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Rebates reward loyalty, seek to lure others' customers

Dear Car Fix: I have an Audi A4 with 23,600 miles in excellent condition with four new Michelin tires and am thinking of trading for a new S4. Do dealers offer loyalty or conquest money?

-- J.M., Amherst

Dear J.M.: New car rebates are given to lure customers to buy new cars. They do so with four major types of rebates.

Loyalty rebates are given to buyers who are trading in and purchasing a car of the same model and/or make. Example: Trading in your Audi for an Audi, or any other brand for the same brand.

Conquest: The opposite of a loyalty rebate. Conquest rebates are offered by a manufacturer to lure you away from the manufacturer of your current car. For example, if you currently own a Toyota, General Motors might offer you $2,000 to buy GM instead of Toyota.

There are other discounts to add on as well. Military personnel and students are also given rebates and incentives designed just for them.

Before you buy, search for additional new car incentives and rebates.

There are a few things to consider. First, beware of the time frames given. Rebates expire if they aren't used within a certain time. Meanwhile, incentives expire, leaving the buyer with a high interest rate and even higher payments. (For example: 0 percent interest rate on the first 12 months over a 36-month loan, then a much higher rate for the balance of the term.) In addition to regular rebates, other deals may be available at manufacturers' websites.

If you plan to accept a manufacturer's rebate, don't let the dealer add that during the negotiation. A rebate is your money from the manufacturer (not the dealer) and is deducted once the price of the vehicle has been agreed upon. The current recession has created a unique window of opportunity for those hoping to find rebates and incentives. If you can find an older model on the lot, insane deals are sure to follow.


Dear Car Fix: I have a 2000 Ford Focus SE four cylinder that has a problem with outdoor temps 75 degrees and above. Whenever the outdoor temperature gets into the high 70s and 80s, the car starts to chug and buck and stall. I put it into neutral and restart it, chug along at 15 or 20 miles an hour with my hazard blinkers on and horns honking behind me as I try to find safe harbor and reach home. Sometimes after 10 or 15 minutes of this, the symptoms slowly remedy themselves. Of course my mechanic wants to see it while it is happening but it is intermittent so what are the odds of that happening? Even the dealer wants the conditions to exist when they analyze it. I have changed gas types to a higher octane, but no change. Changed fuel filters, no change. The car is fine at lower temps. Any suggestions?

-- L.C., Grand Island

Dear L.C.: When a car has symptoms like this, it's hard to diagnose. Here are a few a thoughts that may help. It could be a cracked or broken gas cap that doesn't allow the tank to depressurize properly. That would be a low-cost repair. It's heat-related so this sounds like the issue. However, there have been numerous recalls on Ford Focus fuel pumps and fuel systems, so check with your local dealer with your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and ask about Recalls or Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs).


Dear Car Fix: I have a 2005 Nissan Sentra that is in beautiful condition. I have always kept up on everything (oil changes, belts, etc.). It has 107,000 miles on it. It's developed a noise and I was told that I have a crack in my exhaust manifold. Will that affect my driving my car around? Thank you.

-- R.K., Hamburg

Dear R.K.: Driving around with a cracked exhaust manifold is not a good idea. The exhaust manifold is ahead of your catalyst, which makes your car noncompliant with emissions laws, not to mention that it probably sounds horrible and will get worse over time. You won't pass your next inspection, and you may get a ticket well before then. Eventually it will get louder and your car will lose power and in the long run it may be more costly to repair. In the long run you will burn out a valve or two in the engine.

After a while, you may kill your O2 (oxygen) sensor that will cause it to run rich, which will eventually damage your catalytic converter and kill your spark plugs, which will hurt the performance of the engine. In turn, your engine will run rich, which eventually "washes out" your cylinder walls, causing abnormal wear on the piston rings inside the engine. You should have a "check engine" light on as well. In English: If you wait to repair the problem, you will have more expensive engine damage that costs more money.