In theory, a determined buyer should be able to strike a solid bargain on a given car or truck on any day of the year. However, there are times when deep dealer discounts can be easier to obtain, and automakers’ sales incentives (including cash rebates and discounted financing) are often the most generous.
One caution, however: Don’t expect a car dealership to ignore the law of supply and demand. Slower-selling models and vehicles in odd color and/or feature combinations will always command deeper discounts than those that are in greater demand. Less popular and overstocked models are most likely to be offered with zero percent financing or generous cash-back offers.
Still, it’s possible to leverage the calendar to your advantage. Here’s a quick look at what car-buying experts agree are the best days to buy a new car or truck.
Arguably the worst time of any given week to go car shopping is on a weekend when the dealership is busiest. You’re better off taking a test drive on a Monday or Tuesday. That’s when the showroom is quiet and salespeople have plenty of time to answer questions and negotiate a favorable deal without being hurried or interrupted. Also, lenders are open on weekdays, and that could make obtaining financing easier and quicker if you haven’t arranged for it ahead of time.
End of the Month or Quarter
Both dealerships and salespeople adhere to monthly and/or quarterly sales goals, often with some kind of bonus involved for meeting them. If these quotas haven’t yet been met as the end of the month or quarter approaches, dealers may be more open to negotiating on price so they can meet their sales goals. Also, a salesperson might push his or her manager harder to get a customer a lower price on a particular vehicle. The salesperson would then make up for getting a lower commission on the transaction by earning a cash reward for meeting a quota. There’s no telling if a given dealership or salesperson is in this position, however.
Those looking for a great deal on a car or truck might want to go shopping over a national holiday weekend. These generally include Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. That’s when automakers typically conduct flashy promotions with better-than-average cash rebates and other incentives. For their part, dealerships get into the game with special advertising of their own on holiday weekends. During these times, they may be more receptive to negotiations as they endeavor to boost sales so they can recover the added advertising expense.
End of the Model Year
You’ll find some great bargains at the end of a model year as dealers are usually willing to cut their margins to make room for the following year’s inventory. A model year traditionally ends around Labor Day for domestic brands and maybe a month or two later for imports. Discounts will usually be deeper and automakers’ incentives richer on the slowest-selling vehicles and/or those that are about to undergo a major redesign or be discontinued.
However, by then you may have trouble finding a given vehicle on the lot with the color and optional content you desire. What’s more, if resale value is important to you, be aware that your new vehicle will essentially be a year old after its model year has passed. That means you’ll have lost an additional year’s depreciation almost immediately.
Once reserved for early morning stampedes of crazed consumers gobbling up cheap flat-screen televisions, the day after Thanksgiving has become one of the biggest sales days of the year for shoppers in the market for a new vehicle. Automakers and dealers often conduct Black Friday promotions with special incentives to lure consumers into showrooms who are already in a spending mood.
End of the Calendar Year
Analysts agree that consumers who go car-shopping in December could obtain the best deals of all, with the biggest bargains usually up for grabs on New Year’s Eve. Again, dealers and salespeople want to meet yearly sales goals, usually with bonuses at stake. Automakers may hike their incentives on many models during the final days of the month to help meet their own targets. If you can’t make it on New Year’s Eve, the best days to visit a dealership are said to be December 27-30, and especially Christmas Eve, when customer volume is especially light.
But don’t expect a holiday miracle. Again, unpopular and overstocked cars and trucks, especially any remaining from the previous model year, are the most likely models to be offered with the deepest discounts and biggest rebates at year’s end. Some of the hottest-selling vehicles with scarce inventories may still be offered at full sticker price.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in November 2015. It has been completely updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.