When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

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By |2020-07-29T14:59:44-04:00July 29, 2020 - 10:49AM|Car Buying Tips & Resources|
a hand circling a date on a calendar

Photo Credit: Getty / Kwangmoozaa

The best time to buy a car is when dealers are most motivated to hit big sales targets. That means you should shop during the end of the month, the end of the sales quarter, the end of the year, and holiday weekends like Black Friday. Weekdays, when they aren’t getting as many customers, are also good. You should also shop during the end of a car’s model year, when dealers are eager to clear the way for new models.

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While figuring out the best time to buy a car isn’t a science, it is possible to leverage the calendar to your advantage. Here’s a quick look at what car-buying experts agree are the best times of year to buy a new car or truck.

When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

Weekdays

On a Monday or Tuesday, 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 if you haven’t arranged for it ahead of time.

Arguably, the worst days of the week to go car shopping are on the weekend, when the dealership is busiest.

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.

Read more about how to negotiate

Also, a salesperson might push their manager harder to get a customer a lower price on a particular vehicle. The salesperson would make up for getting a lower commission on the transaction by earning a cash reward for meeting a quota.

End of the Calendar Year

The time of year you shop for a car is important, and 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, and there are usually bonuses at stake. Automakers may hike their incentives on many models during the final days of the month to help meet their own targets.

See the best end-of-year car deals

If you can’t make it on New Year’s Eve, the best days to visit a dealership are December 24 and December 27-30. Christmas Eve, when customer volume is light, is especially good.

When New Models Come Out

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 on the slowest-selling vehicles, or those that are about to undergo a major redesign or be discontinued.

You may have trouble finding an older vehicle on the lot with the color and optional content you desire, so you might have to be flexible. Also 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.

Holiday Weekends

Those looking for a great deal on a car or truck might want to go shopping over a national holiday weekend. The best holidays for car deals generally include:

Best Holiday Weekends to Shop for a Car

On these holiday weekends, automakers will 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. During holiday weekends, they may be more receptive to negotiations as they endeavor to boost sales so they can recover the added advertising expense.

Best Time to Buy a New Car vs Best Time to Buy a Used Car

The best times to buy a car are pretty much the same for new and used models. You want to focus on times when salespeople need to hit sales targets, like the end of the month, sales quarter and year, as well as holiday weekends. Supplies of used cars will also spike three years after the car was released as a new vehicle, because they’ll be coming off lease. If you focus on three-year-old used cars, you can get a great deal on a gently used vehicle.

More about choosing new vs used cars

Set Your Expectations About the Savings

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.

See the latest used car deals from automakers

One point of 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 high demand. Less popular and overstocked models are most likely to be offered with zero percent financing or generous cash-back offers.

Shopping With Carfax

If you’re ready to buy, our Used Car Listings can help; every listing comes with a free Carfax report. You can use our dealer directory to find the top-rated dealers in your area. If you’re still researching which car to buy, head over to our Vehicle Research Pages. Once you buy a car, Carfax Car Care makes it easy to take care of it, with maintenance reminders, recall alerts and more, all tailored to your specific vehicle.

If you have questions about this story, please contact us at Editors@carfax.com

About the Author:

Jim Gorzelany has been covering cars for more than 30 years, with 17 of those spent as automotive editor for Consumers Digest magazine. He specializes in the vehicle buying and ownership experiences, with a few car reviews thrown in for good measure. Jim’s work has been featured in print publications including Forbes, Chicago Magazine, Men’s Fitness, Executive Travel and Muscle & Fitness, as well as websites including Forbes.com and Carfax.com. His weekly “Wheel Deals” newspaper articles are syndicated by CTW Features. Jim holds a B.A. in Communication from Southern Illinois University and lives just outside of Chicago.