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When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car (New or Used)?

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A car is a major financial obligation. With the average new vehicle price topping $47,000 in 2022, it’s no surprise that many car shoppers want to know how to get the best deal. 

As you shop for a car, there are plenty of tips and tricks to employ to reduce your purchase price. One way you can lock in a better deal is to choose the right time to shop. Depending on the situation, you could save thousands of dollars by targeting certain times of the year while car shopping. 

Although there’s no way to avoid the high price of a new or used vehicle, you can lock in a better price through strategic timing. Read on to find out the best times to buy a car.

When Is the Best Time to Buy a New Car?

No one wants to overpay for a vehicle purchase. And at the rate car prices are rising, finding a good deal is a top priority for most shoppers. 

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Unless you have a pressing need to replace your vehicle right now, try to time your car shopping to the best day or time of the year. 

Mondays

When everyone else is heading back to the office, head to the car dealership. 

While all weekdays present an opportunity, Mondays are the best day of the week to buy a car. The lack of foot traffic at the dealership on a Monday morning means salespeople can spend more time with each would-be customer — and do more to win their business. If you stop by the car dealer on a Saturday morning, you’ll share the showroom with far more prospects. 

Unfortunately, most car buyers have to go to the office on Monday. If you have some flexibility in your work schedule, make it a point to put car buying on your calendar for this slow day at the dealership. 

End of the Month or Quarter

Car salespeople have sales quotas. If they meet certain sales expectations, they can unlock pay incentives. Dealers usually set these quotas on a quarterly or monthly basis. 

With that, the end of the quarter or end of a month often means better deals to be had at the car dealership. Salespeople have some wiggle room in the price of a vehicle at any time, but they might be less willing to work with you at the beginning of the period when there’s less urgency to make their sales number. They’re more likely to help when they’re down to the wire. 

Of course, this strategy can backfire if your salesperson has already met their goal for the month or quarter. In that case, they might not be willing to offer you a discount. 

End of the Model Year

The end of a model year means that the car manufacturer is switching over to a new production year. Typically, the new model year starts to arrive in the fall. 

As the new model year makes its way into dealerships, last year’s model becomes old news. Which means it’s often possible to score a great discount on a vehicle at the end of the model year. 

In some cases, dealers will announce this discount opportunity. In others, they’ll simply start advertising for next year’s model. That’s your cue to drive a harder bargain on the older version.

One big factor in the possible size of the discount is the extent of the difference between the old model and the new model. 

If the new model comes with a complete redesign, substantial discounts are often available on the old model. If the difference is barely noticeable to the average driver, there’s often less of a discount. 

End of the Calendar Year

The end of the year is a great time to buy a car. Specifically, the best months for car buying are October, November, and December. If you can wait until December, there are often year-end sale events that correspond with New Year’s Eve. 

At this point of the year, the pressure is on for the dealership to meet sales goals set by the automakers they work with. Dealerships need to meet their sales goals to lock in the best possible inventory from the automakers in the coming year. 

If they’re pushing to meet those goals, better car deals are on the table. Take the opportunity to negotiate the sticker price when the dealership is under pressure to make something happen. 

Three-Day Weekends

Car dealers tend to throw major car sales on three-day weekends. The dealership wants to get as many people through the door as possible, which means drawing people in when they have more time off from work. 

You’ll start to see advertisements for significant discounts off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) in the days leading up to the big sale. Big holiday weekends that bring an onslaught of car sales include President’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. 

In addition to potential discounts on your purchase price, these major sales come with more attractive car loan options. For example, you might find an auto loan with rock bottom interest rates — and therefore lower monthly payments — available during these major sales. 

Black Friday

Black Friday is a holiday dedicated entirely to retail sales, which makes it one of the best holidays to shop for a car. 

When considering a car purchase on Black Friday, you’ll often find a suite of manufacturer rebates available. Plus, because it falls the day after Thanksgiving, it always coincides with the last week of the month. So you’ll have an opportunity to negotiate for an even better deal after taking a new car on a test drive. 

Additionally, salespeople tend to be busy with their own lives during the holiday season. They’re more inclined to accept a lower offer if it means wrapping up the sale and heading home. And they’d rather close more sales at slightly lower prices to bulk up their commissions amid the holiday shopping rush. 

End of a Model’s Design Cycle

A model’s design cycle is the amount of time between the manufacturer’s periodic redesigns. Generally, it takes around five years for a model to be completely redesigned. 

At the end of the design cycle, buyers have a chance to lock in a discount on the previous model. After all, most shoppers are looking for the latest and greatest design. If you’re comfortable with the older model, most dealers will offer a discount if you ask.

End of a Model’s Life Cycle

The end of a model’s life cycle is when the car manufacturer ceases production. At that point, the dealership stops ordering new cars and tries to sell off its remaining inventory. 

When a car is on the way out, manufacturers and dealerships offer deeper and deeper discounts to get those last few cars sold. They want to get rid of old, tired inventory to make way for the fresh new rides. 

When a Dealership Offers a Great Promotion or Incentive

Dealerships are businesses that have their own financial balance sheet to manage. There’s no way to know the inner workings of your local dealership. But from time to time, you’ll spot incentives and promotions that don’t line up with any of the buying strategies above. 

As a savvy shopper, you can research your car options ahead of time to determine what constitutes a good deal. Take advantage of free resources like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book to uncover the actual market value of a car. 

If financing your new ride, scope out financing options from banks and credit unions in your area. Don’t settle for dealer financing unless it offers the best rate and terms.. Even if you find a good price on a car, you don’t want to get stuck with an overly high interest rate. 

If you see a great opportunity offered by a dealership, head out to the lot before it’s gone. 

When Is the Best Time to Buy a Used Car?

When buying a used car, there are some specific times of the year that offer better opportunities than others. 

Here’s when you’ll find better deals on your used car purchase:

  • At the End of the Month or Quarter: If a salesperson has quotas to meet, they may be willing to work with you. 
  • In January or December: As new models roll in, you might find a better deal on older cars. 
  • Holiday Sales Events: Black Friday, three-day weekends, and special sales events are a good time to shop for a deal. 

Whenever you decide to make your car purchase, make it a point to start shopping before you need a vehicle. It’s not always possible to foresee your need for a car. But if you know your aging vehicle is near it’s expiration, looking for a new ride before its inevitable demise is key. 

As with salespeople, you’ll be more motivated to make a deal when you absolutely need a vehicle to get around. Typically, that means you’ll face higher prices because the salesperson knows that you don’t really have time to negotiate a better deal. But if you can drive home in your old ride, you have more power in the negotiation. 

When shopping for a used car, prioritize what you need in the vehicle. It might not be possible to get all of the bells and whistles you are after on a used car deal. But shopping around with a budget and checking out the vehicle’s history before committing should help you get the best deal on a used car. 

Final Word

Whether you are shopping for a new or used vehicle, timing your purchase to meet the cycle of the car market allows you to lock in savings. The timing of your car purchase matters, but finding the right deal isn’t always easy. 

As you navigate the process, research all of your options to understand what the vehicle you are looking for should cost. At the very least, this research ensures you don’t overpay for a vehicle. At best, it confirms that the sale price you’re getting is actually a good deal. 

Choose the timing of your purchase wisely. And don’t ever be afraid to negotiate before committing to a purchase.

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