Myth Buster – When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?
Here at Carbevy.com we know all too well that consumers are always hungry for the best car deals. When you want to buy a new car, the sea of options can make it difficult to ensure you get the best-possible result. Every option you pick, no matter how carefully you’ve thought it out, will have you asking in the back of your mind — am I getting the best deal?
The “Best Time of Year” to Buy Cars
There’s a lot of talk online and elsewhere about how to plan when you buy a car in order to get the best deal. Cheap cars for sale don’t just appear at random while searching online with the words “car dealership near me,” but according to many factors that guide the sellers’ hand. The common myth is that the definitive best time of year to buy a car is simply “December.” It’s not entirely wrong, but there’s a lot more to it than just the name of one month.
In today’s blog, we aim to shatter through the myths and find some definitive answers as to when is the best time to buy a car. With our help, your searches on platforms like ours here at CarBevy will be more fruitful and successful, with local car dealerships more open to accepting your ideal price.
When is the best time of year to buy cars? We’ve broken it down into three categories:
- Day of the Week – Saturday, Sunday and Monday are best
- Month of the Year – January-February and October-November are best for different reasons
- Public Holidays – New Year’s Eve and Day, Memorial Day, Black Friday
Below we will look at each of these categories one by one and explain in detail why these are the best times of year to buy a car.
Best Car Deals – Day of the Week
First, let’s take a look at why Saturday, Sunday and Monday are the three best days of the week to buy a new car. Using specialist industry knowledge and information from TrueCar® we can gain a picture of which days offer the best discounts to buyers. The fact is that the day of the week won’t make the single biggest difference to the price of the car you buy, but every little helps.
On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, car dealerships on average offer savings of 9.2%, 9.5% and 9.2% respectively. That’s up from the mid-week lows on Wednesday and Thursday of 8.8-percent savings. As we say, it’s not earth-shattering amounts of cash, but it’s a start.
You might look at this information and double take. You may have heard the commonly pushed (and mythical, according to newer research) idea that weekdays are bound to have the best discounts because dealerships have fewer visitors and are therefore more willing to talk deal with the few they have.
Of the three days, Mondays are understandable, but Sunday — typically everyone’s day off and thus a great time to go look at cars — offering the best deals makes little sense. One small problem, however, is that not all states allow their car dealerships to open on a Sunday, but at least you still have Saturday and Monday if that’s the case in your home state.
Favor these days and dealerships are more likely to talk deal. The next step is to try and combine one of these days with the right time of the month. This we shall explore in the next section.
Best Car Deals – Month of the Year
The main rule of thumb when it comes to getting the best car deals by month is to look at times when sales are lower. Once again, figures from TrueCar show that January and February, along with October and November, are the two periods that account for the lower annual share of sales. January and February represent just 7.3 and 7.7 percent respectively, and October and November 7.9 and 7.7 percent.
Besides choosing the right month, it’s also key that you choose the right time of the month, which can be on any day of the week that we mentioned in the previous section, but more ideally towards the end of the month. The reason for this is that car dealerships frequently operate on monthly and/or quarterly sales quotas for their teams. Therefore, the times when things are likely to be a bit more desperate happen in the last week of the month as the deadlines approach.
In a usual month, aim for between the 27th and 29th for optimum times. The deadline might pass right before the end of the month, or it could be on the last day. You will invariably find dealerships at this time much more willing to talk deal and offer better discounts around this time each month.
While it is a myth that December is the definitively best time of year to ever buy a car, it is no myth that December is a good month to look for new car deals. There are good reasons for that being the case. Cheap cars for sale in December come about because the end of the calendar year means big changes in the lineup in each dealership. A change in the lineup means that as much inventory has to be cleared as possible to make way for new models and variants arriving to excite the customers in the new year.
Most new car dealerships in the US keep enough new inventory to cover about 65 days of sales. That’s a lot of inventory and it has to be moved, even when it’s not December. That’s the normal operating procedure. If you can appreciate that, then you can also likely understand better why the pressure is severely dialed up by the time it gets to December, especially if sales have been slower earlier the year for whatever reason.
Just as a new car loses value when a buyer starts the ignition and drives it off the lot, a model from 2021 will instantly lose value as soon as the calendar says 2022. It could be a car with almost entirely the same features where the new 2022 variant only has minor or cosmetic differences, but the sticker-price value has changed dramatically.
