It's a good time for a great deal on midsize sedans

For 20 of the last 27 years and as recently as 2014, midsize sedans were the best-selling autos in the U.S. Now they've swiftly fallen to fifth place as families have opted instead for SUVs and other alternatives. But for the shopper who still wants a midsize sedan for commuting or other purposes, good deals abound among 2017 models. 

This shift in consumer preferences has taken place while gasoline prices have remained low and compact SUVs have improved their gas mileage to nearly equal that of midsize sedans.

"While it's common for consumer tastes to change over time, it's surprising to see just how quickly shoppers have made the switch from sedans to SUVs," said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis for automotive website Edmunds.com.

"Now that shoppers can get an SUV for a similar price as a sedan and don't have to pay much more at the gas pump, it's hard to convince them that the smaller vehicle is a better idea," she continued.

Compact SUVs are now the No. 1 segment, followed by pickups, midsize SUVs and compact cars. All are ahead of midsize cars, whose market share has shrunk to 10.7 percent -- the lowest since Edmunds began tracking this number in 1991.

"Even if gas prices spike and the economy takes a downward turn, we don't see this trend reversing," said Caldwell. "Once someone gets used to the higher ride, extra space and creature comforts they can get in an SUV, it's hard to convince them to go back to a sedan."

The two premier midsize competitors, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, are coming out with full redesigns for 2018. And as 2018 models arrive in showrooms, dealers are eager to move out their remaining 2017s. That means you can find big price discounts and good lease deals for those 2017 midsize sedans.

Here are three of the biggest price discounts among this group, according to TrueCar.com:

  • Hyundai Sonata is selling for an average of $19,568 -- a 24 percent discount from manufacturer's suggested retail price.
  • Kia Optima is selling at $23,052, a 22 percent discount from MSRP
  • Volkswagen Passat is selling at $22,713, a 19 percent discount

And if you like leasing, here are three of the best lease deals, according to U.S. News:

  • Honda Accord is leasing for $189 per month for 36 months with $1,999 due at signing
  • Mazda6 is leasing for $199 a month for 36 months with $1,999 due at signing
  • Ford Fusion is leasing for $224 a month for 39 months with $3169 due at signing
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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.