When is the best time to buy a car?

welcomia / 123RF Stock Photo

There’s a buying season for every product. You get the best deals on winter coats during the summer, and the best time to buy a motorcycle is the winter when no one is riding. Cars are no different, and when shopping for your next vehicle, every advantage means money saved. Dealerships have decades of experience in extracting as much money from car buyers as possible. No fault to them either; that’s how they stay open and profitable. But that also means you have some catching up to do on the strategy front. One of the best ways you can improve your odds of landing a deal and saving thousands of dollars is to choose when you buy your car.

As with all things in life, those who are willing to wait can secure the best deal, but how long should you wait? We’ve done our research and calculated the best times of the week, month, and year to buy your new car.

Further reading

What to do before heading into the dealership

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, an hour of research could be worth thousands of dollars. Before setting foot in a dealership, you should spend time looking at the resources available online. Personal experience has taught us every new car purchase should start with at least three hours of research. This, of course, can stretch to days or weeks of research depending on your proclivities and neuroses.

If you don’t know the type of car you want, start by researching the body styles that fit your lifestyle and needs. Do you primarily commute, or do you often tow a boat? From there, read expert reviews and narrow your choice down to a single make and model. Then, decide which packages or upgrades you need to have, want to have, and can live without. At the end of this process, you should have a mental image of your dream car, with your dream packages, and in your dream color. Keep in mind there’s a configurator for you to play around with on every manufacturer’s website. Now, start by looking at local dealerships to see who has the car you’re after in stock.

When to shop in person

Armed with knowledge about the car you want, and the local prices for it, you are ready to walk into a dealership and negotiate with confidence. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are the best days of the week to shop in-person for your future car. The reason for this is elementary: there are fewer other people in the showroom, allowing you the salesperson’s complete attention and copious test drives. Mondays are generally the slowest days at a dealership, and your best bet to get one-on-one time with a salesperson. Use this time to learn not only about the car, but also about the dealership and pick up any clues as to their desire to unload the car for a deal.

When to buy

Car dealerships, like many sales-focused businesses, function off of a monthly, quarterly, and yearly goal system. This isn’t just an internal goal, either. Many automobile manufacturers incentivize dealerships with massive bonuses for selling a certain number of cars. Because of this, your best bet for buying a new car is late in the month when the dealership will be up against its quota number. This is when a local dealer might be willing to lose money on a single transaction in order to make money from the automaker bonus.

Don’t play this game down to the wire, however. Sales deadlines don’t completely line up with the calendar, and can be a few days earlier. Bear this in mind to avoid being the first shopper during a new bonus cycle, when they will be the least likely to make a deal. Aim for early in the last week of the month and you should be fine.

Holidays

Holiday car sales are good for more than just invading your favorite radio station; you can get great deals outside the normal end-of-the-month tactic. Many dealerships attempt to burn through inventory during holiday sales, and you can use this to your benefit. Memorial Day is a consistent sales day for dealerships, with many stores cutting prices on current-year models as they prepare to receive next year’s cars. Black Friday has become a car-buying day as well, but given the massive crowds and general craziness, it is best to only shop on this day if the dealership has the exact car you want with an amazing deal attached. New Year’s Eve can also be a last chance for salespeople and dealerships to make their quota (assuming their bonus schedule ends on January 1), and amazing deals can be had if you’re willing to spend the last day of the year in a car dealership.

The best time to buy

Given all this, the absolute ideal time to buy a new car is early in the week, late in the month, late in the year. Therefore, December 30 is the single best time to buy a new car. Now go forth and reap the deals.

Editors' Recommendations