The sight of dancing inflatable tube-men and “best deals” banners are the first signs of an impending auto sale. A keen shopper knows that these are just some of the tricks of the auto trade meant to tempt consumers into trading in their cars or making new purchases.

Often, we are asked whether there is a certain time of year, month, or even day that is the best time to buy a car. And while there may not be an exact science or formula to the questions at hand, there are a few methods of leveraging the calendar to your car-buying advantage.
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Before needing a car

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the best time to buy a car is before actually needing one. First, consider that you may need to purchase a car to commute, or purchase a replacement vehicle. Buying a car last minute will keep you from doing the necessary research to make a good purchase. In this scenario, a salesperson may also be less likely to give you a deal on a car because they’ll be able to sense your desperation for a vehicle.

Besides, starting your car-buying process early has its advantages. You can research and apply for a pre-approved auto loan, which will give you a better idea of what you can afford through financing. Moreover, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many manufacturers have been affected by supply chain disruptions and part shortages, along with staffing shortages decrease car sales. So, get ahead of the curb by doing your research.

End of the month

End-of-the-month sales goals are a great means for taking advantage of car dealerships. If a dealership or salesperson has yet to meet their sales goals for the month, you are more likely to walk away with a steal. Because sales reps wish to reap the rewards of meeting their monthly quota, they will offer discounts without giving you a reason as to why.

Additionally, salespeople will likely try to get their manager to cut a better deal on pricing because they often receive cash incentives for meeting their monthly quota. That compensates for the lower commission they will receive from your discounted purchase.

Just keep in mind that if the dealer has already reached their sales target, your chances of striking a deal may be slim. But if you can afford to wait until the end of the month and take more time to research, it may be in your best interest.

End of the year

Dealers will generally offer the best incentives and deals at the end of a calendar year. Dealerships want to end the year on a high note with strong sales. Therefore, December is generally a good time to buy an outgoing model of a car since you’re likely to get generous incentives.

Dealerships and automakers will also more than likely be looking to get rid of prior model-year cars to free up space for incoming inventory. So, dealers will often cut their losses and offer the lowest prices in order to meet their end-of-year goals. That means the absolute best time to shop for a car would be the last two days of the year: December 30th and 31st.

What is the best month to buy a car?

Generally speaking, the months of October through December offer the best deals, and the later you wait, the better your pricing options. Comparatively, the earlier months (January through April) are often slow-selling months and offer the least amount of incentives and discounts. February has the smallest amount of MSRP discounts, on average, yearly.

Because new cars are going to be introduced in the upcoming year, discounts improve the closer you are to the end of the calendar year. So, if you are looking to buy a car in September or October, consider waiting a few more months or on until the end of the year before heading to the dealership. That way you guarantee yourself more time for research, have more time to save for a down payment and increase the chances of striking a better deal for the sale of a car.

What is the best day to buy a car?

There is a suburban legend that claims the busiest day of the week is the ideal timing for buying a car. The legend stems from the belief that a busy dealership will result in a salesperson attempting to strike a deal as quickly as possible so they can move on to the next customer. However, this is false.

Because weekends can be busy for dealerships, it is generally better to go earlier in the week when the dealership would be quieter. This gives you more time to get all your questions answered, take test drives, as well as allowing for more time to negotiate when you might not have been given the same opportunity on a busy day.

An added benefit of going early in the week is that lenders tend to only be open on weekdays. This will allow you to speak with local lenders if you have not been pre-approved for financing. You can get pre-approved for an auto loan in the morning and take it to the dealership to compare offers that day. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of the salesperson’s word that they are giving you the best possible deal.

We recommend getting a pre-approved loan in place before heading to a dealer so that you are prepared with a pre-planned budget and cannot be tempted by the tactics of an experienced salesperson.

End of the model year

An effective method of getting a better deal on a car is by purchasing the car’s previous model. Dealers are eager to clear out “last year’s model” of cars when a new model is coming in. For instance, if the 2022 model is coming, an automaker may offer a zero percent interest for several months on the 2021 model.

The primary drawback is that your car will essentially be a year old the moment you drive it off the lot, which may hurt the resale value of the car. Of course, cars depreciate the minute you drive them off, so even the latest model will lose value quickly.

Coincidentally, though rare, there are instances when an incoming model year offers better incentives than the outgoing model, but it usually only happens with leasing.

