You can look for a new car anytime you want, but there are times when it’s better to actually buy — and times when it’s not. Whether you’re shopping for a new car or a used one, check below for the best and worst times to buy.
The best times to buy often align with when car sellers are trying to meet a sales target by a certain deadline. Sellers are often more keen on making a deal when the clock is ticking.
The end of the year sales events you see in commercials are a great time to buy. “Dealers generally do their best wheeling and dealing at the end of the calendar year,” according to Kelly Blue Book (KBB). For some dealers, December is one of their biggest sales months. Automakers usually have big incentives to move inventory during the holiday season because new car purchases can sometimes align with a family’s holiday gift.
Not only does high-priced gifting come into play, but the end of the year means the current year’s model will soon become last year’s model. Automakers and dealers want to carry as little inventory as possible into the new year. Dealers will sometimes even lose money on a deal, to meet calendar or December sales objectives.
Similarly, the end of the month in general is a good time to buy. Sales goals set for the end-of-the-month are important to sales managers and salespeople, often because it can mean big bonuses for meeting their goals. In some cases, the number of vehicles sold can be just as important (or more) than the actual month’s sales profit. Afterall, room must be made for new inventory on its way. KBB says to head to the dealership between the 16th and 20th of the month, but to not lock in the deal just yet. Instead, wait until the last two or three days of the month to negotiate.
Holiday sales events, like Memorial Day, Labor Day, or Black Friday sales, are another time to take advantage of. Again, dealerships set competitive sales goals and are always looking to beat last year’s sales. With big sales events, the goals are higher and competition more fierce. Special rebates and financing is often offered and inventory is stocked up for the picking.
An even more strategic time to shop is when a new model has been announced. Model changeovers mean sellers need to make room for the new ones, so it’s time for the now “old” models to move. When a salesperson knows certain clients will be eager to buy the hot-off-the-truck model, they’re more inclined to discount the other models.
Finally, if you haven’t noticed a trend here, even the end of the day can be better than any other time to buy. While we wouldn’t suggest you walk onto the lot 5 minutes before closing, there’s nothing like making a deal at the 11th hour for sellers, which means if you are ready to buy before they turn off the lights, dealers may be inclined to offer incentives to let you drive off the lot by the end of the night.
The worst time to buy reflects times when there is a slim to no chance of a deal being offered. For one, when a brand new and in-demand model is released, you can more than likely expect to pay full sticker price.
You not only want to avoid recently released models for the above reason, but you also don’t want to purchase a new model before the reviews are in. This way you avoid potentially buying a lemon. Be sure to check review from credible sources like Kelly Blue Book or Consumer Reports.
Since the best times to buy are at the end of [insert timeframe] then — you guessed it — one of the worst times to shop is the beginning of the year, month, week, or day. Most dealers will be looking at a big sales goal at the top of the month, for example, and will be less likely to offer discounts at first.
Different from the beginning of the calendar year, but equally as discouraged is the beginning of the model year. You may have noticed that the next year’s models tend to show up before the current year is even over, around August and September.
When it comes to seasons, the Spring is the least ideal time to buy. With tax refunds in pockets and Spring road trips are on minds, dealerships are busier than ever, meaning deals and discounts are less likely.