Timing, in many ways, really is everything.
With the gift of 20:20 hindsight, it’s very easy to see when the best time to do any given thing would have been. Unfortunately, 20:20 hindsight only shows what could have been, it doesn’t really give one the benefit of what can be.
Or does it?
Often by observing what has worked in the past, we can get insights as to what might work today. And this timing can be everything. By learning from those who went before us, we don’t have to repeat their mistakes.
Perhaps in few other arenas is this as true as it is for buying a new car. As chaotic as it seems, it really is a rather ordered process, with some significant consistencies. After all it’s a business system, so there have to be some parameters within which it must operate to be continually successful.
With that that said, there are some universal truths to car buying.
One of them is there is definitely a best time to buy a car and there is also a worst time to buy a car if you’re looking to get the best possible price on it.
Timing aside, you should never go to a dealership to negotiate the purchase of a car without having thoroughly researched your needs, ability to pay, and everything about the car you’re going to buy. Right here on the Autobytel Website, you can find out how much the car costs, how much others like it are selling for, what incentives and rebates are available to buyers of the car, and what its competitive models have to offer.
Until you have a very thorough knowledge of all of those facts, you’re basically a pigeon waiting to be plucked on any car lot in the land. The worst thing you can ever do is to show up at a dealership with no idea of what a car you’re considering purchasing is all about.
Knowledge is power, and power exercised at just the right moment is a definite advantage in any transaction. Therefore, the worst time to buy a new car is when you know nothing about the car.
So, when is the BEST time to buy a car?
Ask five different people when is the best time of day to go buy a new car and you’re likely to get five different responses. The best person to ask is the sales manager at a car dealership. But you can’t expect that person to honestly tell you how to take money out of his/her pocket. The next best person to ask is a retired car salesperson. Ray Lopez, in his book Inside The Minds Of Car Dealers (Five Star Publications, Inc. $15.95 at Amazon.com) says the best time of the day to go to a dealership to buy a car is in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week—ideally early in the afternoon.
Many people think showing up just before the dealership closes will cause salespeople to give up a better price just so they can get the deal done and go home. However, a dealership will stay open just as long as it takes, and will actually use the fact it’s late against you. They can use the lateness of the hour to guilt you into making a purchase at less than ideally favorable terms. Or, they’ll just put up the closed sign and grind away until three in the morning if need be.
Weekends at most car dealerships are madhouses, everybody and their mother shows up on Saturday and Sunday because they don’t have to work. Plus, that’s when the dealership runs ads of specials to try to draw as many people as possible into the store. The more people trying to buy, the less the dealer needs to discount to make money, and consequently the more rigidly they adhere to prices. Those people are looked upon by and large as anxious buyers and get very little in the way of flexibility from the sales staff.
Conversely, showing up in the middle of the day in the middle of the week says you have time to kill. If you then sound knowledgeable about the product and demonstrate a certain non-chalance, the sales person will be more likely to work with you from a position of respect. And, you’ll be more likely to negotiate the deal you want. Plus it’s slow; they want to sell cars to keep their numbers up, so they’re less likely to let a sincere buyer just go.
So, how do you know when to go?
Yes, salespeople have quotas; and so does the dealership. But contrary to what most people believe, it isn’t always the last week of the month when the numbers have to be made. In many cases it can extend into the first week of the following month. That two-week period is very possibly when you’ll find dealerships a bit more flexible in terms of pricing.
Similarly, the period of time right after the holidays can be good too, most people are spent out for Christmas, and so the last week of December, through first few weeks of January can be slow all around. Show up then with your research done, in a relaxed and rational emotional state, and you’ll likely find the negotiating process a bit easier.
At the end of a model year, going into a new model year, particularly on models that are being heavily revised, updated or replaced for the new model year, you can find great deals. Any cars from the previous model year that are left over when the new model year starts, the dealer will likely have to eat, use as loaners for the service department, or discount heavily. If you show up interested in one of those and have done your research, and negotiate for it reasonably, you can get a good deal.
Basically, as any student of economics will tell you, it’s all about supply and demand. When demand is low and supply is high, the price goes down. When supply is low and demand is high, the price goes up. By paying attention to the peaks and lulls in the economy of your area, you can pretty well determine when a good time of the month and or year is to make your purchase. Then, once you figure it out as for as the time of the month and the time of the year are concerned, go shopping in the middle of the week in the middle of the day.
That said; there still times to avoid…
The worst time to buy any car is right after it is introduced to the market — particularly if it is a car with a great deal of notoriety — regardless of the day of the week, the time of the day, or the month of the year.
When the Mazda Miata was introduced back in 1989, the car created such uproar the demand for it was through the stratosphere. Dealers charged as much as $5000 over the sticker price (some even demanded $10,000 over); and trendy buyers, anxious to be the first ones driving around in the diminutive convertible happily paid it. It wouldn’t surprise us to learn there are people out there some 23 years later who are still upside down in early Miatas.
Similarly, if a particular color combination of an attractive model is popular, you can expect very little in the way of price leniency. In the early 2000’s Volkswagen Jettas in silver with black leather interiors were heavily in demand. Consequently, if you bought a silver and black leather equipped Jetta, you paid more for it than if you bought a white and tan Jetta. Again, it’s purely a case of supply and demand; supply’s low, demand’s high—price is high.
Similarly, many dealers will give a customer a better price on a car they already have on the lot, than if they have to effect a dealer trade, or special-order a car from the factory. Every car at the dealership that is unsold is costing the dealer money. The cars are financed too, so the dealer is paying more interest on the loan for the car every day it remains unsold. If the dealer has a white and tan Jetta with all the equipment you want, but to get you a red one they’d have to do a trade, or order it, that white and tan one is still sitting there unsold. Do the dealer a favor and take the white and tan one; you’ll likely get a better price.
In other words, do not go shopping if you are unwilling to compromise and you also want to get the best deal possible. Show willingness to compromise, you’ll often get a better deal. Here, it is important to note the specific importance of your emotional state when buying a car. If you give a salesperson a hint you’re really in love with a certain car, color combination, or equipment package, or that you really NEED a car, they’ll be a lot more obstinate in terms of negotiating a lower price.
Many people think showing up on a rainy day or a cold day, or a very hot day is a good thing to do because the dealership is slow. But it also says you really need a car.
Otherwise, why would you be out in lousy weather trying to buy one?
The best time to buy a car is when you absolutely know what you’re doing. After all your research is done, and you know what the car cost the dealer, how much is in the car in terms of rebates and incentives, and how much the hold back granted the dealer by the manufacturer is (essentially money allotted to give the dealer room to negotiate the price of the car), you can go in and start negotiations.
It is very important to realize a car dealership is a business, and as such is entitled to make a reasonable profit on the investment it has in the car, its facilities and its personnel—in order to stay in business. Yes, there is a difference between a fair profit and taking advantage of a buyer. It’s up to you to do everything you can to find out what that price should be in order to protect yourself.
Yes, there are certain periods of time when you are more likely to get a much lower price than others, however you’ll never get a car for less than a dealer paid for it, unless something is very wrong with that car. If you do your homework, negotiate respectfully, be willing to compromise, and choose your timing carefully; you should get yourself a reasonable price on your next new car.