When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

by Car Negotiation Coach

When should you buy a car to get the best price? Look at the infographic below to see how your timing can affect car prices. And if you want to know the best specific date for what you are buying, click the Get Started button above for a free recommendation.

As you’re reading, just remember that regardless of when you buy, you’ll find the best car prices online, not at the dealership.

  Click the infographic below to enlarge.

best time to buy a car

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Best Time of Year to Buy a Car

You can find the best prices on seasonal vehicles off-season.  Convertibles and sports cars can be cheaper in the fall and early winter because of less demand. The weather also plays an impactSUV’s might be discounted in the summer when gas prices are up and people aren’t as concerned about finding four wheel drive cars to navigate wintery roads.

If you’re looking for a home on the road, the best time to buy an RV in colder climates is when the snowbirds have headed south for the Winter.  Demand drops off and sellers know they are going to have to go through the hassle of winterizing and storing the RV for the off season.   Conversely, in parts of the South, the best time to buy an RV is in late Spring after buyers migrate back north and there is less local demand.

The fall months are also good for sales at the end of a model year.  Different manufacturers end model years at different times, but many change years in September or October.  Dealers want to get rid of old models to make room for new ones. And you can get especially good deals if the body style is changing.  Just be careful to weigh the discount on an end of model-year car.  As soon as you enter a new year, that car’s resale value will take a hit because it’s labeled as a whole year older.

Best Month to Buy a Car

December is a great month to buy a car because dealerships are desperate to lure shoppers on the lot while most people are preparing for the holidays and spending all their extra cash on gifts.  It’s also the best time of year to buy a car because dealerships are trying to hit their annual sales quotas and related bonuses.  Dealerships have both month-end and year-end targets, so December means big discounts.  And if you don’t want to stay home on the holidays, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are typically two of the best days of the year to find deals.

Best Day to Buy a Car

Even if you forget everything else, remember this statement:  The best time to buy a car is the last couple days of the month.  Manufacturers set monthly targets for car dealerships.  If car salesmen and dealerships meet their monthly sales goals they can earn bonuses.  So if you time your car purchase towards the end of the month you could end up buying from a car salesman who is close to hitting his quota and earning a bonus payment.  This bonus may be much bigger than the loss he takes on a single sale and as a result he may be willing to provide a bigger discount to you in order to earn that bonus.

And interestingly enough, the second best time to buy a car is the first couple days of the month.  Because the end of the month trick is widely known, salesmen are usually pretty busy with buyers that have waited.  As a result, the first couple days of the month mean fewer buyers and idle salesmen may be willing to deal.  Salesmen may also want to get a jump on their monthly sales quotas so they’re not under as much pressure at the end of the month.

You can also check Edmunds predicted price trends which forecasts whether prices are headed up or down for most models over the next 30 days.

Best Time to Buy a Car

Don’t go out of your way for this one, but some dealerships offer salesmen a small bonus ($100 or so) for selling the first car of the day on a Saturday or holiday to encourage sales. So if you are one of the first buyers of the day you may notice a small benefit.

What’s the Best Way to Buy a Car?

That’s easy, don’t go to the dealership at all!  Get car prices from multiple local dealers and ask them to compete with each other over email.  I explain how in my free guide, How to Buy a Car at the Best Possible Price.

What if You Need a Car Now?

As much as you might like to time your car purchase to get the best deal, it’s not always possible.  Sometimes an accident or unexpected repair may make waiting difficult.  In these cases, you can still get car prices online and make car dealers compete.  And check out Edmunds car incentives and rebates to see which manufacturers are currently running promotions.

European Delivery Programs

Here’s a final added tidbit.  If you are considering buying a high-end luxury car, why not take a trip to Europe?  While timing a luxury car purchase may not net you savings on the car itself, you can save on your vacation spending.  Manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and Volvo all offer vacation packages that allow you to pick up your car in Europe and tour the country side.   As for the best time of year, Spring is a great time to visit Europe while the weather is comfortable but the high-priced summer tourist season as not begun yet.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

krantcents

With all the incentives, I still have to pay close to 85% of a rather large ticket item! Payments or cash, I hate the choice since cars depreciate. My current cars are 17 & 15 years old and need to be replaced soon or maybe not.

Forest

Cool inforgraphic. I’m currently staying with a guy who has been in the business of selling cars for 40 years. He currently owns a mid-sized dealership and it’s interesting hearing his point of view.

