Best Labor Day deals on new cars for 2018

Shoppers can find serious savings on good, safe, reliable models

Summer is winding down and the airwaves are filled with promotions for Labor Day deals on cars. Consumer Reports has found great deals on good cars during one of the biggest car-shopping weekends of the year.

We focused on CR-recommended models, meaning that they have an Overall Score that's among the best in their class. The Overall Score is a comprehensive one that incorporates a vehicle's road-test performance, predicted reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety equipment.

Our analysis shows that you can save from $2,900 to as much as $6,000 off the manufacturer's suggested retail price on all 10 cars, SUVs, and trucks featured here.

Such extreme savings come with some trade-offs, though. It's the end of the model year, and any 2018 car purchased now will see accelerated first-year depreciation. That may not matter if you plan to hold on to a vehicle for a long time, especially if you're a high-mileage driver whose odometer spins like a slot machine.

Some of the models, including the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and the Nissan Altima, are being replaced with all-new vehicles for 2019. Sure, the leftover 2018 models may look like old news when fresh designs hit the street, but based on our extensive survey data, cars tend to be most reliable in their final year of that generation's production.
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Each vehicle highlighted here is a 2018 model, and they're ranked based on the percentage of potential savings off the MSRP, starting at 19 percent for the Kia Optima.

Below, we list the Bottom Line Price—that's the negotiation target and the best TrueCar price that a participating dealer will give through Consumer Reports' Build & Buy program. The closer a shopper can get to that figure, the better the deal.  

Specific pricing details on these and other trim levels are available on CR's model pages, along with complete road tests, reliability, owner satisfaction, and other essential information. You can also find local transaction prices there that reflect supply and demand in your area, incorporating regional incentives.

All deals are currently in effect and almost all last through Labor Day.

CR Build & Buy Car Buying Service

When buying a car, in addition to research and reviews, Consumer Reports offers its members access to the Build & Buy Car Buying Service at no additional cost. Through this service, a nationwide network of about 15,000 participating dealers provide up-front pricing information and a certificate to receive guaranteed savings off the MSRP (in most states) to customers.

The pricing information and guaranteed savings include eligible incentives. Consumer Reports members have saved an average of $2,853 off the MSRP with the Build & Buy Car Buying Service.

Kia Optima: 19% off

Kia's midsized sedan packs a lot of substance and value. It drives nicely, with a firm yet absorbent ride and responsive, secure handling. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is pleasant and returned 28 mpg overall in our tests; the up-level 2.0-liter turbo-four packs more punch. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is also available. Both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions are available. The EX trim features comfortable leather seats, automatic climate control, a roomy rear seat, and heating for the front seats and steering wheel. The controls are very intuitive to use, but the low-mounted dash vents tend to blow more air on your hands. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning are standard. But forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are optional and only on top trims.

2018 Kia Optima EX
Incentives expire: Sept. 4, 2018
MSRP: $26,595
Potential savings off MSRP: $5,170
Bottom line price: $21,425

Nissan Altima: 18% off

This rather generic though roomy sedan uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that works well when you're loafing around but dilutes the driving experience in more demanding situations. In our tests, we got a decent 29 mpg overall with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and the 3.5-liter V6 returned 24 mpg overall. Its handling feels mushy and saps confidence with its overly light steering. The ride is superficially soft, but over sharp bumps the suspension loses some of its absorbency. Controls are easy to use, but the infotainment system is fussy. Blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems are available. For 2018, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking is standard.

2018 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
Incentives expire: Aug. 31, 2018
MSRP: $26,805
Potential savings off MSRP: $4,762
Bottom line price: $22,043

Hyundai Sonata: 17% off

This competitive sedan was freshened for 2018 and retains its excellent rear-seat room, easy cabin access, and user-friendly controls. Its handling is taut and secure, but the ride is on the firm side and isn't as comfortable as it used to be. The base 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine is coupled to a smooth six-speed automatic that returned 28 mpg overall in our tests. A more powerful 2.0-liter turbo mated to an eight-speed automatic is optional. The Eco uses a 1.6-liter, turbo four-cylinder paired with a seven-speed automated manual. Outward visibility is a strong point. Blind-spot warning is standard, and forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are optional. Plug-in and hybrid versions are available; the latter returned an impressive 39 mpg overall in our tests. The generous interior makes for a very pleasant sedan.

2018 Hyundai Sonata SE
Incentives expire: Sept. 4, 2018
MSRP: $22,935
Potential savings off MSRP: $3,909
Bottom line price: $19,026

Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: 17% off

Hyundai's five-passenger midsized SUV now offers automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning. It also improved from Marginal to Good in the IIHS small-overlap crash test. This roomy SUV has a comfortable ride and a quiet interior. Power comes from a responsive 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to a smooth six-speed automatic transmission. We got a decent 23 mpg overall with this drivetrain. A more powerful 2.0-liter, turbo four-cylinder is also available. Handling is sound and secure but not exceptional. The well-finished cabin is packed with a lot of standard features, but rear visibility is only so-so.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4L AWD
Incentives expire: Sept. 4, 2018
MSRP: $27,480
Potential savings off MSRP: $4,676
Bottom line price: $22,804

