2011 Hyundai Sonata

To cash in on Hyundai's trade-in guarantee, buyers must have their car serviced by a dealer. (September 3, 2011)

Would you like free insurance with that?

If you're buying a GM car in Washington or Oregon these days, you might hear those exact words from your dealer.

It's part of a new crop of aggressive incentives that also includes Hyundai's trade-in guarantee and Chrysler's no-payments-for-90-days plan.

Experts say we're seeing these incentives now because the marketplace has become so competitive, and cash back or special financing offers no longer resonate with buyers.

"That's an old message. That's a tired message that a lot of companies have been doing for a long time, since Lee Iacocca said 'buy a car, get a check'," said Joe Kyriakoza, general manager of automotive for Colorado-based Datalogix, which offers data and analysis on a number of industries.

In fact, traditional incentives have gone down this year. Kyriakoza said incentives have gone down in March, April, May and June, and June's levels were the lowest since October 2005, citing data from the data-tracking website TrueCar(truecar.com).

Philip Reed of Edmunds.com said that has happened in part because inventory has been down due to the major earthquake earlier this year in Japan.

"It's not been a typical summer," said Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com.

We are also seeing the more aggressive incentives now because sales have not been strong, said Reed. U.S. sales were at almost 7.4 million through July, which meant they were running about 10 percent higher than in 2010 but still below historically high levels.

Whatever the reason, we've read the fine print on four programs that may help you.


How it works: Depending on which car you buy, Hyundai gives you a percentage of the purchase price that you are guaranteed to receive at trade-in. If the actual trade-in value is higher, you get the higher amount.

What you need to do: Buy a new Hyundai, trade it in on another new Hyundai within two to four years, drive less than 15,000 miles a year and have all service performed at a Hyundai delaership. Charges are assessed for miles higher than 15,000 a year and for damages to the car.

Hyundai spokesman Jim Trainor said the service stipulation is necessary to ensure the car is maintained properly. "Who's to say that Joe's garage at the end of the street is doing things to the company's specifications," he said.

Reed and Kyriakoza saw no issues with the stipulation; Reed said he advises new-car owners to have the vehicles serviced at a dealer anyway. Both said the details of the deal are similar to the details of a lease deal — including an upfront statement of value after a period of years.

"The biggest caveat to the whole thing is you have to buy another Hyundai," Reed said.

The verdict: Kyriakoza was very high on the program, calling it a "game-changer" for people buying a car. Reed felt it was more of a tie-breaker if you're considering a Hyundai anyway but looking at competing models as well.

Last word: "If you are a parent and you're going to buy your 16-year-old a Hyundai Accent because you don't care if he trashes it because you know you are going to get your $12,000, you have to be wary of that," Kyriakoza said.