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10 2010 Cars You Should Buy Now

Car sales are better, but incentives are sticking around as Ford, Toyota and others clear inventory.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (TheStreet) -- So automakers sold a few more cars than they did last September. Deals and incentives are still lingering with last year's models.

Auto analysts say that lots packed with this year's models are driving discounts of nearly 25% as the 2011 models fight for space in the showroom. Auto sales were up 29% from last year's post-"Cash for Clunkers" crash and surged 4% from August's stagnant pace. Roughly 64% of those sales were this year's models, though, with average incentives of $3,021, according to That's up from 57% of sales from the 2009 model year last September, though average incentives are down from $3,425.

Before buyers race down to the dealership, however, they should know deals aren't what they were. Incentives are down 4.6% from last month and 6.2% from last September. Japanese automakers including


(HMC) - Get Honda Motor Co. Ltd. Report






(TM) - Get Toyota Motor Corp. Report

are the exception to the rule this year, raising incentives an average of $229 while their American, European and Korean counterparts diminished their deals.

Regardless, a stockpile of discontinued models, popular pickups, languishing luxury vehicles and redesigned rejects await car buyers willing to take a chance on last year's leftovers. Here are 10 examples, compiled by car-pricing site, that offer significant value despite their vintage:

2010 Chevrolet Cobalt


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Price after incentives:


This is the perfect storm of discount vehicles: An unpopular, discontinued, downmarket model being replaced in 2011 by the more cushy Chevrolet Cruze. The bare-bones nature of the Cobalt left buyers cold, and incentives couldn't stop a 53.1% sales slump last month, but those seeking a solid "Point A-to-Point B" passenger vehicle get a 24% discount for diving on this consumer grenade. That lowered cost comes with a note of caution from TrueCar analyst Jesse Toprak, who says the Cobalt only becomes a bargain if it's used for five years or more.

"If you're going to buy a Cobalt and want to sell it in the next year, you should understand that your resale value is going to be impacted by the incentives you're getting today," he says. "When you buy something at a high discount today, when you try to trade it in the next year or two you're going to get that much less for it."

2010 GMC Sierra 1500



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If GM wanted to clear one of its most popular pickups off the lot in a hurry, a 22% discount was the way to do it. The GMC Sierra -- which is basically a replated Chevy Silverado -- sold 11,077 models last month alone, accounting for roughly 43% of all GMC models sold.

2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid



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A hybrid at a 22% discount? That's a steal, right? Not so fast. Part of the Altima Hybrid's problem, and the reason it hasn't sold out its somewhat limited run, is that its mileage is pretty weak considering that it has a "discount" price similar to the Mercury Milan's MSRP. The EPA puts the Milan hybrid's average mileage at 39 miles per gallon and the Altima's at 34. In monetary terms, it costs $154 more a year to fill up the Altima than it would to fill the Milan. "The gain you have in gas mileage in buying the Altima Hybrid versus the price you have to pay for the car doesn't pass the math test," Toprak says. "Nissan has priced the hybrid so high despite the fact that the gas mileage gained isn't significant."

2010 Ford (F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report F-150



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Like the Sierra, the F-150 doesn't need a whole lot of incentives to move, but a 22% discount helps dealers clear lot space in a hurry. Last month alone, Ford sold more than 47,000 of its F-series pickups, a 40% increase from the year before. "With the F150 and similar vehicles like the GMC Sierra 1500, it's a very competitive market, and automakers actually built a bit of incentive and discounting into the sticker price," Toprak says. "Also, there has been some weakness in the large truck sector due to weakness in the economy and the fact that these vehicles are tied directly into construction and small businesses."

2010 Kia Optima



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If you're Kia and you're getting stingy with incentives this year -- dropping them nearly $200 since last year -- why would you lavish them on the Optima? One word: Redesign. The 2010 looks a bit too round and outdated on the lot next to the 2011 --- which has a ton of new tech toys such as a


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-powered information/entertainment system and comes in turbo and hybrid models. Don't worry, little 2010 Optima, that 19% discount should free you from the island of misfit cars.

2010 Mitsubishi Endeavor



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A crossover that looks like a truck-based SUV, gets a combined 18 miles per gallon and is known for skipping model years altogether? How


that flying out of the showroom's plate glass doors? Even with Bluetooth capability and room for five, the Endeavor and its 18% discount are bound to make some hagglers very happy this fall.

2010 Dodge Dakota



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Don't call it a Dodge. The midsized pickup will go to its grave as part of Chrysler's rebranded Ram segment. New Chrysler partner Fiat, however, had little use for the tiny all-terrain toy, announcing it would be discontinued next year. Buyers are giving it a proper sendoff, though, with incentives more than doubling sales from last September.

2010 Lincoln MKX



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Even luxury vehicles can become the ugly stepsibling once the new model gets a facelift. The cushy crossover's 2011 version gets a new front and rear design, interior and 3.7-liter, 305-horsepower engine. The 2010? It gets a 16% price cut and a quick boot out the door, with incentives improving sales nearly 76% last month. Don't feel too badly, MKX; the luxury cars averaged $4,265 in incentives last month, second only to $6,472 for each sports car sold.

2010 Volvo S80



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The S80 got an update in 2010, but Volvo still felt it needed a 15% discount to leave the lot this year. It's not the only problem child Volvo's had this model year, as TrueCar says the C70 has spent an average of 69 days in inventory -- second-highest behind Toyota's Camry Hybrid. At this time of year, Volvo's luxury distinction means little when its facing the same inventory issues as everyone else. "For BMW and Volvo, it's mostly end-of-the-year clearance," Toprak says. "The 2011s are already showing up on the lot and, from a dealer's perspective, when you have the same vehicle that doesn't have a lot of changes year-over-year sitting on the lot next to each other, it has a cannibalistic effect."

2010 BMW 3 Series



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BMW's car sales were up 4% last month, but still lagged behind the 27% growth of its SUV segment. A 14% discount may help, but leasing -- which Toprak says is up from 11% in September 2008 to 23% last month -- looks to be a better bet for moving the 3 Series. "The main difference with the luxury segment is that they have other marketing tools they can use to sell the car," Toprak says. "They tend to lease a lot of their cars, and luxury European cars like BMW, Volvo, Audi and Mercedes Benz have leasing rates that regularly exceed 50%."

--Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post,, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.