When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?
  • Buying Guides

When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

By Autolist Editorial | March 10, 2021

Buying a car is not always a straightforward or easy process, especially if you make a large vehicle purchase. There is often one big question that lingers before car buyers commit to purchasing a new car: When is the best time to buy a car? The answer is that there are several good times to shop for a vehicle.

But the shortest answer is that the best time of year to buy a car is when you are ready to buy. Getting the best car for you is usually not an impulse purchase. Instead, it can take weeks of thorough research and car shopping to find the one that's right for you. However, certain times prove better throughout the calendar year to buy a new or used car than others.

Best Times to Buy a Car:

  • End of the model year (ex: Buying a 2021 when the 2022s are already on the lot)

  • End of the calendar year

  • End of the month

  • At the end of a vehicle's generation, ahead of a significant revision

  • Last year of a car's production of a model that's discontinued

  • On a Monday

  • Early in the week

  • Memorial Day

  • Fourth of July

  • Labor Day

  • Black Friday

  • Presidents' Day

  • Last quarter of the year (October, November, and December)

These are times when dealerships are trying to meet sales goals and clear inventory. Automakers typically incentivize them to aggressively close sales at this time because they also want to report healthy sales numbers to investors. In the case of cars being discontinued or are last year's model, dealers don't want them to linger and be forced to discount them even more.

Other factors to consider:

  • Do you have a healthy credit score?

  • What is the budget for a new car?

  • Do you want a new car or a used car?

  • Do you need to arrange financing, and what monthly payments can you afford?

  • Do you have a vehicle to trade-in?

Best Day of the Week:

The best day of the week to buy a car is usually early in the week, but this has more to do with attentive salespeople and fewer crowds. Weekends are typically hectic in car dealerships (though some dealerships are oddly closed on Sundays). According to Auto Trader, Monday is usually the best day to buy a new car because dealerships were typically busy over the weekend, and sales associates were also swamped with customers. On a Monday, business is slower, and salespeople have more time to devote to clients. They're also willing to make a sale during a lull in the weekly activity and may be more inclined to negotiate or add perks like free car washes or small accessories.

The End of the Month:

Buying at the end of any month is generally regarded as an excellent time to get the best price. Many dealers and dealerships have monthly (and yearly) sales 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 internal quota. 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 well prepared.

The End of the Year:

Just as buying at the end of a month is ideal for car shoppers, the last months of a year also offer an opportune moment. October, November, and December are the best months to purchase a car. Not only are dealerships trying to meet their annual sales targets, but as the end of the year draws to a close, many dealers want to have new model year cars brought into their dealership as they prepare for the new year. If they have a surplus of older model cars in their showroom, then a salesperson may be inspired to work out a good car deal for you.

The months with the least amount of discounts are January through April. The holiday shopping season is over, and people are looking to buy a vehicle ahead of the summer season. Some consumers have money from tax refunds in their pockets, too. But for the rest of the year, the deals only get better. The best discounts typically come in the last three months of the year as dealers continue to unload vehicles from the current year ahead of new ones arriving soon. December is typically a slower month for car sales, too, but automakers and dealers make a push to finish the year to meet goals, meaning there will be generous rebates on outgoing models.

Best Month of the Year:

October, November, and December have proven to be excellent months for buying a car, but the month of May has historically been a significant month for car sales too. Between 2013 and 2018, data from Cox Automotive showed that May was a productive month for car sales. That's why promotions and incentives center around Memorial Day, a three-day weekend at the end of the month when there is usually ample inventory, good weather, and a need to report good sales figures.

Buying a New 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 APR rates for financing last year's model. 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 close attention to any differences between the next year's version and the current model year. If the vehicle undergoes significant changes or is redesigned with desirable features, it could be worth waiting. But the first year after a round of changes is typically less reliable than an older 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 dealership's showroom floor. The end of a vehicle's generation happens when the automaker releases a complete redesign for the next year. That usually means full exterior and interior design changes and often includes engine updates too. That, in turn, makes the previous model years somewhat obsolete. Suppose you're more interested in bargains than being trendy. In that case, 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 entirely. It is an even better time to grab a deal as these discontinued models can depreciate quickly and steeply. But if you plan to keep your new purchase for a while, this shouldn't matter.

Buying a Car on a Holiday:

Some holidays are also better than others in terms of getting the best deal. Different types of vehicles are usually discounted at different times of the year. Convertibles can be cheaper in the winter, and all-wheel-drive vehicles are likely to be more incentivized in summer months, for example.

Presidents' Day:

Presidents' Day is a three-day holiday in February, another typically slow month for sales and incentives. Harsh weather in some areas tends to put a damper on people willing to go to a dealership. But depending on what type of vehicle you're looking for, it can be an opportune time to buy. Typically, vehicles popular in winter weather (crossovers and SUVs) won't have many discounts in February. But sports cars, convertibles, and cars without all-wheel-drive may look attractive with discounts.

Also cheap: the previous year's models. By this point, dealers will be desperate to get the few remaining holdouts of the prior calendar year off their lots.

Memorial Day:

Memorial Day kicks off the summer selling season for dealers. 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 had 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 the demand for them won't be as high as it is during the winter.

The Fourth of July:

The Fourth of July will undoubtedly get a lot of attention from dealers, who spend heavily to promote their sales for this holiday. While that may be the case, some analysts suggest that the end of July is much better if you can wait. Dealers start to get antsy about the current-year vehicles sitting around when they have the next model year examples beginning to roll in.

Labor Day:

Labor Day is a great time to compare prices between the current model year vehicles and the next model year vehicles on dealers' lots. It can put you as the buyer at a distinct advantage in negotiating the price on a current model year vehicle.

Black Friday:

Black Friday is 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.

Christmas and New Year's Eve:

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. They also want to get rid of old models from the outgoing year sitting on their lots. Foot traffic is lower at this time than other periods of the year, making dealers eager to work with the customers they can get.

Best Time to Purchase a Used Car

October, November, and December are your best months to purchase a used car. That is because these months coincide with the peak buying season of new vehicles. More trade-ins are also entering the market, and a greater selection of used cars will become available at better prices.