Faced with slumping sales due to coronavirus restrictions and concerns over the economy, automakers are offering attractive incentives to entice consumers to their showrooms.

But is now a good time to buy?

The answer is partly dependent on consumers’ comfort level in shopping online as car dealerships, deemed a nonessential business, remain closed to in-person sales in Pennsylvania.

Consumers also need to carefully evaluate their individual circumstances to ensure the deals, however attractive, won’t place them in financial peril, analysts for the car industry say.

State-mandated stay-at-home orders coupled with the downturn in the economy caused new-car sales to plunge in recent months. Sales were off 45% from their forecast in April this year compared to last year, according to J.D. Power, a market research firm. Sales in May are off about 26% from what the firm forecasted.

That’s left dealers with a much larger inventory than they ordinarily would have this time of year — bad news for dealers, but great news for consumers, said Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics for J.D. Power.

“There are incredible deals and incentives, the highest we’ve ever seen this time of year,” Jominy said.

Virtually all manufacturers are offering some sort of incentive, including cash back and attractive financing rates as low as 0% for as long as 72 to 84 months.

“You are essentially getting free money for six or even seven years,” said Ivan Drury, a senior analyst for Edmunds, an online car buying resource.

Some automakers also offer the option to skip payments for three to six months. That’s an enticing incentive, but Drury and Jominy caution that could come back to bite consumers if they don’t keep the vehicle long enough.

The vehicle continues to depreciate in those months you are not paying. You may find yourself owing more than the car is worth when you go to trade it in. You either have to pay if off, or roll the remaining balance into the new loan, which in turns increases the overall cost of the new vehicle.

“It becomes a vicious cycle and can snowball out of control,” Drury said.

With a 72-month loan, it typically takes 41 months before the car is worth more than what is owed, Jominy said. With an 84-month loan, it takes 49 months to reach that plateau, he said.

“There is no free lunch,” Drury said. “You have to keep the car a longer period of time, pay the difference or finance the rest.”

And while the deals are attractive, consumers need to carefully assess their job security as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy, Drury said.

“For those with a steady job and income who don’t have to worry about employment, right now is a great time to buy a car,” he said.

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Keep in mind ...

Car industry analysts say there are some great deals now, but consumers should fully assess their individual circumstances before deciding whether to buy.

How steady is your job? If there is a chance you might be laid off, you could run into trouble paying, even with a no-interest loan.

How comfortable are you buying online? The process offers some convenience, but a virtual view of a vehicle can’t replace the in-person experience.

How is the dealer handling online sales? Some will deliver the vehicle to your home for you to test-drive. Policies vary by dealership, however, so call ahead.