Car Negotiation Coach

Thanks Forest, you’ll have to see if he wants to be grilled with some questions from me (on or off the record)!

Kris @ Everyday Tips

I bought a car once on New Year’s Eve! It is very true though, dealerships get desperate at the end of the month. The ‘manager’ in the back is probably much more apt to cut prices when demand is slow or they are trying to hit a specific target.

Great post!

Car Negotiation Coach

Hey Kris, Long time, great to hear from you!

So how late did you end up staying on New Year’s Eve? Do you remember, did it look like the dealership was closing up early?

youngandthrifty

Love this infographic!

I had no idea that Xmas eve was a good time to buy a car- weird!

Financial Samurai

Excellent infographic and excellent tips!

Guess I should be buying a car end of this month!!

Best, Sam

Car Negotiation Coach

Thanks YT and Sam.

Sam- You are a prime candiate for the European Delivery Program. I think you should pick yourself up something nice and report back to us with what kinda vacation deal you snagged!

Barb Friedberg

Goeff, We usually buy a new car when the next years models come out. We buy the old leftovers (which are new from the prior year). I’m hoping to get a few more years out of 1998 suv with 109000 miles.

Doable Finance

I reckon in December, the lot is full of cars. In later months there might not be enough especially the one you want. It’s basically supply and demand.

Jeffrey

Nice graphic! I think you covered it all in terms of the best time to buy!

John | Married (with Debt)

The best time to buy a car is when you have the money saved!

Seriously though, a trick I’ve learned is: near the start of your conversation with the salesman, ask if they do their own financing. Don’t say you will be using them to finance, just ask. He will think you are going to use them for a loan and will be willing to go lower on the price thinking that.

Then watch his eyes bug out when you write him a check for the full amount.

Cool infographic!

Car Negotiation Coach

@Jeff -Thanks!

@John- You’re absolutely right. You really need to have your financial affairs in order before deciding it’s a good time to buy a car. And I agree, car salesman are much more willing to give you a deal if they think they’ll have the opportunity to make money off your car loan. I would never tell someone I’ve got outside financing or would be paying cash for a car until after car price has been settled on.

Ladyjude

I am in the beginning process of buying a car. I am considering buying from a (big name) car rental place. This place generally has a price on a car that you can take or leave with no “negotiation.”. I wonder if there is any wiggle room based on time of month of purchase and if I am paying cash/check? I appreciate any input or other suggestions you might have.

Car Negotiation Coach

Hi LJ, to be honest I’ve never bought from a rental agency and I’m not sure how their commission structure works. If they have monthly quotas, then the end of the month is the best time to buy a car. If they don’t, then timing your car purchase may not matter so much…and I’m guessing that is the case since they have a take it or leave it attitude.

As for paying cash, that probably won’t make a difference in the price unless they service car loans themselves. And if they do offer car loans, paying cash might actually hurt your negotiating stance (it definitely does at dealerships). The reason is that car dealers make a big margin on car loans and prefer that over cash buyers. When buying a car, I would never mention cash or payment method until after price has been settled. Sometimes car dealers may give you a better price if they think they’ll still be able to make some money off your car loan. The only time paying cash might help is when your buying a used car from a private seller and they want the money ASAP.

Let me know if you have any more questions!

Driver's Choice Inc

I own a car lot and I always like to debate on the price. Why you ask, when we spend hours together and we come to a price we both can live with, well we both win and belive it or not but we build trust in each other and when everything is over you know you can trust me and you don’t just leave with a car but with a friend. You can look at my website to see what I have on the lot and or call and let us know what you are looking for and we will help you anyway we can. Till then I hope to see more great post on this site.

Ladyjude

Thanks for the responses. I did buy a 2011 Kia Soul about 10 days ago and I do love it…from a dealership. I did like the salesperson but the deal did run awry. I love my SOUL!! I went in by myself to make this deal. I wish I had had someone else there. There was the promise of a free iPad2 with any car purchase. I thought I did well and came to an agreeable price. I had come up 750 from my original offer so I thought that considerable. I paid with a check and got most things done but was going back another day to figure out a few other things. I asked for my iPad and was told that I had agreed to forego the iPad to get a better price. I suppose there is nothing to be done at this point and I do like my salesperson. I have tried to talk to them a couple times on that and they seem rather cold at this juncture. I do not want bad feelings because I want to use their shop to care for my car. I was told that if there was to be an iPad it would have been listed on the We-owe form. I think that is rediculous as the car is the car and the iPad was something else to be given with purchase. I am a woman who has not bought a car sinse 1993 really and this was basically foreign to me. I suppose it is what it is but it has left a sour taste in my mouth. Still love the car though… Have you ever done this kind of thing and would it be listed on the We-owe form?

