When is the best time to buy a car?

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Buying a car isn’t always a simple and straightforward process, and there’s one big question buyers often consider before making the purchase: When is the best time to buy a car?

The answer varies based on the month, the day, the salesperson you’re working with and a range of other factors. If you’re searching for the magic moment to drive off the lot with a significant discount, consider these tips on the best time to buy a car.

Best day of the week to buy a new car: Mondays

Monday can be the best time to buy a new car. Other potential shoppers are focusing on the responsibilities of their jobs, so representatives at car dealerships are focused on anyone who comes in the door.

“Come Monday, everyone has made a lot of good sales and enjoyed the activity of a busy weekend,” says Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader. “If you call or email a dealer on a Monday, there is a chance that you’re going to get either a better deal or simply more attention. If the person has more time, they might throw in something extra such as free oil changes or free car washes.”

The month of May

Before you buy a car, consider the month of the year. Certain months of the year are better than others.

Historically, May has been a major month for auto sales. Between 2013 and 2018, data from Cox Automotive shows it was a hub of buyer activity. Much of that activity can be attributed to “aggressive holiday incentives and promotions” for Memorial Day.

Shop late in the year and late in the month

The months of October, November and December are the best time of year to buy a car. Car dealerships have sales quotas, which typically break down into yearly, quarterly and monthly sales goals. And all three goals begin to come together late in the year.

“As the end of the year starts to approach, the dealer wants to have the newest cars on their lot,” Moody says. “If they happen to have a lot of models from the previous year, they may be more inspired to take a deal on those.”

However, Moody cautions getting one of those deals requires a willingness to accept existing inventory — not the ability to choose specific options or colors. “Be flexible,” he says, “and get something the dealer already has.”

It’s not just the end of the year when dealerships may offer the most compelling savings opportunities though. “The end of the month, the end of the quarter, the end of any period is usually a good time to go,” Moody says. “That’s when there might be bonus opportunities for the salesperson or the dealer that give them extra incentive to want you to leave in a new car.”

Holidays are also an excellent time of year to buy a new car

We’ve all seen the holiday-themed commercials with car dealers urging you to shop and save on special occasions. And those advertisements, in many cases, are speaking the truth. A holiday sale can offer deep discounts compared with car prices throughout the rest of the year.

Here are a few holidays throughout the year that are especially great for buying a car.

  • Presidents Day: The first few months of the year tend to be slow for all consumer activity, including auto sales, but some manufacturers work to spur spending over Presidents Day weekend.
  • Memorial Day: Summer is typically among the most expensive times of year to buy a car, but dealers tend to cut prices back around Memorial Day, making it a major car-buying holiday. Next year’s models tend to trickle out around midyear, reducing the price of cars already on the lot. Beware of big crowds, though. As the weather improves, there may be plenty of other buyers looking to score the start-of-summer deals.
  • July Fourth: Plenty of dealers will work to entice car buyers around the celebration of America’s Independence. After all, what’s more independent than the freedom of the road? However, if you do not need a car immediately, consider whether you can hold out for potentially bigger discounts available closer to the end of the year.
  • Labor Day: The unofficial end of the summer is officially one of the busiest times for buying a new car. According to Zo Rahim, manager of economics and industry insights at Cox Automotive, the week of Labor Day weekend accounts for more than 2 percent of all new car sales in an entire calendar year.
  • Black Friday: Car dealerships take part in the Black Friday sales craze just like the rest of the retail industry. In addition to manufacturer-offered incentives, put yourself in the individual salesperson’s shoes around this holiday time frame. “For example, around Christmas, the person who’s helping you might want to get home to his or her family and be more eager to wrap up the sale,” Moody says.
  • New Year’s Eve: If you can swing it, New Year’s Eve may be one of the best days of the year to shop for a car. Salespeople could be facing monthly, quarterly or yearly quotas on New Year’s Eve, and if they meet their sales goals they could earn a hefty bonus. This could make finding a favorable deal easier. You’ll ring in the new year with a new car — and a deal worth celebrating.

Consider buying a new car at the end of the model year

In addition to the end of the calendar year, it’s important to keep an eye on the end of the model year — the time frame when the newest versions will start hitting the road.

Moody says the fall is generally when manufacturers begin releasing new cars, but there are some exceptions. “If you pay a little bit of attention to see when the press is starting to share reviews about new cars,” he says, “it means the release is imminent.”

Note, however, that the coronavirus has caused the release of many 2021 models to be delayed.

If you’re considering buying an older model, Moody suggests waiting for an updated version.

“While you might be able to land a deal on the older model, it’s wise to consider holding out for the updated version. It’s very rare that an all-new version of a model comes out, and it’s $5,000 more,” Moody says. “It’s usually a few hundred dollars more, but it includes all kinds of new features and better gas mileage.”

Know your personal finances and be patient

Regardless of when you decide to buy a car, you’ll need more than perfect timing. You’ll also need a complete understanding of your own finances to know if you qualify for the best auto loan rates. “Know what you can afford,” Moody says. “If you see an offer for zero percent financing, it’s for people with excellent credit. How will you know if you qualify if you don’t know what your credit score is?”

Waiting for the best time to buy a car requires patience. If you have the ability to wait, time can be your ally. Cars almost always depreciate. Waiting for the right time of year to buy a car, or the right month, or the right day, can help you save thousands. The only thing sweeter than a new car is knowing you paid less to drive it.

Make sure you get the best auto loan rate when you buy a car. Compare auto loans on Bankrate. Or if you’re just starting to shop, check out more tips for buying the right new or used car.

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