When Is the Best Time to Buy a New or Used Car? | Mint

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When it’s time to shop for a car, it can be easy to subscribe to the mentality that you’re going to have to shell out the same amount of cash, no matter when you shop. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Just like with any other big purchase, you want to be methodical about where and when to buy a new car—and just like other big ticket items, there are certain times during the year when you can save substantially, if you’re willing to be patient. 

So, when is the best time to buy a car? Well, the ideal time to buy a car is in October, November, or December because salespeople are typically racing to meet quarterly and annual quotas. Other advantageous times to save when buying a car are Mondays as well as major three-day holiday weekends and Black Friday.

Whether you need to buy ASAP or you can wait for the right season, this car-buying guide will help you find the right time to max out your savings as much as possible when buying a new or used car. Read through for all the best timing tips, or use the links below to go straight to the section that best applies to your timeline. 

When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

For many people, the answer is when you need one. Generally speaking, you should plan ahead when buying a car because it will give you most flexibility when shopping and allows you to find the best opportunity to save the most money on your purchase. If at all possible, you should strive to purchase a car before it’s non-operational.

Car ownership is a necessity for many people, but there are a few factors that will dictate when it’s the best time for you to buy a car, including: 

  • Personal urgency: If your car becomes un-drivable out of nowhere, you may be scrambling to find a new car so you can make sure you can still get to work, pick up the kids from school, and maintain your other obligations that require commuting. However, many of us have the opportunity to prepare for buying a new car if we know it’s nearing the end of it’s useful life.
  • Savings goals: Are you aiming for a certain percentage savings or special terms like 0% down? If you have specific savings goals in mind, you may need to wait longer for the best deal.
  • Start of model year: Dealerships may push new models during their initial release. You may find savings in the form of rebates, among other deals, making it the best time to buy a new car if you have your eye on a specific model.
  • End of model year: When it comes time to make space for the new model year of a vehicle, dealerships often offer discounts on the current year’s model.
  • Discontinuation of a model: It’s not uncommon for automakers to discontinue a certain model year after they’ve come out with several newer versions. This could be your opportunity to cash-in on savings. However, keep in mind that in some cases, an automaker may decide to discontinue a model due to issues with the vehicle, so it’s important to do your research first.

If you have the time to be more strategic with your vehicle purchase (visit consumer.ftc.gov for tips on negotiating when buying a new car), you can shop for the best deals based on day, month, and even holiday specials. For more details on how to plan for the optimal opportunity to buy your new or used car, keep reading. 

What Is the Best Day of the Week to Buy a New Car?

It might seem unlikely that something as minor as the day of the week could impact the price of a car, but it can. The fact is that buying cars earlier in the week, specifically on Monday, is the best time to score the best deal. 

Why Mondays? Well there are several reasons it’s believed that it’s believed to be the best time to buy a car because the dealership is less busy, giving you and the salesperson more time to negotiate. 

This is likely because most people have to wait until the weekend to purchase a car, instead of taking time off work to shop around. This means that by shopping earlier in the week when the dealership has less foot traffic, you’ll probably have the salesperson’s attention to yourself, which gives you some leverage.

What Is the Best Month to Buy a Car?

Car sales can also vary by season and even month. If you’re looking for the best car deals, consider the following months or seasons to purchase your vehicle:

Least-Discounted Car Sales Months: January through April

If you can avoid purchasing a car in the first quarter of the year, you should do so; January through April are the months where car sales are least discounted. This is generally attributed to consumer shopping habits, which tend to slow following the purchase-crazed holiday seasons. 

In response, dealerships put less effort into making sales competitive.

Better-Discounted Car Sales Months: May through September

If you need to buy a car during these mid-year months, May is likely your best bet because there are typically Memorial Day sales that might even extend past the holiday weekend. 

However, as you move later into the summer months, deals often begin to improve to start moving inventory as the majority of new car models get ready to be released.

Most-Discounted Car Sales Months: October through December

If you want to narrow it down to the single best month to buy a car, December is widely believed to be your best bet.

According to Edmunds, between 2013 and 2018, December has been ranked one of the best months to buy a car for four out of the six years. This is partially attributed to a boost of holiday-oriented marketing campaigns featuring better terms, end-of-year sales goals, and pushing out inventory for new models. The latter pertains to the last few months of the year in general.

Dealers want to clear their lots of excess inventory so they can earn their end-of-year bonuses and avoid paying taxes on unsold vehicle stock. They do this by offering sizable cash-back rebates, impressive financing discounts, and special lease deals, which means significant pricing discounts on some new car models.

This time of year is arguably the best time to buy a used car because, with more people purchasing new cars, there’s also typically an increase in trade-ins, meaning more used cars on the lot. 

What Are the Best Holidays to Buy a Car?

Waiting for the holidays to roll around is one of the easiest ways to save when buying a car. That said, not all holidays are necessarily equal when it comes to scoring the best deal. For the biggest savings, you should shop on the following holidays:

  • 3-day weekends: President’s Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day weekend are all notorious for having good car sales deals.
  • Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving is known for some of the year’s best sales, and that includes deals on new and used cars.
  • New Years: New Year’s Eve is a good opportunity to take advantage of last-minute end-of-the-year sales. 

Keeping these dates in mind makes it easier to set savings goals and plan your purchase ahead of time.

Car-Buying Considerations to Keep in Mind

While timing is important, there are several other key factors when buying a car that you should keep in mind, including:

  • The larger down payment you can put forward, the better.

Down payments play a major role in how much you’ll spend on your car over time. With a larger down payment, you can expect your monthly payment to be lower and often a lower interest rate (if you have decent credit). Putting more money down up front also gives you more equity in the car.

  • You’ll want to shop around to find the best deal. 

No matter what time of year it is, you should always shop around for the best deal. Whether it’s looking at dealership offerings online or visiting different dealerships in person and haggling with the salesman, having prices to compare can help you save on your purchase—even if it’s only a $1,000 difference, that’s a few months worth of payments.

  • Be prepared to choose from the dealer’s inventory. 

You may be able to get a better deal if you wait until December 31st, but the car you’re looking for may not be in inventory by the time you get there. Keep in mind that most vehicles are packaged according to each model’s trim levels and can’t always be purchased to specific requirements without a special order. After all, you could theoretically build one of a hundred, or even a thousand, different configurations and it’s not possible for the dealers to have every possibility in their inventory.

Depending on your priorities when trying to figure out the best time to buy a new car, you’ll need to weigh the different factors that influence car prices and availability, as well as your own priorities.

For more tips on buying a car—including buying a used vs. new car, buying from a dealership vs. private seller, and what to know about car safety ratings—visit USA.gov.

Key Takeaways: When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

  • Whether you’re buying a new or used car, October through December is the best time of year to secure a good deal.
  • Earlier in the week, specifically Mondays, are the best days to shop if you’re hoping to negotiate and take advantage of a slow sales day.
  • Holidays, especially three-day weekends and Black Friday, are some of the best opportunities to take advantage of big sales that offer competitive terms. 
  • In general, it is better to buy a car at the end of the month or year because salespeople are more likely to be willing to negotiate when they have sales goals to meet.
  • Having the flexibility to wait for the best time to buy a car will be your biggest advantage when it comes to getting the best savings, so don’t wait until your car breaks down to start planning your purchase.

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