NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It may not be exactly like the Lexus commercials, where the spouse is surprised by a bow-topped silver sedan in the snow-covered driveway, but many Americans do treat themselves to a new vehicle during the holidays. Manufacturers launch promotional discounts, special financing and rebates to boost their end-of-year sales, and consumers – already in a buying mood – often jump at the opportunity.
Only to regret it later.
A series of surveys hosted by AutoTrader revealed 69% of vehicle buyers experience buyers' remorse. The reasons can be as tangible as mechanical issues to the simple regret of paying too much, getting a bad deal or buying on impulse.
"On big shopping days like Black Friday, consumers can get caught up in the excitement of a good deal, sometimes at the expense of their needs, wants and budget," said Brian Moody, AutoTrader site editor. "In addition to hunting for a good value, consumers should search for a car that suits their lifestyle 365 days of the year."
Waking up to a holiday hangover with a new car – and a looming big monthly note for the New Year – buyers may have the right to add that vehicle to their list of after-Christmas returns. But you may not have much time. While some dealers allow limited-time returns, only about one-third of buyers bother to ask a dealer about their deal cancellation policies.
"If you realize very quickly after driving off the lot that the car isn't right for you – meaning, within hours – in some cases, you may have a chance to change your mind since some dealers do offer a 24-hour return policy. It's always smart to at least ask," Moody said in a statement released with the survey.
Industry observers say vehicle sales are expected to be slightly lower this month than in October, but a bit higher from November of 2013. In fact, J.D. Power says new-vehicle retail sales this month are on pace to top 1.1 million units, the highest November level since 2001. Power predicts vehicle sales over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to exceed 238,000 units, the second-highest sales volume holiday weekend of the year. Labor Day is traditionally the biggest holiday weekend for vehicle sales.
Luxury vehicle sales in particular typically spike during the holidays and BMW and Mercedes launched early-season promotions this month in order to build sales volume as the year winds down. The two German manufacturers are dueling for the crown of best-selling luxury vehicle nameplate in the U.S.
--Hal M. Bundrick is a Certified Financial Planner and contributor to MainStreet. Follow him on Twitter: @HalMBundrick