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  • Writer's pictureJeff Guymon

When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

A car is a big purchase and you need a lot more than perfect timing to get a great deal. That said, leveraging the calendar can certainly be advantageous and save you money. Dealers need to move inventory before year end, which makes October, November and December great months for car shopping. Similarly, Mondays tend to be good days for car buyers with empty showrooms.

This article provides notable time frames throughout the year when you can save the most money buying a car, and also answers questions such as:

  • What time of the year should I buy a car?

  • Are there holidays that offer the best discounts?

  • Is there a day of the week that is best to buy a car?

  • When is the worst time to buy a car?

What Is the Best Time of Year to Buy a Car?

The best time of the year to buy a car are the months of October, November and December. Automakers and dealerships want to carry little inventory going into the new year and will work the hardest to move any unsold vehicles through attractive car deals and discounted car prices.

Late December, right after Christmas, is also when yearly, quarterly and monthly sales goals converge. During those days, dealers are more willing to sell a few cars at low margins to meet sales quotas and earn a financial year-end bonuses.

Kelly Blue Book confirmed our study and suggests that December is the best month to get the greatest combination of savings. In fact, KBB highlights two factors that can help you save in December:

  1. Not only is it important to note the end of the calendar year.

  2. But it is also important to keep in mind that often the end of a fiscal year collides with the end of the model year -- the time frame in which the newest vehicle models will be released.

Therefore, the previous year models are often heavily discounted to make room for the newly redesigned model. Waiting for the new model year to launch requires you to be a bit flexible for a couple of reasons:

It is possible the redesigned model will be substantially updated with a new look or new features. Hence, while your original plan was to buy the cheaper 'old' model, you may ultimately fall in love with the facelift and be tempted to buy that one instead.

Another drawback is that you’re limited to what the dealership has sitting on the lot. It’s less likely you’ll find a car in a specific color, trim or with features you want. However, if you’re satisfied with the previous year’s model as opposed to the redesign and its new features, take advantage and purchase an older model! You will save thousands of dollars.

IMPORTANT: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the car industry experiences drastic changes. Several dealers and auto manufacturers are offering special financing and lower car prices to ease the economic uncertainty caused by Coronavirus. US News for example found that Chevrolet and Buick are currently offering 0% APR financing and Ford is giving buyers six months of no payments. That means, all you need to pay is your car insurance!

Be sure to contact your dealer prior to purchasing a car to see what kind of deals may be available to you.

What Day of the Week Should I Buy a Car?

The best day to buy a car is Monday. On average, buyers save up to 0.61% more when buying a car on a Monday. Moreover, car shoppers have a lot more time for test drives when the showrooms are empty. You aren't set on a sedan, hatchback, truck or SUV, yet? Test drive all of them on a Monday!

Usually, Americans go car shopping on weekends. Any inventory that hasn't sold over a weekend may therefore drop in price on a Monday, when potential car shoppers are at work. Use the table below to see’s breakdown of savings by the weekdays.

What Is the Worst Time to Buy a Car?

Since Mondays are the best days to go car shopping, weekends are the worst! Everyone is out looking for a new car, it's the busiest time for dealerships for obvious reasons. In fact, dealers are so busy on weekends, they simply don't have the patience or bandwidth to haggle with you for hours.

Another period that's particularly bad for car shopping is the first week of a month. During the first week, car dealers have a whole month ahead of them to hit their sales quotas and sales targets. No dealer will feel any pressure to reduce car prices to make deals happen. The only exception to this rule are holiday specials that start at the end of one month and end during the first week of the following month.

To get a steal, you should wait for a Monday at the end of the month. However, don't be disappointed if someone else buys the car you’ve been eyeing. First come, first served!

What Are the Best Holidays to Buy a New Car?

In many cases, holiday-themed commercials and promotions are real! Holiday sales and special occasions offer deeper discounts on MSRP. The following holidays are especially popular for buying a car:

  • Presidents Day

  • Memorial Day

  • Fourth of July

  • Labor Day

  • Black Friday

  • New Year’s Eve

According to AutoTrader, national holiday weekends have some of the largest blowout sales with cash-back deals, offers for special financing and rebates.

When Is the Best Time to Buy a Used Car?

As with purchasing a new vehicle, the best time to buy a used car is in the last quarter of the calendar year -- between October and December. Most of the strategies that work to get a great deal on a new car also work to get a steal on a used car. A few noteworthy difference would be:

Purchasing a used car early in the week and towards the end of the year is still a good idea, though holiday deals are usually not applicable for used vehicles. As previously mentioned, the last quarter of the year is when most buyers are purchasing new cars.

Most new car shoppers trade in their old ones. Buying a used trade-in vehicle can be a steal since new car dealers sometimes want to get rid of the used cars quickly. Dealerships are usually physically constrained and are therefore eager to make room for the new models. We've seen a peak in trade-ins at the end of the year when new car shoppers are on the hunt. This increase in used car inventory offers used car buyers a large selection to pick from and the potential to save a lot of money.

What If I Can’t Wait Until December?

There are times when car buying can’t wait until the end of the year. Don’t fret, there are still plenty of other opportunities to save money! Other than the end of the fiscal year, the end of a financial quarter also brings huge savings. The end of a quarter is easy to remember as they occur every three months, starting in March:

  • March 31st (Last day of Q1)

  • June 30th (Last day of Q2)

  • September 30th (Last day of Q3)

  • December 31st (Last day of Q4)

The shareholders of big car dealership groups such as AutoNation or CarMax usually read the quarterly financials of the companies they invest in. To make the quarterly financials look good, dealers act somewhat irrationally towards the end of a quarter. The exact last day of the quarter can therefore yield high savings.

Bottom Line

Clearly, we identified days, weeks and even months when car shoppers can make great deals. However, the best time to purchase a car really is when you need one. Don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish!

It’s important to make sure your personal finances are in order and you can cover the expense of a vehicle. Once you factor in depreciation of the vehicle's value over time, patience while car shopping always pays off! You can easily save thousands if your are strategic about when to buy your car. Buying a new car is exciting, but it’s even sweeter to drive off the dealership lot in a used car, knowing you paid less out of pocket.

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