When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?
For some, the answer to this question may seem perfectly simple. The best time to buy a car is whenever I either want to buy one or need to be in one, right? If you have the money and the will, there's nothing wrong with that idea. However, if you want to get the best possible deal on a car and get the most bang for your buck, some timing guidelines are worth following.
Below, we'll be looking at the best times to buy a car: times of the month and year, and even days of the week when dealers are more open to negotiation and vehicles tend to be better priced. Keep in mind that buying a car in today's supply-constrained market can be a challenge, but applying these tips can't hurt. Let's take a closer look.
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Best Time to Buy a Car: Specific Days
With most people working Monday to Friday, it's only natural to go car shopping on the weekend. But visiting a dealership on a Saturday or Sunday means dealing with a few salespeople working with multiple customers. It's an approach that can make getting into the details with sales staff more difficult. Getting answers to questions can be a challenge, let alone working through a good deal.
On the other hand, making a dealership outing on a Monday or Tuesday translates into fewer customers and more attention from staff. Ask all the questions you need, and chances are the dealer will be more open to talking about a deal. Boosting sales on these quiet days is good for business and improves overall monthly performance.
Remember that some states prohibit dealerships from operating on Sunday. These jurisdictions include Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Monday could also be a busy day in these states, so consider pushing back your shopping to Tuesday or Wednesday.
America's busiest shopping day, Black Friday, also applies to cars—with some deals being hard to believe at first glance. Promotions can even extend to reduced-rate financing, such as zero-percent interest for four more years on some models.
Another critical reason to consider car shopping on Black Friday is that it often marks the transition from one model year to another. Dealers need to clear out the remaining stock to make room for the newest models. Admittedly, it's less of an issue in times of tight inventories, but there will be dealers seeking to offload leftovers.
One minor drawback of Black Friday, of course, is the crowds. You may be competing with other customers for the same cars. If you're not a fan of groups, perhaps avoid the scene altogether. Instead, reach out to dealers earlier in that week. They may already know what promotions will be available and may extend these terms ahead of time.
Other Specific Holiday Days
Black Friday is just one holiday with an opportunity for a great deal. Others include Presidents' Day (the third Monday of February), when many dealers try to boost sales in the quiet early months of the year. Discounts aren't always the strongest at this time, but if you're buying a pre-owned car or model year leftover, then possibilities open up.
While the summer generally marks peak price season for cars, there are a few standout days when dealerships are willing to offer better deals, namely Memorial Day at the end of May and July 4th.
A deal at this time may not offer the biggest savings of the year, but it's something to consider if you need new wheels and can't wait for the fall. In early September, holding out for Labor Day can lead to the best mid-year deals. New models are trickling in, and dealers are under pressure to move stock from the previous model year.
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Best Time to Buy a Car: Periods of the Year
End of the Month
Just about every dealership operates via monthly sales quotas to measure success, and issues bonuses and awards (like Salesperson of the Month). So the critical thing here is to work with a dealership that needs to meet its quota. A good time to strike is early in the last week of the month; at this point, there's a greater chance that the sales team will push to meet or exceed their goals.
If you're using the end-of-the-month strategy, realize that any deal you strike may not last for long. Once the dealership has hit its numbers, it may not be willing to honor any agreement that hasn't been signed. One sign that a dealer is trying to meet a quota is when it offers a price that's substantially less than what you might have come across elsewhere.
End of the Year
The end of the calendar year is the absolute last time a dealership can sell a car of the same model year before resorting to leftover pricing. Not only does December generally offer better discounts (see below), but buying right at the end of the year means catching unsold stock that needs to be moved.
This approach can be a mixed bag. As with the end-of-the-month strategy, you might come across a dealership that's already done well for the year and isn't overly eager to cut a rock-bottom deal. Inventory may also be less than at other times of the year.
Specific Month of the Year
Let's drill into more details about buying a car in December. According to Edmunds, dealerships will offer discounts of around 6.1 percent in December, the highest of any month. Better pricing and other incentives, like special financing, make for an attractive combination for savvy car buyers. December is the only time that brings together an end-of-the-month strategy, the end-of-the-year method, and the month's generally good discounts.
But not everyone can wait until December. So, here's what deals look like throughout the year.
- January to April: This time of year offers the lowest discounts on new cars but strong deals on pre-owned vehicles because of slow overall sales. Incentives might outnumber actual discounts during this time.
- May to September: These months provide a good combination of discounts and incentives, but early summer often sees high pricing. The end of the summer is usually when greater values start to appear.
- October to December: The last quarter of the year is usually the best time for the availability of a range of discounts
Model Design Cycle Changes
Another thing to look for throughout the year is when an automaker announces changes to a specific model. This is harder to predict as each brand works to its own schedule.
For example, if an automaker reveals a facelift to its popular sedan, then the next model year will involve more changes than usual (typical year-to-year changes are minimal). So, the potential for discounts is more significant for the "old" version. If the new model reflects an entirely new design (which happens every five to eight years), then the reductions could be even greater for the old one
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