425 list price and $578 below the dealer's invoice price. Cadillac also is offering 0% financing for buyers with high enough credit scores.

Photos courtesy of the manufacturers

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.