Car Negotiation Coach

LJ- Unfortunately, you’re probably facing an uphill battle. The dealer knew in advance they would either concede $500 (or some other amount) or give you an iPad as part of the deal. If they gave you a concession on cost, I’m sure they had fine print hidden somewhere saying the iPad was not included. I hate to see these types of gimmicks used to get buyers in the door but unfortunately that’s still how a lot of dealers operate.

Trike motorcycle

When you have enough money to pay cash, then look at prior year models after a model change, usually in fall or late summer.

Jonathan

Thanks for this incredibly useful info! Question: Without considering a car’s resale value, is it better to buy a car during September/October for last year’s model (clearance events) or the last week of December for the current year’s model? I ask because the upfront cost/discounts available are more important to me right now vs. the resale value.

Car Negotiation Coach

Hi Johnathan, that’s a tough one to predict and will vary by make and model and whether the body style is changing or not. I don’t want to steer you in the wrong direction so I’d probably just have to say “it depends…”. But if you’re ok with a broad generalization, I’d lean towards December as the better choice.

Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

loved the infographic Coach!

Question: do you, or anyone else on this thread, know of a good resources for “dealer invoice” prices (the price a dealer pays for the car). I know folks working for an automaker can get access to these easily but is there a resource for the common folk?

you included a link above for rebates. does this link provide all the back-end manufacturing rebates a dealership is entitled to on a sale?

with the combination of dealer invoice and back-end rebates, one can negotiate even more effectively. finance incentives/rebates come into play as well if one was to finance the vehicle.

what are your thoughts?

Car Negotiation Coach

Hi Sunil, yes, it’s actually very easy to find dealer invoice for different cars. If you request Edmunds dealer prices here Edmunds will show you the invoice, MSRP, and True Market value (what you can expect to pay based on average sales in your market) for the make/model you select.

As for rebates, that link above only shows the manufacturer publicized rebates. Dealers often have cost structures and incentive plans that aren’t published that allow them to offer discounts. But it’s really just a shell game and I always recommend not to get hung up on these. If you follow my strategy of getting prices from several dealers, in the end you won’t need to worry so much about specific rebates and incentives and you just negotiate the final out-the-door price.

Josh the Salesman

Shoot, I’ve been selling cars for 10 years now, I would say that anytime is the time to buy a car right now. It is definitely a buyers market on almost EVERY model. You are right though, the internet is the best place to start.

Car Negotiation Coach

So Josh, as a salesman, do you have any of your own tips for the best time to contact a dealer?

Josh the Salesman

Personally, I would say the best time is when it makes the most sense to you (the buyer). There are monthly and quarterly and yearly quotas, but the simple truth is you will be able to find a good deal, especially if they follow your steps, anytime. Find a store and a salesperson you like too! If you’ve found a place you are comfortable with in all or most areas, give them your last shot. More often than not, they will meet or beat that best price to keep your business. Sorry, I strayed from the initial question.

In our state dealers are not allowed to be open on Sundays, so Monday is actually one of our busier days due to the fact that a lot of people come on Sunday to not be pestered, and come back Monday to talk to a salesperson. Middle of the week Tues, Wed, Thurs are generally the slowest (unless the end of the month falls on those days, people still come in at the end of the month hoping for the best pricing) Most incentives run month to month for dealers, sometimes, in a soft month or slow time, the factory will come up with more incentives for the last few weeks of the month. So, for the least amount of traffic, middle of the week, and last week to 2 weeks of the month for most possible factory incentives. As for used cars, go anytime…you may not be able to find a comparable replacement for that perfect for you used vehicle.

Car Negotiation Coach

Hey Josh, thanks so much for your thoughts! Just out of curiosity, in what state do you work that they are closed on Sundays? And do you know if your Internet team still responds to emails on Sundays or are they completely closed?

Josh the Salesman

No problem. Buying a car shouldn’t be a scary thing, it should be fun :) I live in Wisconsin. We are not allowed to negotiate pricing, we can still respond, but more of a “we’ll get back to you in the morning” type email. I actually prefer being closed on Sundays, and so do a majority of our customers. One guaranteed day off of work for me, and a day that shoppers can browse at their conveniences.

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