When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

December 2, 2020
Written by: Ray Shefska

The grand paradox of car shopping is that it can be simultaneously exciting and stressful. You not only want a new car, but you also want the best deal possible. This dilemma can leave you wondering whether there’s an actual best time to buy a car. There are numerous opinions on the subject, but ask yourself: are those opinions based on reliable auto sales industry data?

To reduce any confusion, we’ve put together this summary about how to plan your next automotive purchase. Let us help you clear the clutter and navigate your way to the best deal possible.

Here’s the first helpful hint—knowing when dealers are highly motivated to move product can help you determine the best time to visit a dealership and hopefully get a great deal. Let’s dive in.

Is there really a “best time to buy a car?” 

There are plenty of myths and claims about when you can get the best prices on cars. Many of these include specific holidays as well as certain days of the month, specific days of the year, and even exact times of the day. Some of these myths are based on observable trends in the auto industry, so let’s dig into those that hold the most merit.

For starters, it’s commonly understood that Mondays are the slowest day of the week at dealerships. So, if you’re in the market for a car and want to gain the rapt attention of a salesperson looking to make a deal or to meet a quota, consider visiting a dealership at midday on a Monday. 

Another quirky fact is that shopping during a blizzard can be an excellent way to get a great deal. This is because poor weather conditions generally deter customers from walking around car lots, and employees are anxious to make a sale for the day or to meet their quotas. Turns out living in a cold weather climate could be to your advantage when it comes to car shopping!

The key word in all of this, though…is quotas.

At the End of the Month

Dealers are assigned sales goals for each month. That means both management and sales staff at dealerships are inclined to offer better deals as their deadline approaches. So, if you visit the dealership on the last business day of the month, it gives you a bit more leverage in the negotiations.

Traditionally, January and February are difficult months for dealers, depending, of course, on other aspects of the economy. This makes it even more likely that a dealer may offer better deals for buyers during this time span. It seems too simple to be true but imagine shopping on Monday at midday during a snowstorm at the end of February. Now, you could be hitting the sweet spot!

At the End of the Quarter

Dealers aren’t the only individuals setting targets. Automotive manufacturers establish end of quarter goals for dealers which means the end of each quarter presents buyers with an opportunity to save some money. As you might expect, these quarters typically end in March, June, September, and December. 

At the End of the Year

The last few days of December represent the absolute best time to buy a car because automotive manufacturers, dealers, and sales staff are highly motivated to achieve year-end sales goals. This motivation to negotiate comes from the fact that dealers get year-end bonuses from manufacturers when annual sales quotas are met.

Factory-to-dealer incentives can add up to a significant amount of income for dealers, so it’s common practice to offer enticements such as discounted prices, significant rebates, and special financing terms to customers as a financial benefit to both the buyer and the dealership.

Best Holidays to Buy a Car 

Using a savings of at least 5% as a worthwhile objective for a customer (which can amount to a savings of over $1,100), research shows that the following holidays have been identified as some of the best days to buy a car. 

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Veteran’s Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Black Friday
  • Christmas Eve
  • New Year’s Eve
  • New Year’s Day

It’s worth noting that the whole week from Christmas to New Year’s is the peak week for deals. In addition to being the holiday season, these days fall during the end-of-month, end-of-quarter, and end-of-year sales quota period for dealers, all of which can add up to great deals for car buyers. 

The Worst Time to Buy a Car

If there’s a best time to buy a car, it makes sense that there’s also a worst time to buy a car. As a general rule, you should never walk into a dealership desperate. Experienced salespeople can sense eagerness and are less likely to move off a set price. Even if you face a scenario where your car has been breaking down, or worse, has been totaled in a wreck, you can’t let those setbacks influence your decision-making.

If you’re thinking about buying or selling your car, you might enjoy this article if you haven’t read it already: The Car Buyer’s Glossary of Terms, Lingo, and Jargon

Still, if you don’t have the luxury of waiting for the best time to buy a car during the days we’ve listed above, here are some other days when shopping for a new ride may work to your advantage.

  • 4th of July
  • Columbus Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter
  • Father’s Day
  • Halloween
  • Mother’s Day
  • Memorial Day

Negotiating the Best Deal

Obviously, the best time to purchase a vehicle is when you don’t need one, but remember that your finest negotiating strategy, other than choosing the right day and best time to buy a car, is your willingness to walk away without one. 

Furthermore, it’s ok to mention that you know about sales quotas set by manufacturers. It’s alright to ask how much closer the dealership wants to get to its monthly, quarterly, or annual sales goals. Tell the manager that for the right price you’re willing to help the dealership get closer to hitting those targets.

Choosing the best time to buy a car can be complicated, and that’s why we’re here to provide you with the information you need. When you’re ready to choose your next new or used car, consider going to the dealership during one of these key times for making deals, and check out our recommendations on negotiating and receiving worthwhile discounts.

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1 Comment

  1. Q. HOSKIE

    Great information shared. I often follow your videos as I’m looking for a older model 2007-2010 Lexus 460. I’ve seen price ranges from $11,000 to $15,000 as I look for that brand under $15,000.

    Reply

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