With the new 2019 model year in full swing, and the holidays around the corner, a lot of consumers are looking for new cars.
That means the deals aren't quite as good as they were in August and September when dealers and automakers were trying to clear out old inventory in preparation for the new models.
As they have in recent months, CarsDirect researchers have limited the picks to those that have broad nationwide availability to avoid some models that are only available in small numbers in certain areas.
As in recent months, the best deals on electric cars available nationwide are on the Nissan Leaf. It's available to lease for the same $219 a month with $2,929 due at signing as last month. That's despite the fact that Nissan has slashed discounts from more than $11,000 to just $10,075 for base Leaf S models. Improved residual values on newer model years with 151 miles of range have offset the higher discounts.
Counting all lease costs, the Leaf is the cheapest electric car available, totaling $300 a month—and it's not the least capable.
Fancier Leafs with leather seats and Nissan's ProPilot Assist driver assist system have smaller discounts. The top-of-the-line SL, for instance, not only has a higher price, but Nissan offers $1,825 less cash back. These deals are available in California. Deals elsewhere may cost more.
Buyers should also bear in mind that the new longer-range 220-mile Nissan Leaf is due to arrive next year.
2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV
For consumers who want to buy rather than lease, the longer-range Chevrolet Bolt EV offers bigger discounts.
Chevy is offering 10 percent off the price of 2018 Bolt EVs and 8 percent off 2019 models. For a trimmed-up Premier model, that can amount to almost $4,200 off the sticker price.
Buyers looking for a Bolt EV should act quickly. General Motors has announced that it will exhaust its allotment of federal tax credits this quarter, and the car will be eligible for only $3,750 off your tax bill come next April.
2019 Chevrolet Volt
For buyers in California and Oregon, the Chevy Volt offers the best lease deals. Cash due at signing is up from last month, but the payment is still the same, low $169 a month. Lessees coming from non-GM models can pay just $2,950 a month up front. Returning GM lessees or those trading in a car they own or with financing from elsewhere will owe $3,450 at signing.
Costco members can get even bigger discounts of $500 cash back or a $700 Costco cash card plus GM supplier pricing.
GM leases cover only 10,000 miles a year, so if you're a high-mileage driver seeking a great deal, look elsewhere.
2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid drive, Napa Valley, Caifornia, Dec 2017
For buyers outside California, the Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid can be a better deal. In California-compliant states on the East Coast, Honda is offering the Clarity PHEV for $209 a month for 36 months with $2,299 cash due up front. That's cheaper than leasing a Civic EX as well as being cheaper to operate with 47 miles of electric range.
Deals on the Clarity PHEV are much more expensive in California, but not all states offer California's generous tax incentives, which can offset the added price.
2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Automakers offer the biggest discounts on cars that have been on the market long enough that most buyers who want to buy them already have. The Ford Fusion Hybrid is such a car. Having debuted in its current generation in 2013, some Fusion Hybrid buyers may be coming back for the second time. They can get a great deal.
Customers can drive home a Fusion Hybrid for $179 a month for three years with $3,109 due at signing. That makes it significantly cheaper overall than a standard Fusion or a Toyota Prius, or even the tiny Toyota Prius C.
Those who'd rather buy can get $3,000 cash back on top of 0 percent financing for five years on 2019 models. That's down from even bigger discounts on 2018 models, but the 2019 offers a new suite of active driver safety aids that Ford calls Co-Pilot 360.
2018 Hyundai Elantra
Fuel-efficient conventional cars
In Eco trim, the Hyundai Elantra gets almost the same gas mileage as the Ford Fusion Hybrid on the highway, 40 mpg vs 41. It also starts out at a much lower price, less than $22,000.
On top of that, Hyundai is offering $1,000 cash back on top of 0 percent financing for six years on 2018 models. The deal is cheaper than taking a larger $3,000 rebate and paying cash.