You’ve picked out your dream car and put away some savings for a down payment. Now all that’s left is making sure you get the best deal on your purchase. But when is the best time to buy a car?
If you’re willing and able to time the buying of your new car carefully, you can potentially save thousands of dollars on your purchase. Continue reading to learn the best time to buy a car.
Best Time to Buy a Car: Key Tips
- Make time for car shopping early in the day.
- Shop for a car early in the week and try to avoid weekends.
- Shop for a car late in the month, but don’t wait until the very last day.
- Shop for a car late in the year, starting in October.
- Consider holiday sales, including Black Friday and Memorial Day.
- Wait for next year’s model to come out to buy this year’s model.
- Be patient when you’re shopping for a car, if you can.
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Make Time for Car Shopping Early in the Day
If you’ve ever shown up at a restaurant five minutes before closing, you’ll recognize some of the problems with car shopping at the very end of the day.
Not only will you enjoy better customer service if you shop earlier in the day, but you’ll also have ample time to work with a salesperson one-on-one.
The best time to shop for a car is around 10:00 AM. The pre-lunch hours provide plenty of time to sit down with a salesperson and go over the numbers in detail, and plenty of time to work out a better deal.
It’s an especially good idea to arrive early if you plan on test-driving vehicles before you buy, or if you want to take your new car home same-day.
Shop Early in the Week
The best time to shop for a car is when the dealership is slow and demand is low. You’ll receive more personal service, which can result in a lower price tag, and the dealership will be more motivated to make a sale. In short, less traffic at the dealership translates to better deals.
Car lots tend to be most crowded on weekends. If you can plan your trip for a weekday, you’ll have a better chance of negotiating a lower price on your dream car.
The best day to go car shopping is Monday, as it’s usually the slowest day at a car dealership. Tuesday and Wednesday should be your next choices, and Thursday should be the latest in the week you visit the car lot if you’re trying to get a good deal.
Shop Late in the Month
Car dealerships have monthly sales quotas that they expect their salespeople to meet. If by the end of the month a salesperson hasn’t reached the quota, they’ll be much more motivated to make a sale when you walk onto the lot. This gives you an advantage in negotiating a lower price on your new car.
However, keep in mind that sales deadlines don’t always match up perfectly with the calendar month. Salespeople may have to meet their monthly quota by the 28th, and their quota count may start over the very next day, on the 29th.
That means that this strategy could backfire if you walk onto the lot on the 29th and try to negotiate a better price on a new car. The salesperson may be at the very beginning of their quota for the month, rather than at the end, and they may not be as motivated to make a sale at that moment.
Additionally, you want to avoid showing up on the very last day of the sales period, at which point staff will be swamped with paperwork and with other customers who are making use of the same strategy.
Try to shop for your car a few days to a week before the end of the month—on the 26th or 27th, or earlier if those dates fall on a weekend. In February, shop on the 24th or 25th to make sure you beat the dealership’s sales deadline but don’t get lost among dozens of other buyers on the busiest day of the year.
Shop Late in the Year
Similarly, car dealerships have sales deadlines at the end of each fiscal quarter and at the end of each year. Dealerships may have different quarterly deadlines, so it can be challenging to pin down the best day to shop.
However, you can easily take advantage of the sales deadlines that inevitably happen at the end of each year.
The final quarter of the year will begin in October, making fall the perfect time to shop for your new car. The pressure will increase as this final quarter of the year runs down through October, November, and December. If your salesperson is motivated to meet a yearly quota, you’ll have a good chance of negotiating a better deal during these three months of the year.
Use the previous tip of shopping at the end of the month to further multiply this effect. Also keep in mind the first tip of buying on a weekday (preferably a Monday) to avoid other shoppers who are rushing in for end-of-the-year savings.
Consider Holiday Car Sales
The end of the year is also a good time for car shopping for another reason: holiday sales. Holiday sales can be a great time to shop for lower car prices at your local dealership. While many holiday sales happen at the end of the year, summer sales are also worth keeping an eye out. Here are three of the best holidays for car shopping:
One of the primary holiday sales for car dealerships is Black Friday. Just like most other retailers, car dealerships use the day after Thanksgiving as an opportunity to cut back prices and sell off some of their stock before the end of the year.
