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Updated on Monday, January 28, 2019
According to car ads, it’s always the best time to buy a new ride. For auto dealers and manufacturers, sure, but when is the best time for you? Timing plays an important role, especially for something as expensive as a vehicle. We’ll help you decide if and when you’re truly ready and if so, the optimum times to sign on the dotted line.
These are the 8 best times to buy a car
When you’re prepared
Consumer education is Kryptonite to car dealers — the more you know, the less likely they are to make an egregious amount of money off your car or car loan. Go to them with the fair price of the car and, if possible, find out if the same model is for sale at a different dealer across town. There are all sorts of helpful online apps and websites you could access from your phone before or even while you’re at the dealership.
Besides coming prepared with knowledge on car prices, come prepared with a preapproved auto loan. Dealerships are often able to raise your auto loan APR and take the difference as profit for themselves. The best way to combat this is to know what APR you deserve. You could apply to your bank, credit union or an online lender for a preapproval and check out the six best new and used car loan rates.
Pro tip: It does not hurt your credit to apply to multiple lenders anymore than it does to apply to one, as long as you do so within a 14-day window.
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Before you need one
The best time to buy a car is before you really need one. The more pressure you feel to buy one now, the fewer choices you have, and the more likely you are to feel pressured and make a deal that’s not best for you.
Planning your car purchase — emergencies notwithstanding — could also give you time and opportunity to save up for a down payment. You could prepare and read about how to set a budget and the best auto loan rates in 2019.
If you’ve planned your car purchase, researched cars and car loans, here are some of the best times to buy.
Dealerships are usually the busiest on weekends. Wait for the hubbub to die down and go on a Monday. With fewer customers that day, the salespeople may feel more pressure to sell and you may feel less pressure to buy. A 2016 study by TrueCar, a car-buying service, found that consumers had the highest average discount off the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on Monday, making it the best day of the week to buy a car.
End of the month
Most car salespeople receive commission for selling a certain number of cars each month — but what you may not know is that the dealership itself may receive a bonus from the manufacturer if it makes a sales goal as an organization. So, at the end of the month, both the individual salespeople and the dealership managers may be well motivated to sell a car to you. Even if the dealership loses money selling that one car, that one car may tip them over the line to make its big bonus goal. As such, you may be more likely to get a great deal on a car at the end of the month rather than the beginning or middle of the month.
End of the model year
When the new model year of cars come out, many people don’t consider the older year as new anymore. Fewer people want the older model year, even if the car itself is actually still new. And, as time goes on, the new car just gets older. Ergo, this is one way you could score a new car, never before owned, for a great price.
Different car models come out at different times. So if you have an idea of the car you want, search online to see when the new model year comes out and consider buying the older model year about a month after that date.
End of the calendar year
Both salespeople and the dealership as a whole want to make annual sales goals and get inventory off their lots before tax season. Also, there is usually prodigious end-of-year holiday incentives from the manufacturer, like rebates or 0% financing.
Many end-of-year sales last until Jan. 2, so you’re probably still safe to car shop on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It’s a good time to go car shopping, especially if you want to see well-motivated-to-make-an-end-of-year-bonus car salespeople.
December isn’t the only month in which you can find great car deals. Most American holidays, from President’s Day to Black Friday, have car sales campaigns centered on them. Do your research before you go to the dealership. Look for incentives not only from the manufacturer, but also from the dealerships.
The bottom line
Get a car when it’s the best time for you. It’s probably best if you get a car before you really need to buy one, so you don’t feel as pressured or as stressed to make a choice in a hurry.
These timing recommendations are guidelines. Don’t feel pressured to buy at a certain time just because there’s a sale — discounts can be found on different cars for different amounts depending on factors that you, the consumer, can’t easily predict. So if you have time, and the sale on the car you want isn’t good, you’re probably better off waiting and watching.