As a final counterpoint, it may be wise to hold out for an updated version because the price difference may only be a few hundred dollars and the newer model may offer new features or better gas mileage. Again, do your research carefully. When new models are announced, compare the pricing to what’s on the lot now and go from there.

End of the car’s design cycle

For keen shoppers, the end of the design cycle of a car — the time between a complete redesign of the car’s model — is the ideal time to make a purchase. Though you may not have the latest style or the most recent technological update, you can end up with some serious savings. Automakers tend to promote low-priced car lease deals, financing options, and cash-back incentives before the new model’s impending arrival.

End of the car’s life cycle

A car’s life cycle, on the other hand, is when an automaker decides to entirely stop building that model of car; hence, you are able to purchase a car at an exceedingly low price. Note, however, that because the model of the car is being discontinued this will often result in a steep depreciation of value. For people leasing this is of huge importance as you want to be shopping for a vehicle that will retain high residual value. If you are planning on long-term ownership, depreciation may be of little concern.

Another important factor to consider is why the vehicle model is being discontinued. If it is a matter of changing styles, then that is of little importance if the out-going model still suits your taste. But if the change is a result of poor performance or reliability, consider other options.

Holidays and three-day weekends

Whether it is a dancing tube-man or an inflatable bald eagle forcing your attention on the “rock-bottom” deals and prices for cars, the holidays are almost always brimming with deals at car dealerships. Ideally, you have done prior research, including test-driving your preferred car before the holiday, so you can close the deal on the weekend or the following first weekday.

A holiday sale can offer significant discounts, but certain holidays guarantee steeper rebates:

Presidents Day

Considering that Presidents Day is in February, the month with the lowest MSRP discounts, striking a good deal is very unlikely. The first four months of the year tend to be slow months with regards to consumer activity generally.

Memorial Day

Commonly, summertime can be one of the most expensive seasons to buy a car. Memorial Day, however, tends to kick off the summer shopping spree as dealerships usually cut back prices during three-day weekends. And since next year’s models begin debuting around midyear, the prices of cars on a lot tend to drop in price.

Fourth of July

Around the Fourth, there usually is a mix of incoming and outgoing models of cars available. If you are unsure whether the current year or if the incoming year’s model is for you, this is the perfect time for comparisons. But, if you do not need a vehicle immediately, we recommend holding out for a potentially bigger discount in the final months of the year.

Labor Day

When it comes to the selection of cars and competitive pricing, look no further than Labor Day sales. Though not the best time for savings, this holiday compensates by offering the largest selection of available automobiles. 

Black Friday

The biggest retail shopping day in the U.S. can be very intimidating to some, but for others, it represents the opportunity to make a purchase at a steal. And even car dealers are now taking advantage by offering “doorbuster deals” so they may offer heftier discounts on outgoing car models.

New Year’s Eve

If you can stave off purchasing a car until the day of New Year’s Eve, you will most likely get the best possible deal on the car you want. Because salespeople have monthly, quarterly or even annual quotas to fill, the final day of the year is their final opportunity to meet their sales goals that could earn them a substantial bonus. As such, try ending the year on a dealer’s lot with a deal for a new car that’s worth celebrating!

The best time to buy a used car

It is in best practice to apply many of the same rules with timing to purchasing a used car. One of the few exceptions is to avoid holiday weekends or sales events. This is due to the fact that the dealership staff will more than likely be busy dealing with new car customers who have been drawn in by advertised deals.

October through December remain peak months for purchasing a used car because they coincide with the new car buying season. And often, new car buyers have trade-ins that they use as a bargaining chip as part of their new car purchase. In turn, this leads to a bigger and better selection of available used cars at more affordable prices.

When is a bad time to buy a car?

Conversely, there are bad times for purchasing a car just as there are great times to buy a car. Should the car you are eyeing be brand-new or should it be one of the best-selling models in its class, it would be wise to wait until the price settles down.

The beginning of a month is also a terrible time to go shopping for the very reason it is a great idea to go at the end of the month: Quotas. If the salesperson has an entire month ahead of them to make their sales goals, they would be less likely to offer you any deals to help motivate a purchase.

And even though weekends, especially Saturdays, are popular days to shop, it is in best practice to make it earlier in the week because of how busy the staff might be on the weekends. And because the salesperson is incapable of giving you their undivided attention, they are also not concerned about selling you a car because someone else may very well purchase the same car you had your eye on.

Article last modified on October 11, 2021. Published by Debt.com, LLC