(Source: 2016 Kogod Made in America Auto Index)
Consumers thinking of buying a new car in the next year should weigh other factors that may have a greater influence over car prices than a tariff that is not even a reality yet, DuBois said. Auto sales were weak in January, and if the economy slows down and sales continue to drop, manufacturers might offer better deals. Conversely, interest rates could go up to pay for infrastructure projects the new administration has proposed; or the dollar might strengthen, meaning possibly better deals on imported vehicles. "It may still be many months before a tariff or border adjustment tax is put in place, so I would wait," he said.
Jeff Schuster, senior vice president at LMC Automotive, an automotive production and sales forecasting company, thinks now is a good time to buy. Since manufacturers have been operating and planning their business under the North American Free Trade Agreement, "changes to the rules of the game in the middle of the game can pose significant challenges and implications. If a border tax is put in place, I certainly would expect vehicle prices to rise. … I wouldn't necessarily wait if I was in the market," he said.
But Schuster said some of the most compelling reasons to buy don't relate directly to the tariff issue. "At minimum, prices on select models could rise. Competitive pressure is high right now, as are incentives on vehicles. That, combined with a significant increase in new models coming out this year, create a favorable time to buy a vehicle," he said.
— By Joe D'Allegro, special to CNBC.com