• Buying Guides

When Is The Best Time to Buy a Car?

By Autolist Staff | December 29, 2018

It's common for people to look for the best time to make a large purchase, whether it's a house, airline tickets, a new TV or a car. So when is the best time to buy a car? The answer is a little involved since there are several possible good times to look for a new vehicle.

The most straightforward answer is that the best time to buy a car is always when you're ready to buy. Buying a car is usually not an impulse process, but one that can take weeks of research and looking before you find the one that's right for you.

However, there are certain times throughout the calendar year that are better to buy than others. These include:

  • Model year end
  • The calendar year end
  • Month's end
  • At the end of a vehicle's generation
  • Last year of a car's production
  • Memorial Day
  • Fourth of July
  • Labor Day
  • Black Friday
  • Presidents Day
  • September through December
  • Early in the week

Best Time to Buy a Car During the Year

The best time to buy a car during the week is usually early in the week, but this has more to do with attentive salespeople and fewer crowds. Weekends are typically very busy in car dealerships (though some dealerships are oddly closed on Sundays).

Buying at the end of any month is generally regarded as a good time to get a discount. Many dealers and dealerships have monthly (and yearly) quotas or sales goals that they're trying to hit. As such, they might be more willing to negotiate a better deal to reach their goal. If you're looking at the end of the month, make sure to research and test-drive your chosen car earlier in the month so that you will be prepared.

The end of any calendar year fits this profile in a similar way. Not only are dealers hoping to close out the year with good sales numbers, but they might also be trying to get rid of previous model-year vehicles that are taking space in their inventory.

Months with the least amount of discounts are January through April. The holiday shopping season is over, people are looking to buy a vehicle ahead of the summer season and many consumers have tax refund cash in their pockets.

Better discounts show up May through August; starting in August deals get even sweeter. That's because it's then that the next model year vehicles begin to arrive so dealers are looking to unload last year's models.

For the rest of the year, the deals only get better. The best discounts are typically in the last three months of the year as dealers continue to unload vehicles from that model year; the holidays are a slow time for car sales (and the end of the year) so dealers and automakers alike often offer healthy discounts.

Buying a Car at the End of a Model Year
Most automakers start introducing the next year's models in August or September, which often means good deals and low APRs for financing the outgoing model year. Dealers don't want to be stuck with older inventory, so buyers are in a position of power to haggle on the current model year when the next model year of that vehicle is also on the lot.

Also pay attention to whether there are any differences between the next year's version and the current model year. It could be that the vehicle switches to a new generation for the next model year and you might want to spend the extra money to get the new model.

Buying a Car at the End of a Generation Or Life Cycle
On the flip side, you could be in a better position to bargain for the outgoing model since dealers will be eager to get it off their lots.

The end of a vehicle's generation happens when the automaker releases a complete redesign for the next model year. This means full exterior and interior design changes and often includes powertrain updates too. This, in turn, makes the previous model years somewhat obsolete. If you're more interested in bargains than being trendy, this is an excellent opportunity to get a discount (you'll also benefit from choosing the outgoing generation because most experts agree that the least reliable period of every generation of car is the first year).

Carmakers sometimes even discontinue models or trims entirely. This is an even better time to grab a deal as these discontinued models will depreciate quickly and steeply. If you plan to keep your new purchase for a while, this won't matter to you.

Buying a Car on a Holiday

Some holidays are also better than others in terms of getting the best deal. Remember: different types of vehicles are usually discounted at different times of the year (convertibles can be cheaper in the winter; SUVs can be cheaper in the summer).

Presidents Day takes place in February and generally you won't find the same kind of deals as other holidays. But depending on what type of vehicle you're looking for, it can be a good time to buy. Typically vehicles that are popular in winter weather -- crossovers and SUVs -- won't have many discounts on them in February.

But vehicles like coupes or convertibles could be a good deal in the dead of winter. Also cheap: the previous year's models. By this point, dealers will be desperate to get the few remaining holdouts from the previous calendar year off their lots.

Memorial Day kicks off the summer selling season for dealers and many of them will be looking to either pick up the momentum that they didn't have during the usually brisk spring season, or carry the momentum they did have into the summer. Many dealers and automakers will roll out sales deals for Memorial Day, and it's a particularly good time to buy a vehicle like a crossover and SUV since demand for them won't be as high as it is during the winter.

The Fourth of July will certainly get a lot of attention from dealers, who spend heavily to promote their sales for this holiday. While that may be the case, if you can wait, some data has suggested that the end of July is much better; this is when dealers are starting to get antsy about the existing model year vehicles sitting around when they have the next model year vehicles beginning to roll in.

Labor Day is a great time to compare prices between the current model year vehicles and the next model year vehicles that are now on dealers' lots. This can put you -- the buyer -- at a distinct advantage in terms of negotiating the price on a current model year vehicle.

Black Friday is, of course, the biggest shopping day of the year so of course dealerships work to get a piece of this excitement. With many shoppers distracted by buying gifts or spending time with their families, the crowds at car dealerships can be thin -- giving you an advantage.

Finally, the week after Christmas, including New Year's Eve can be one of the best times of the year to score a deal. At this point, dealers are trying to make both their yearly and their monthly quotas and to get rid of old models from the outgoing year that are still sitting on their lots. Plus, foot traffic is lower at this time than other periods of the year, making dealers eager to work with the customers they can get.