As we mentioned above, too, targeting your purchase for the last week of December will see you not only find a dealership that’s looking to clear inventory to make way for next year’s models, but also one that is in the fourth week of their fourth quarter of the sales year. It’s the end of the road, and the pressure is on.
Christmas should also be remembered as another key factor in making December a great month to buy a car. A surprising number of people actually buy cars as gifts at Christmas time. In 2019, Santander Consumer USA published information pointing to the interesting fact that at least 50,000 cars, trucks and SUVs were purchased as gifts. The New York Times in 2018 offered support for this idea, pointing out that 10 percent or more of December sales for luxury auto dealers are for cars as present. These facts have helped to spawn a thriving oversized gift bow industry that supply dealerships with bows to put on the cars as they surprise their recipients. If Christmas helps bring in customers and push up end-of-year sales numbers, then it all makes sense.
Best Car Deals – Public Holidays
Days of the week and months of the year cover the regular times of the year in which it’s an optimal time to buy a new car. There are also some exceptions to these general rules of thumb, exceptional because they are independently great times to purchase regardless of whatever day of the week or month they happen to fall upon. Here are the best ones:
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
Data from TrueCar shows that New Year’s Even can offer as much as 10.9 percent off when buying a new car. It falls in a perfect place at the end of December, a month where salespeople are under pressure the entire month to shift inventory and make way for the new stock. The last day of the last month means that it’s hardly surprising you can get almost 11 percent off, and that’s just on average. Many places will do even more than that.
The following day is another good day, too. As we touched on above, the departure of one year and arrival of another suddenly reduces the appeal (and therefore value) of the previous year’s model. Buyers can therefore expect a very welcoming sales team when they inquire about purchasing stock bearing the model year of the annum just departed.
At first glance, a new year may seem to bring higher prices as the latest model year vehicles roll firmly into view and take their place on the lot. That’s true, but there are invariably many previous-year models that a dealership will only be too glad to move at the right price.
Memorial Day Weekend is the traditional start of summer in America, falling at the end of May, and spawning great car deals often at that weekend and sometimes through the whole month of June, but the length varies. The main reason for Memorial Day’s particular advantage in car buying is to do with the summer being used as a key time to shift inventory in time for the new model year units arriving in the fall.
Further above, we have talked about the factor of model years. While the arrival of the new year does a lot to decrease the appeal of the previous model year’s car, that is actually the tail-end of a process that begins in the fall. With many new model year vehicles being announced and produced in the fall, the dealerships are under pressure to create the room they need during the summer months. That kicks off with a bang during Memorial Day.
Black Friday is arguably the most famous (or infamous) shopping day of the year. Fantastic discounts and great deals on goods are not restricted to your local Wal-Mart or shopping mall. New car dealerships do not exempt themselves from the Black Friday madness.
In November 2020, carsdirect.com went out in search of the best Black Friday deals and found some amazing things. Luxury British car maker Jaguar, for instance, were offering their 2021 F-Type V8 with $10,000 off and finance starting from 0% APR for 72 months. Can you imagine a discount of $10,000? Most of the vehicles they found offered fantastic finance terms, including on deal on the 2020 GMC Terrain which offered 0% APR for 84 months.
One myth to bust on Black Friday deals however is that any deal you see prominently placed on the lot during Black Friday is automatically the best deal you’ll get. Dealerships often have a lot of secrets lurking at the back of their lots, including the stocks that have been there beyond the allotted 65 days on the lot that most dealerships maintain as a rule. Here’s a tip: check the information sticker on the driver’s door jam. There should be a manufacture date. If it’s months old already, you might be able to negotiate an even better deal than the ones they have at the front.
Don’t forget also that your warranty doesn’t kick in until you purchase, so it will still be valid the whole time even though the car was manufactured as many as 5-6 months ago.
Conclusion: The Best Time to Buy a Car is…
…at the end of an allotted sales period. Overall, what we can gain from all the information above is that catching a car dealership at the tail-end of something — a week, a month, a quarter, a year — is the best general rule of thumb. There will always be special sales events that car dealerships push, but we can’t all of us wait for one of those days to roll around.
Hopefully the real value of today’s blog is to remind you of the best times of year to put in your searches on CarBevy. Our trusted network of new car dealerships is just as open to great deals as any others, and will be even more willing to talk deal if you get submit your offer at the right time of the week, month, quarter or year, or on the right special occasion. Happy car hunting!