The best time to buy a new car is usually near the end of the calendar year, particularly in December when car dealerships and salespeople are trying to reach sales goals and quotas for the year. But if you don’t want to (or can’t) wait to buy a car, there are other times when you can score better car-buying deals simply by being strategic about when you go car shopping.
If you’re in the market for a new (or used) car, a smart question to ask is: When is a good time to buy a car? Not all car shoppers realize that when you buy, a car is arguably as important as which new car you choose to purchase, especially if you’re on a budget and want to take advantage of car sales, financing deals, or other incentives.
This is important to many car buyers as car prices have reached new heights over the years. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average new car price as of February 2023 was $48,763. That’s a huge investment and underlines why it’s so important to search out the best car deals you can find — for a new or used car.
Today we will go over the best times to buy a car, different ways to get an auto loan, and things you can do to get the best deal on a new car purchase.
Which is the best time of year to buy a car?
The end of the year — from October through January 1 — is thought to be the best time to buy new cars. As the calendar year draws to a close, many dealerships and car salespeople are more likely to drop car prices. The goal is to move car inventory out and fulfill sales quotas so as to earn valuable year-end bonuses.
Which is the best month to buy a car?
Of the end-of-year months, experts agree that December is the best month to make a car purchase as car salespeople and car dealerships hustle to empty their lots before the new year, says Ryan Waterman, CEO at Independence Automotive.
When is the best week to buy a car?
Waterman adds that, hands down, the best time to get a good deal on a car is going to be at the very end of December, as monthly sales goals coincide with year-end sales objectives. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve also fall in this time and can yield some good holiday deals.
“The absolute best time to buy a car is during the last week of December when dealerships are most motivated to offer incentives and discounts to meet their sales goals.”
Other good times to buy a car
Not everyone wants to start new-car shopping at the end of the year, what with the bustle of the holidays and the added expenses that go along with them. But there are other times throughout the year where you may still be able to find deals on car prices.
Best day of the week
The best day of the week to buy a car is generally going to be on a Monday or possibly a Tuesday. These days to tend to be slower at car dealerships so you may have more time to spend with sales staff, take test drives, and negotiate a better deal.
Keep in mind though, if a Monday falls on a holiday weekend, the dealership could be a lot busier than usual, but they may also have special sales events or financing deals you can take advantage of.
Best time of the month to buy a car
The last week of the month is where you can typically save the most money because sales staff are trying to meet their monthly sales quotas. As a result, they’re more likely to give you a better deal on a new vehicle. However, if a car salesperson has already met their monthly goal, you may not be able save money by shopping at that time.
Waterman adds that the end of the quarter may also be a good time to buy because dealerships may also have quarterly sales quotas to fill as well.
As mentioned, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve can be ideal times to buy a car at deep discounts, largely because they fall at the end of the year. But there are other holidays where you might also score a better deal. Memorial Day, for example, can be a good time because it’s the kick-off to the summer sales season and there should be a lot of inventory including outgoing model year vehicles.
Labor Day can be another good holiday weekend because often September and October are when new model year vehicles start coming out (although that’s not strictly the case), meaning you might be able to get a deal on last year’s models. Waterman explains a couple scenarios where buying the previous year’s model makes sense.
“Dealerships generally want to clear out older inventory to make room for the new models. Therefore, at the end of a model year, you can find great discounts and incentives on older model year vehicles. (And) if the difference between the older model and the newer one is minimal in terms of features, performance, and safety, it might be worth saving some money by choosing the older model.”
When is the worst time to get a good deal on new vehicles?
Any time is a good time to buy a car if you are interested in the most expensive cars with the latest high-tech features or aren’t really trying to save money or haggle with a salesperson
But if you’re looking for better deals, you should avoid car shopping early in the month, on weekends, or in the first few months of the year (with the possible exception of used cars). You also want to avoid trying to buy the latest model-year cars as soon as they come out or the best-selling models in their class. This way, you have a better chance of paying less than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) and getting better discounts, incentives, and financing deals.
Tips for new car buyers looking for the best deal
Getting the best deal on your next car isn’t all about choosing the right time to buy; it’s also about doing your research and being prepared before you ever step foot in a car dealership.
