Summer car shoppers will pay more, find fewer discounts

Hand with key over car with open door

If you're shopping for a new car or truck, you're going to pay more and probably find your favorite ride doesn't come with any discounts this summer.

Why?

Demand is growing.

June car sales reached an annualized rate of 16 million new vehicles for the first time in five years, according to Automotive News, an industry trade publication.

We've bought nearly 550,000 more cars and trucks so far this year than we did in the first six months of 2012.

As a result, rebates and 0% financing deals are evaporating like August rain on a Phoenix sidewalk.

The automakers are able to move all the vehicles they're willing to build without offering such incentives.

Back in March, Automotive Newssaid 19 brands were offering free loans on 85 of this year's models.

By this month, that had dropped to 38 models across six brands.

The decline isn't quite as drastic for cash-back incentives or rebates, but it's significant nonetheless.

In March, a dozen brands had rebates on 66 models.

By July, only seven brands were offering rebates on 40 models.

Most of the discounts that remain are in Ford, Chrysler, Dodge and Mitsubishi showrooms, and some are pretty juicy — up to $3,000 cash back on a Ford Focus or $1,750 on a Mitsubishi Outlander.

But the fact remains, fewer buyers are going to qualify for rebates this summer.

Transaction prices are what vehicles actually sell for as opposed to the asking price you'll find on the window sticker.

TrueCar, which tracks industry data, says the average transaction price for new cars and trucks was up 1.7% in April over April 2012.

We're even paying more for big pickup trucks, even though gas prices remain between $3.50 and $4 a gallon in most of the country.

Automotive News says the average transaction price for a Chevrolet Silverado was $34,700 in May, an increase of $1,500 over May 2012.

We think the best hope for bargain hunters is that carmakers and dealers will do what they have always done by discounting 2013 models in late summer and fall to make way for the 2014s.

But even that may not offer the usual savings.

Right now, it's a seller's market, and that doesn't look to change in the next few months.