Depending on the dealership and the car, you may be able to get lower prices by shopping for your car on Black Friday. However, weigh that possibility against the inevitability that the dealership will likely be crowded with fellow sale-seekers. If the dealership offers a week-long Black Friday promotion, you may have better luck finding a deal without the added stress.
New Year’s Eve
Another time your dealership might slash prices is the very last day of the year. As mentioned above, the car lot likely has specific numbers they want to meet by the end of the year, and New Year’s Eve is their last chance to reach those quotas.
If you’re able to break free from New Year’s Eve celebrations on the last day of the year, you may be able to get a lower price on your new car.
Memorial Day and July 4th
Memorial Day is a mid-year point for car dealerships. It’s summer—a time when cars are usually at their most expensive. But at the same time, next year’s car models are starting to come onto the market. On Memorial Day, many car dealerships cut back prices for the cars that are already on the lot.
Similarly, many dealerships also offer discounts on the 4th of July, as well as Labor Day.
Wait for Next Year’s Model
New car models come out each and every year. Sometimes those models are drastically different, while other times, only minimal changes are made.
If you have your eye on a vehicle model from this year or earlier, you can get a better deal by shopping after the manufacturer releases next year’s model. Even if the car you want is several years old already, waiting until the new one comes out will move your model one more notch down the price totem-pole.
Your best tool when car shopping is patience. If you’re able to wait until the best time of day, week, month, and year to buy a car, you’re more likely to get a better deal.
Car-buying isn’t always so conducive to patient shopping, however. If your car broke down and you need a new car quickly, try to maintain as much patience as you can while shopping within your expedited time-frame.
You may still be able to shop early in the day and early in the week. If you have to visit the dealership late in the afternoon or on a weekend, do your homework ahead of time. Decide which car you want to buy, and bring with you the price you’re willing to pay.
The key is staying composed and deliberate, rather than rushing yourself (or the salesperson) through the process.
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Worst Time to Buy a Car
We’ve answered the question, “When is the best time to buy a car?” But you may also be wondering, “When is the worst time to buy a car?” If you know the worst times to buy a car, you can avoid the potential pitfalls of buying at those times.
Late in the Day
Some shoppers claim that the end of the day is the best time to buy a car. The idea is that, at the end of the day, salespeople may be in a rush to get through the sale. In theory, they may be more amenable to negotiation just so they can get home faster.
However, the enemy of a successful negotiation is impatience and a lack of time. A car salesperson is a professional negotiator, while you likely aren’t (at least not in that environment). If you’re rushing through the process, you’re more likely to budge on your budget than the salesperson is to lower the price just because it’s late in the day.
Moreover, the salesperson may simply ask you to come back the next day if you arrive too late in the day. The hours between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM are also likely to be busier since shoppers are getting off of work for the day.
You’re better off arriving before lunch when everyone has time to think things over and read the fine print. The sales staff will still be motivated to make the sale before the end of the day.
You may have plenty of time to shop for a car on the weekend, but so does everyone else. Salespeople at the car dealership are more likely to be overwhelmed with shoppers and paperwork on the weekend, leaving little time for you to get one-on-one customer service.
If you need to test-drive a vehicle, you’ll likely find yourself waiting at the dealership for an available staff member to help. A trip to the car dealership that might take two hours early on a weekday may take four hours or more on a busy Saturday. Additionally, the higher demand on weekends can result in higher prices for you as a buyer.
The summer holidays of Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day are great for seasonal car deals. Around the summer season, new-model cars are starting to come out for the next year.
Leading up to that point, however, and even in between summer holidays, cars are at their peak prices. From the beginning of the year through the end of spring, you’ll want to avoid buying a new car if you want to get the best possible deal.
Plan Ahead for Car-Buying
So when is the best time to buy a car? Many factors play into timing your car purchase. You may get a better deal if you shop for a car early in the week, late in the month and year, and around holiday promotions. To summarize, high demand results in higher prices, while low demand results in better deals.
But more importantly, the best time to buy a car is after you’ve done your research and prepared for your purchase. Before you visit the dealership, you can do the majority of your shopping online. You can even visit the dealership to test-drive a car well ahead of the date you plan to purchase the vehicle.
Whether you’re able to wait until the end of the year to buy a car, or you have to buy in the middle of spring, being prepared and keeping your budget firm will go a long way in saving you money on your purchase.