When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?
February 25, 2022
New car buyers don’t want to pay the sticker price for their vehicle of choice. The buyer wants to get the best deal possible, while the dealership wants to maximize their profit. Buying a car isn’t just about doing the research on prices, financing and other details, there are certain days and times of the year that buyers need to focus their visits to the dealership.
When is the best time to buy a new car? There are specific dates, holidays and even days of the week that can allow the buyer to score the best prices. When shopping for a car, focus dealership visits on:
- The end of a quarter
- Three-Day holidays
- New Year’s Eve
Do these recommendations seem like a mangled mess of days, dates and months? There is a method to the shopping madness. Here’s why these specific times are the best for buying.
The busiest time to visit a car dealership would be the weekend. This is the time that almost everyone is off work. It would seem logical that buyers who need a new car would wait for the time of the week where they have the time to browse and negotiate.
Unfortunately, the weekend isn’t the most ideal time to get one-on-one attention or maybe even the best deals (there are exceptions, though). If buyers can wait until Monday to schedule that dealership visit, they may reap the rewards.
Not only will the dealership be less crowded, but the sparse foot traffic could allow buyers to sit down with a sales team member one-on-one and perhaps enjoy a more relaxed experience. Since traffic is slow, Monday buyers also could get a few extra perks, too.
The End of a Quarter
The dealership typically has sales goals or quotas it needs to meet. These quotas could be quarterly and yearly, too. Waiting until the end of the last quarter could be the most advantageous, but those who can’t wait too long might simply time their visit to coincide with the end of any sales quarter.
If the sales team hasn’t hit their marks, they might be more willing to negotiate. This could lead to better prices for buyers.
An ideal season for buyers could be fall. This is due to the fact that new model years typically drive into dealerships in early fall.
When new models arrive, older models become less desirable. Buyers can do a little research to find out if the new model years have arrived. Then pay a visit to the dealership and focus on the previous model year for the purchase.
As a note, dealerships likely will not be interested in bargaining on new models. The deals will be focused on the vehicles they need to get off their lot and remove from the inventory—the older vehicles.
Three-Day Weekend Holidays
While, yes, it was noted that weekends are typically crowded at dealerships and not the best time to shop, the exception to the rule are three-day weekends or holidays that coincide with these extended weekends.
Labor Day, Memorial Day and even Fourth of July could align with dealership promotions, sales or offers. Expect that others will be taking advantage of these sales, too, and try to arrive early or later in the day to avoid the hustle and bustle.
New Year’s Eve
The day before the New Year officially begins might be the best day of the year to go car shopping. This might be the last day for the dealership to meet sales goals for the year; it’s also the last day of a quarter.
However, CNBC explains that buyers might have limited selection in December. Buyers might not find the exact or perfect car if the inventory is a bit limited (for the previous model year), but the deal could be worth making a few concessions on color or some features.
Another tip for New Year’s Eve buying? Buyers could have an advantage on negotiating if they arrive later and stay near the time the dealership closes. One woman secured a great price on a lease on New Year’s Eve; it turned out the sales person just wanted to get out of the dealership for a New Year’s party.
It isn’t unheard of for sales team members to try to keep buyers in the dealership and wear them down a bit, but buyers might be able to play on this tactic to their benefit, too.
What are the Worst Times to Buy a Vehicle?
If there are ideal times to score a deal on a new car, what days aren’t so great for negotiating and shopping? There aren’t necessarily specific days to avoid, although weekends are more crowded and with the heavy foot traffic it might not be so easy to negotiate. However, here are a few instances that might align with dealerships being a little less interested in negotiating or budging on the price:
- New model year cars
- Popular models
- Times of overall high demand
- Early in the sales quarter or year
New Model Years
When a new model (or new model year) drives into the dealership there will be excitement surrounding the debut. Buyers shouldn’t expect that dealerships are going to be super interested in significant negotiations.
That being said, buyers could negotiate on the price of a trade-in. In addition, a trade-in can help decrease the price of the new model.
Some vehicles don’t stay on the lot long. The most popular vehicles in the U.S. include the Ford F-Series, Ram Pickup and the Chevrolet Silverado. These models are in high demand; chances are high that many buyers are more than willing to purchase these sought-after vehicles (and dealerships know this).
Buyers who want the more popular models also might not have much negotiation room (it never hurts to try, though). However, a trade-in could be a point of negotiation.
Some sales team members could be open to negotiations, but if they won’t budge, the buyer will need to decide if they are willing to walk away from the car they want or pay the price.
The Beginning of a Month
Buying in the beginning of a month (or perhaps sales quarter) also might not be the best time to negotiate on or purchase a new car. Sales team members might have monthly sales targets, too. MarketWatch explains that early in the month, they might not be overly concerned about hitting those goals.
While making a sale helps them toward this goal, they also need to get the best price for the dealership. Sales team members may be less willing to heavily negotiate in the beginning of the month.
Another Bad Time to Buy a Car? The Spring!
If fall is a great time to buy a new car, GOBankingRates reports that spring is the worst time of year to make a purchase. The site explains that this season correlates to tax refunds, families preparing for summer trips and the thawing of winter weather. All these conditions create an ideal opportunity for buyers to go car shopping.
With money in their hands from a tax refund, buyers might now have enough for a down payment. Those who are planning a summer trip might need a new car for that journey. In addition, some buyers just weren’t interested in trekking out in the cold winter weather. However, the balmy days of spring might be an enticing time for consumers to stroll around car lots.
Is Right Now a Bad Time to Buy?
When demand for new and used cars is at all-time highs, dealerships will struggle to keep popular models on the lot. For the dealership, times of high demand and low inventory can be frustrating. Yet, times of high demand also could mean they worry less about moving inventory.
Used car prices are now higher than normal. During a microchip shortage, if buyers cannot find the model they want brand new with the features they desire, they could look to earlier or pre-owned models.
If demand for a new or used car is high, the buyer might not have the upper hand in negotiations. Those with a trade-in, however, could be in a prime spot. The value of used cars is higher, and this means that trade-in values could be higher, too.
Buyers could negotiate with dealerships on the price of these highly-sought after used models. If the car owner has a very popular vehicle to offer up as a trade-in, they might be in an even better position.
Before selling a car to a dealership as a trade-in to offset the price of a new car, buyers should research the value of the vehicle via Kelley Blue Book (KBB). Buyers can select the make/model and year of their vehicle (or just enter the VIN or license plate info).
KBB will ask them to enter the trim option as well as other features included in the vehicle. Car owners also will need to select the condition of their car. Be honest about the condition, as the dealership knows better.
When all the info about the trade-in is included, KBB will give car owners an estimated value and a value range for their trade-in. Car owners can use this price to better understand what the dealership could offer. However, the trade-in value from KBB also can be used in negotiations, too.
Wait for the Best Days to (Hopefully) Secure the Best Deals
The best time to buy a car includes fall, the end of sales quarters, the end of the year and three-day weekends, too. Perhaps the most ideal time to buy a car, though, is on New Year’s Eve. Buyers who are willing to spend this semi-holiday at the dealership could negotiate a good deal on a previous model year vehicle.
In addition, buyers who are willing to visit the dealership after their work day ends on a Monday also could enjoy more one-on-one attention and maybe some perks, too. Buyers who shop smart and who plan their dealership visits for the best days to buy could drive out of the dealership knowing they received a good price and a fair deal on their new vehicle.