Have a car-buying budget
If you go into a car dealership without having a clear idea of what you can afford, an experienced car salesperson could easily talk you into biting off more than you can chew. But if you know how much you have to spend, you’re much less likely to fall into that trap.
And don’t just think about the cost of the loan or the monthly payments you can afford. You also want to consider what you can expect to spend on fuel, maintenance, and car insurance, for example.
Do your research ahead of time
With all the tools available online, it’s easy for car buyers to do plenty of research on the new vehicles they’re interested in before having to talk to any sales staff. And let’s be honest — car salespeople can be pretty aggressive and even intimidating if you’re not a confident negotiator.
If you know the car you want, check prices on multiple websites, and don’t be afraid to negotiate. In many cases, buyers can pay much less than the sticker price if you have the confidence and knowledge to back up your position.
“First and foremost, it’s essential to do your research. Researching the car’s value, average price, and the dealership’s reputation before entering negotiations is vital so that you can negotiate with confidence,” says Joyce Ann Gutierrez, Automotive Expert at 4WheelOnline.
Get pre-approved for financing before you start car shopping
Even if you ultimately decide to go with dealer financing, you’ll have stronger negotiating power if you get pre-approved ahead of time.
You can easily compare multiple pre-approval offers from online lenders, but you might also want to see what you can get from your own banks or credit unions as well. It’s possible you could get better interest rates from a financial institution that you already have a history with, but not necessarily, explains Waterman.
“Sometimes, dealer financing can offer better interest rates and promotional deals than a traditional bank or credit union. This is because dealerships often work with several financial institutions and can provide a wider range of financing options. (But) we recommend you obtain quotes from both your bank or credit union and (the) dealership financing department to compare rates and terms before making a decision.”
Consider used cars or discontinued models
Kelley Blue Book reports that the average used car went for $26,510 as of January 2023, so you can definitely save some cash if you’re willing to purchase a used car.
“Older model-year cars available as certified pre-owned vehicles can be an excellent choice. They typically undergo thorough inspections and come with extended warranties,” says Waterman.
You may also get a good deal on a new vehicle that’s scheduled to be discontinued; just be sure to find out why it’s being discontinued so you don’t wind up with a lemon.
PRO TIP — If you’re hoping to get a good deal on a car model that’s being discontinued, make sure to do your research ahead of time. It could be the vehicle just wasn’t very popular or it might have mechanical or safety issues you should be aware of.
Advice for trading in your existing car
If you’re hoping to swap your existing vehicle for a a new or used car, you should take some steps to put yourself in the best bargaining positions, suggests Waterman.
“Have your car appraised by multiple dealerships, clean and repair any minor issues, and negotiate the trade-in value separately from the purchase of your new car to ensure the best deal.”
In addition, you can check with the car manufacturer or the Department of Transportation to see if there are any recalls on your vehicle. That way, you can get those issues taken care of (at no charge) before you try to trade in your old car. Taking care of any potential problems with the car may strengthen your bargaining power.
- The last few months of the year, especially December, offer the best deals for car buyers.
- Consider car shopping on Mondays, the last week of the month, or the end of the quarter for potential savings.
- Holiday times like Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, and Labor Day can also provide good car buying opportunities.
- Explore deals on outgoing models from the previous year as new models arrive.
View Article Sources
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – Buying a Car
- Kelley Blue Book – Average New Car Price
- Kelley Blue Book – Average Used Vehicle Price
- U.S. Department of Transportation – Vehicle Recalls Search Tool
- SuperMoney – Best Time of Year to Lease a Car
- SuperMoney – Buying a New Car
- SuperMoney – Buying a New Car vs. an Old Car
- SuperMoney – Is Buying New Really Worth It?
- SuperMoney – Used Car Prices Dropping
- SuperMoney – How to Get the Best Deal on a Used Car
- SuperMoney – Should You Buy a Car with Cash or a Loan?
- SuperMoney – How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy a Car?
- SuperMoney – How Much Should You Spend on a Car? The 20/4/10 Rule