Key takeaways

  • President’s Day may be a good time to buy a car, as dealerships tend to offer holiday deals and incentives — especially when inventory levels are high.
  • Car shoppers need to come prepared and do their research, as vehicle prices have increased since before the pandemic.
  • While there may be good deals on holidays, it’s ultimately essential for car shoppers to consider their own needs and financial situation before making a purchase.

Although President’s Day may not get the attention of other popular times to buy a car, the holiday weekend can still be a good time to find a deal. Vehicle inventory has increased, leading to more dealership incentives as dealers try to clear space on their lots.

If you plan to shop over the coming holiday weekend, here’s what to expect and how to secure the best deal.

President’s Day car sales 2024

According to Joseph Yoon, Edmunds’ consumer insights analyst, this might be the year that shoppers see a return of holiday deals.

This comes after recent years of reduced inventory, leading to dealerships offering fewer discounts. According to Cox Automotive, new and unsold vehicles at the end of 2023 stood at 2.66 million units, about 50 percent higher than a year prior. With more vehicles to sell, dealerships are incentivized to offer discounts and deals.

“President’s Day weekend might be the intro to what might happen for the rest of the year because we are starting to see the return of some discounts.”

— Joseph Yoonconsumer insights analyst at Edmunds

High demand meets high prices

When inventory was so low over the past couple of years, explains Yoon, those who would have normally purchased a new vehicle didn’t. In 2024, those drivers may be paying off their cars and are ready for something new.

“People saw that the vehicle they wanted was unavailable, or they weren’t willing to pay over sticker or the interest rate was too high,” he explains. This has led to a build-up in demand, known as deferred demand.

Yoon warns, “If the last time you bought a car was five, six years ago, don’t expect a similar experience.”

Unfortunately, vehicles come at much higher price tags than they did before the pandemic. The average transaction price (ATP) for new cars has hovered above $47,000 since December 2022, according to Edmunds. In January, however, used cars hit their lowest average price since May 2021 at $27,018.

But both costs are dramatically higher than what drivers were spending pre-pandemic.

Yoon also advises shoppers to check their local inventory before heading to the lot, especially if they have a specific model in mind.

“Most dealerships tend to stock vehicles they know are going to sell well,” he explains.

So, while inventory is up, you will likely still have trouble finding a specific, less-popular vehicle. And thanks to deferred demand, you may face more competition for those models from other deal-hungry shoppers.

“Don’t just walk into a dealership and expect things to go right for you,” he advises.

Is President’s Day a good time to buy a car?

Yes, President’s Day can be a good time to purchase a vehicle. Dealerships to offer special deals during holidays. But the best time to buy a car is based on your needs. Seeking President’s Day deals only makes sense if you were already planning on buying a car.

Be wary of seasonal deals as inventory returns

Seasonal marketing can be enticing, but patience may save you money if you can wait. It is essential not to get distracted by slashed vehicle prices. Remember that the number you see printed on the vehicle’s front window will not be the exact amount you will spend.

Your out-the-door price includes fees and taxes, which add up to more than the number you initially see. Unless you land a 0 percent APR deal, you’ll also pay interest.

When exploring these car deals, keep your wits about yourself to ensure you remain within the budget you calculate.

Loan
Consider other financing options
While dealerships tend to offer holiday deals, you may be able to land a better interest rate with a bank, credit union or online lender.

How to secure a good car deal

No matter the season, there are actions you can take before shopping to help you get the best deal.

  • Improve your credit. Most lenders use credit scores as the main way they set your interest rate. The stronger your credit score, the better rate you will likely receive.
  • Shop around. It’s smart not only shop around to find the best car for your budget and needs but also to shop for the best auto loan rate. If you have weak credit, browse our best bad credit auto loan picks.
  • Apply for preapproval. Preapproval means you can shop knowing your interest rate and maximum price tag. Having preapproval can help you prepare for expected costs and use the number as leverage when negotiating.
  • Focus on budget. To ensure you can afford your future set of wheels, remember that your budget is made up of costs outside of the vehicle price tag. Check out our guide to determining how much car you can afford.

Patience might save you money

While there is no special time to secure a discounted car deal, shopping based on holiday trends can potentially save you some money. While more inventory available on dealership lots this year will mean incentives, President’s Day is just the beginning of available deals.

“Maybe the Independence Day sales might be better than the President’s Day sales,” says Yoon, “or Labor Day sales might be better than the Independence Day sales.”

If you have been waiting and have the privilege of waiting even longer, you might be able to secure an even better deal over the coming months.

But most importantly, the best time to purchase a vehicle comes down to when you need it. And when the time comes, President’s Day or not, compare auto loan rates to ensure you get the best deal.