Time off for holidays is a prime opportunity for car shopping and manufacturers have kicked their incentives into high gear in hope of luring consumers into their showrooms over what can be for some, a four-day weekend.

Kia launched a Summer’s On Us sales event that includes postponing the first payment for up to five months, three of those deferred and two payments that the automaker will pick up. Also, the program includes at least $500 July 4th cash and 0-percent financing for up to 66 months.

On some specific models, the rebates are even higher. On 2017s expect at least $1,000 on Soul, $2,500 on Optima and Forte, and as much as $3,000 on the Sorento. The cash goes up for 2016 models to $1,500 on the Soul and $3,000 for Optima and Forte.

Kia’s sister brand, Hyundai, is offering about $6,000 back on the Santa Fe Sport. This compact crossover SUV is listed at $28,050 after the discounts. While trucks and crossovers have been more popular than traditional sedans, there are deals to be had on vehicles closer to the end of their product cycles as evidenced by the 2017 Chevrolet Traverse, which will soon be replaced by the redesigned 2018 model. Chevy is offering about $5,000 cash plus $1,800 in discounts. The Silverado, which will be replaced by a 2019 model next year, has $5,200 cash on it and a $2,900 discount for nearly $8,200 off sticker.

Full-size sedans have not fared well at all in a market in love with trucks. Buick is offering $7,200 off its 2017 LaCrosse. Meanwhile, Chrysler is advertising a $5,250 in combined cash on its 2017 300 sedan and $3,500 on remaining 2017 Chrysler 200 models.

Car affordability slips

A new car affordability study by Bankrate.com shows that in only one of 25 top U.S. metro areas can a median-income household afford a new car. The study is based on buyers who put down 20 percent on a 4-year loan for a new car with monthly payments that comprise 10 percent of a household’s gross income.

The top market for car affordability by median income was Washington, D.C., where the average household income of nearly $100,000 is double the national average. In that area, the median household income can afford a $37,223 car at $697 per month. The metro area with the lowest median household income is Miami/Fort Lauderdale/West Palm Beach where a medium income household can only afford a car worth $13,577.

“The main point of this research is to illustrate how Americans are having to overextend themselves to pay for a new car at today’s prices,” said Claes Bell, an analyst for Bankrate.com. “Low- and middle-income households are having to stretch loan terms to six or more years and/or spend huge percentages of their paychecks to afford reliable transportation, and it’s very difficult to get off that hamster wheel of debt once you’re on it.”

Joining Washington, D.C. in the top five for affordability (i.e. high median household income versus the average price of a new car) were San Francisco, Boston, Seattle and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The four others in the bottom five from best to worst are San Antonio, Orlando, Tampa and Detroit.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2018

GAP grows

As a sign of higher transaction prices and lower resale values, Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) claims have been rising according to a study cited in Automotive News. EFG Companies report that these losses have returned to peaks not seen since 2007 and 2008.

Looser credit, longer term loans and declining equity in used car values are leading to an increase in GAP claims along with higher losses on them, according to EFG CEO John Pappanastos. He told the trade paper that “Most of the early payments go towards interest, not principal. The car is depreciating while the principal balance is depreciating much slower. So the exposure over the life of a GAP contract actually increases for a subprime customer.”

Pappanastos expects the situation may grow worse before it gets better. “Inventories on dealer lots are building, and they’re jamming the rental-car channel with excess inventory now. There’s going to be pressure on used-car prices, so the claim severity should increase.”

On the one hand, consumers will see prices drop for Certified Pre-Owned and used cars, and this in turn will put pressure to keep new car pricing in check. However, buyers should also be wary of extended term loans and also consider GAP coverage both their new car purchases and leases. If you’re in an accident, GAP coverage provides protection so that you don’t have to pay the difference between what your car is worth and what a replacement vehicle will cost.

Top cars for low insurance

The cars eligible for the lowest insurance rates happen to not be cars at all, according to a recent survey by Insure.com. For the second year in a row, the Honda Odyssey topped the list of least expensive vehicle insurance with a national annual average of $1,112. The rest of the top 10 are crossover SUVs in the following order: Jeep Renegade, Jeep Wrangler, Honda CR-V, Subaru Outback, Jeep Cherokee Sport, Buick Encore, Jeep Patriot Sport and Subaru Forester.

“The family friendly Honda Odyssey tops the least expensive list for the second year running,” said Penny Gusner, Insure.com’s consumer analyst. “Being a favorite of mature parent drivers and having a great safety record avails it to cheaper insurance premiums.”

The crossovers and Jeeps in particular, are another story. “Jeeps are known for their adventurous spirit,” Gusner observed. “I can only theorize that adventuresome owners are less likely to claim for every scratch or ding compared to other drivers. Fewer claims and being a responsible driver would lead to lower car insurance rates.”

The most expensive cars on the list are high performance models led by the Mercedes-Benz S65 roadster at $3,835 per year. It’s followed by the Dodge Viper, Mercedes-AMG S63, Maserati Quattroporte, Mercedes-Benz S550, Mercedes-AMG C43, Mercedes-Maybach S600, Mercedes-AMG SL65, Nissan GT-R Nismo and the Audi R8 5.2L V10.

The rundown

Check out the This Week in Car Buying Podcast here.

Alfa-Romeo is back and looking to take on all-comers in the sporty compact crossover SUV segment. See how the all-new 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio stacks up in this First Review.

Speaking of compact crossover SUVs, BMW is set to introduce the next generation of its mainstay in the form of the 2018 BMW X3, adding a sporty M40i variant to boot.

Giving more muscle to the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines in its lineup, Jaguar will introduce a 296-horsepower version in 30t models of the 2018 Jaguar XE, XF and F-Pace.

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