Ford Fusion: 16% off

The Fusion is a delight to drive, with a supple ride and nimble handling reminiscent of a European sports sedan. All trim levels and powertrains feel solid and upscale, with a well-finished, quiet cabin. We found the optional leather seats to be more supportive than the cloth ones, but the rear seat is somewhat snug. The 1.5- and 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engines are powerful enough, but neither has competitive fuel economy. A new high-end version, the Sport, is equipped with all-wheel drive and a 325-hp, 2.7-liter V6. It is quick, comfortable, and quiet, but it costs more than $40,000. The Hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid were updated with more efficient electric motors for 2018. A rotary gear selector and Ford's improved Sync 3 infotainment system highlight the updates to the interior.

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE
Incentives expire: Oct. 1, 2018
MSRP: $27,235
Potential savings off MSRP: $4,449
Bottom line price: $22,786

Hyundai Elantra: 16% off

The Elantra is relatively roomy, sparing with fuel, and features intuitive controls. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine returned an excellent 33 mpg overall in our tests but delivers leisurely acceleration and buzzes unpleasantly when the revs increase. The Eco version feels more responsive but costs $3,000 more. Although its handling is secure, there isn't much driving excitement. The ride is unobjectionable, but sharp bumps can easily be felt. Road noise is elevated as well. Inside, the front seats in our tested SE are short on lumbar support, but the power seat in the Limited is better. Active safety features and a Sport version with a 1.6-liter, turbo four-cylinder are available. New for 2018 is a GT hatchback version with taut, nimble handling.

2018 Hyundai Elantra SEL 2.0L
Incentives expire: Sept. 4, 2018
MSRP: $19,735
Potential savings off MSRP: $3,123
Bottom line price: $16,612

Ford F-150: 15% off

Ford's big-selling pickup truck has an all-aluminum body, which saves about 700 pounds over its steel-bodied predecessor. Engine choices include a new 3.3-liter V6, 2.7- and 3.5-liter turbo V6s, and a 5.0-liter V8. For 2018, the 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter turbo V6s and the V8 are teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Both turbo V6s are quiet and effortless, lending themselves to towing. Fuel economy is commendable. In our tests, the 2.7 got 19 mpg overall. The 2.7 is also surprisingly quick, with a 0 to 60 mph time of 6.8 seconds. The cabin is very quiet but the ride is stiff and jittery. Handling is ponderous but ultimately secure. We recommend getting the optional Sync 3 infotainment system. The 2018 truck also gets pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control. Diesel and hybrid versions are on the horizon.

2018 Ford F-150 XLT 4WD SuperCab
Incentives expire: Sept. 4, 2018
MSRP: $41,130
Potential savings off MSRP: $6,025
Bottom line price: $35,105

Kia Soul: 14% off

There is more to the boxy Soul than just its quirky styling. It packs abundant interior space, with chairlike seats and big windows providing an excellent view out. Though fundamentally a budget hatchback, the Soul can function as an SUV alternative. The driving experience isn't special: The ride is stiff, and handling is sound but unexceptional. Power delivery from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder feels just adequate, and its 26 mpg overall is not outstanding. A more powerful 201-hp, 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder is available, as is a fully electric Soul. The extensive options list includes heated seats and touch-screen navigation. Available safety gear includes automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning, and lane-departure warning, but only on select trims.

2018 Kia Soul +
Incentives expire: Sept. 4, 2018
MSRP: $21,295
Potential savings off MSRP: $3,071
Bottom line price: $18,224

Kia Sorento: 14% off

The Sorento is functional and refined, and its wide price range makes it an alternative to small and midsized SUVs. Three engines are available: the base 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder; a 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-four; and the smooth and quiet 290-hp, 3.3-liter V6. For 2018, the six-speed automatic transmission has been updated, and a new eight-speed automatic arrived earlier this year. The cabin is quiet, and the ride is comfortable and composed. Handling is responsive and secure. Supportive seats and simple controls help make the Sorento easy to live with. Available safety gear includes forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a surround-view monitor. And it gets good crash-test results.

2018 Kia Sorento EX V6 AWD
Incentives expire: Sept. 4, 2018
MSRP: $36,990
Potential savings off MSRP: $5,310
Bottom line price: $31,680

Toyota Corolla iM: 14% off

The Corolla iM—originally sold as part of Toyota's now-shuttered Scion brand—is essentially a better-handling Corolla hatchback distinguished by its angular styling and sub-$20,000 starting price. Similar in size to the Mazda3, the Corolla iM gets a 137-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine hooked up to either a six-speed manual or a CVT. We got 31 mpg overall with the CVT in our testing. The iM has taut handling and a decent level of standard equipment, including automatic climate control and audio controls on the steering wheel. But acceleration is short on zip, and neither the ride nor the rear seat is as comfortable as the Corolla's. A sunroof is not available. Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are standard.

2018 Toyota Corolla iM CVT
Incentives expire: Sept. 4, 2018
MSRP: $20,510
Potential savings off MSRP: $2,951
Bottom line price: $17,559