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Updated: 3/28/2003 12:53 pm Published: 3/28/2003 12:53 pm

A rebate is a manufacturer's incentive program designed to increase the sales of slow-selling cars or to reduce the inventories of a particular model. It is like a manufacturer's coupon passed on to the buyer, and can take different forms. The first is a reduction in the sticker price by the amount of the rebate. The second is a direct cash-back incentive where you receive a check for the amount of the rebate, typically several hundred dollars, within a few weeks of your new-car purchase. A final option is financing at a lower rate, for example, 2.9% for 24 or 36 months. Some national rebates may exclude certain regions, depending on how well a model is selling in the area. A dealership may also add its own incentives to these offers. Rebates are often very competitive and tend to increase closer to the time of the new-model arrivals. You may want to check the expiration dates on all rebates as the manufacturer might wait a few weeks or even a few months before offering them again.

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