The early days of the new year can be a great time to shop for a new car. Dealers are motivated to clear inventory -- and the automakers are eager to boost first-quarter sales. Here are some highlights:

* Honda is offering special low-rate (3.9-4.9 percent) financing on the 2007 Element, an SUV-like wagon with available all-wheel-drive and multi-configurable interior. This vehicle hasn't sold as well as Honda had hoped -- but it is an interesting alternative to conventional SUVs. (Deals good through Feb. 5.)

* Jaguar is offering special low-rate financing on several 2007 models, including the entry-level X-type sedan (1.9 percent) and top-of-the-line XJ8 and XJR sedans (4.9 percent). Good through mid-month.

* Land Rover is also offering low-rate (4.9 percent) financing on the '07 LR3 SUV.

* General Motors is offering 4.9 percent financing (or $500-$1,500 cash back) on most 2007 Buick models, 3.9-4.9 percent (or $500-$2,000 cash back) on Chevy Avalanche and Silverado and other models. See http://www.gm.com/automotive/vehicle...eg_incent.html for more details on current offers.

* Ford is offering either special-rate financing or cash back on several 2007 models, including Mustang (excluding Shelby versions), Freestar, Five Hundred and Fusion. See http://www.fordvehicles.com/features...ex.asp?id=1601 for information on current offers.

Buyers looking for even better deals should consider leftover 2006 model year vehicles. Many dealerships still have a large inventory of "last year's" cars, trucks and SUV sitting on their lots they're eager to get rid of. Remember: Even though they are technically year-old cars, they're still brand-new -- with new car waranties and that new car smell.

Just not the new car price!

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