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When is the Best Time to Buy a Car

Michelle Naranjo
by Michelle Naranjo
May 21, 2011
3 min. Reading Time

Experts agree: the best time to buy a car is when you really need one. Whether you’re trying to determine the best time to buy a new car or the best time to buy a used car, the truth is that your individual requirements will dictate when is the best time to buy a car.

Let’s say your current car suffers an expensive breakdown. Your choices are to fix the old car, or take that money and put a down payment on a newer car. If you elect to buy a new car, it doesn’t matter when is the best time to buy a car – you need a different set of wheels right now. The good news is that there are always bargains to be had on any given day of any given month. You just need to find them.

Now, if you simply want a different car, you have the luxury of waiting until the best time to buy a car. If you are shopping at a dealership, the best time to buy a new car is close to the end of the month. That’s because everyone is trying to make his or her numbers for the month, from the auto manufacturer’s employees right down to the salesperson on the showroom floor. Special incentives and rebates are typically offered near the end of the month, and sometimes dealers are willing to sell a new car below cost in exchange for reaping potential incentives paid for selling greater numbers of a particular make and model.

November and December

If you’re trying to determine the best time of year to buy a car, that can vary depending on the make and model you’re considering. Generally speaking, however, the best time of year to buy a car is during the holidays in November and December. Most people are preoccupied with family, shopping, parties, and other commitments during this busy time of year. Plus, the weather in many regions of the country is cold and wet, and the days are so short that it’s already getting dark by the time many people leave the office. At the same time, the auto manufacturers are trying to meet sales projections for the year, so they pull out all the stops to entice consumers with big rebates and cheap lease payments. Better yet, the car makers are trying to get rid of old inventory, and will heavily discount remaining current calendar year models to make way for the new cars for the new year.

 Photo by Audi

Photo by Audi

Reducing Old Inventory

Frequently, reducing old inventory to clear the way for a new model occurs at other times of the year than in the fall and winter, which can alter the best time of the year to buy a car. For example, if an auto manufacturer decides to introduce a new model in June rather than wait for a traditional September debut, the car company will be offering large rebates and incentives on the old model starting in May and lasting through the summer. If you know that the model you want to buy is being phased out for something new and improved, the best time to buy a car is when you see advertising for the redesigned model. That means dealers are making compelling deals on the old version of the vehicle to clear space on the lot for the new car.


Best Time to Buy Used Cars

The best time of year to buy a used car is not as clearly defined as it is for new cars. Used car values fluctuate based on the laws of supply and demand, and are also dependent on the seller’s desire to complete a sale. If the seller is in no hurry, the price won’t budge much. Similarly, if the car is in high demand and low supply, the seller can command a premium price for the vehicle. As a buyer, you will enjoy greater price negotiation leverage by choosing a vehicle that is in plentiful supply, and which the seller wants to sell as soon as possible.



Seasonality can also impact when is the best time to buy a car, but only in certain vehicle segments. In other words, few people are shopping for a convertible in the fall, but lots of people look for a convertible in the spring. That means fall is a good time to buy a convertible, especially if you live someplace where palm trees don’t grow. Similarly, vehicles with four- or all-wheel-drive systems are in greater demand as winter approaches than they are when summer vacation is starting.

Clearly, the best time to buy a car is dependent on your specific car-buying situation, as well as the make and model you want to buy. Just keep in mind that on any given day, you will pay a little bit more than some buyers of the exact same car, and you will also pay a little bit less than other buyers of the exact same car. Car prices constantly fluctuate. Strike a deal that you believe is fair and which makes you happy, and don’t dwell on it. Instead, enjoy your new car.



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