Buying a car at the right time is just as important as buying the right car. Everyone wants the best deal, no one wants to overpay, and new car prices can fluctuate throughout the year. So when is the best time to buy a car? And why is it the best time of year to buy a car?
Recently we met Anne, a stay-at-home mother of two in Orange County, California, who was looking for the answer to those questions. “I know I want the new Hyundai Santa Fe SUV,” she said. “The one with the third row. But I’m not sure if I should buy it now, or if I should wait. How do I know if this is the best time to buy a car?”
Anne has been shopping for her SUV for a few weeks and has been doing all the right things. “I’ve research online, and I’m ready to buy or lease the car,” she told us, “but I don’t know when it’s the best time to buy a car”.
Then she added. “I’ve even gone to some dealerships, talked to a sales person, looked through their inventory, and I’ve taken a test drive. But I want to avoid paying too much. Maybe I should wait for a sale. Maybe I should wait for a holiday sale, or maybe, I should just buy my new car in December.”
We advised Anne that car shoppers can get new-car deals on a lease, along with financing, all year long on websites like AutoGravity.com. And we assured her that her approach to shopping for a new car has been smart and comprehensive. She’s done all the right things. Every new-car shopper should do extensive research before buying or leasing that new car, including checking the numbers on an auto loan calculator.
It’s important that you learn all about your dream car before buying it. Know its sticker price, standard equipment, available trim levels, options and colors. Read online reviews, both on the vehicle and on your local dealers, and check out other possible costs, like transportation fees, financing and insurance.
But Anne is right, waiting to buy that new SUV at just the right time may be the right move. It’s possible you can save hundreds — even thousands — of dollars. Herein, we’ll answer her important questions:
- When is the best time to buy a car?
- What is the Best Day of the Week to Buy a Car?
- Does price change during the year?
The very best time to buy a car is on major holiday weekends and at the very end of the year. Automakers and car dealers offer sales on most holiday weekends, and prices are also lower at the very end of the year — as most dealers need to make room for next year’s new models. Many dealers will also sell cars for less at the end of any given month.
Here’s a list of holidays that are popular occasions for car dealers’ sales:
- Presidents Day
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Columbus Day
- Veterans Day
- Thanksgiving (Black Friday)
- New Years
These are the highest profile holiday sales advertised by new-car dealers around America. We’ve all seen the TV commercials. Many local dealers will also have sales around other holidays, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Earth Day and even Halloween. And some will arrange sales in coordination with provincial events and happenings, like Mari Gras in New Orleans or the Indy 500 in Indiana. Many new-car shoppers wait for these sales to make the deal on their dream car. New-car sales often spike during these holiday weekends.
During these big sales events, car dealers will draw shoppers with added incentives, including lower pricing. Automakers will ramp up their incentives as well, with rebates and lower-cost financing. Dealers that are sitting on excessive inventory are likely to make even better deals.
To sweeten a deal even further, some dealers use other incentives, such as a lifetime of free car washes, free oil changes, loaner cars when your car is being serviced, and extended warranties.
Anne is lucky, the Mercedes-Benz GLK she’s been driving for a few years is running fine and she can wait for that absolute best deal. But some new-car shoppers don’t want to wait, or they just can’t. They need a new car right now. For these buyers, there are websites like Autogravity.com, which show special deals and dealer pricing all year long on cars, SUVs and pickups available in the inventories of local dealers.
Aside from the Memorial Day sales and the extensive sales events around The Fourth of July, the best time of year to buy a car is the very end of the calendar year. This is due to many factors.
- Dealers want to clear out their inventory before January 1. They want those cars off their books before the new year commences, and the sales manager is hearing that every morning from the accounting department.
- Consumers are ready to spend during the end of year holiday season and dealers want to take advantage of that mind set.
- By this time of year, new car dealers have often already taken delivery of next year’s new redesigned models from the automakers. They hope to sell those hot new models, but also need to sell off their remaining inventory of last years model, which is often referred to a “leftovers.” Automakers often help the dealers move remaining inventory with incentives that drop the price.
- The last few weeks of the year are a very competitive time for car dealers. If one dealer won’t give you the deal you want, chances are the dealer a few miles away will. The first dealer knows that, and consumers can take advantage of the competition.
If you can’t wait until the end of the year to buy your new car, and there isn’t a notable holiday sale on the horizon, many consumers can get a better price by waiting to buy at end of the month. Any month.
Like many businesses, dealers often have monthly sales and revenue goals, which consumers can take advantage of if a dealer is dropping prices to make the last few sales it needs to reach those goals.
History also tells us that late spring and most of summer can be the worst times to look for that great new car deal. Dealers just don’t deal as much in June, July and August, which fall between the big Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend sales. The exception of course is over Independence Day weekend.
If you can’t wait until the end of the month to buy a car, wait until Wednesday. Dealerships are busiest on the weekend, which isn’t an incentive for a salesman to drop the price for you and make the deal. But Wednesday’s are slow. Foot traffic is thin. If you’re the only customer in the showroom, sales can be found, and the salesman will have more time to devote to your deal.
With fewer customers with which to deal, a salesman will do whatever he or she can to make the customer happy with a sale.
According to the transaction data, the next best day of the week to get the best deal on a car is Monday, which runs a very close second to Wednesday. After Wednesday, Friday is best. Tuesday and Thursday trail Friday, but only by a fraction of a percent. If you have to buy on the weekend, the numbers tell us that Sunday is just a bit better than Saturday.
A car’s Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price or MSRP does not change throughout the year. But dealers have the ability to sell the car for any price it wants. That’s called transaction price, and it can change during the year at the dealer’s discretion. That means there’s a best time to buy a car.
So the MSRP or Sticker Price is essentially fixed throughout the year, but invoice price will fluctuate, especially on slow-selling models, as will the transaction price. If the dealer pays less for a car or truck, he will be inclined to pass that savings on to the consumer.
This is why deals on hot-selling new models with the latest features and styling are a little harder to come by. The more a vehicle is in demand the less incentive the dealer has to agree to your low-ball offer. But the market has gotten so competitive that, in some cases, manufacturers have started offering their prominent new models with low lease deals.
Toyota just played that game with the all-new version of its Camry sedan, which launched right alongside a new redesigned version of its rival the Honda Accord. Toyota offered very low lease payments on the new Camry for months, which successfully drove up sales. Honda Accord sales suffered as a result, but the competition was great for consumers.
Although online auto shopping sites like AutoGravity.com will show you great prices and special deals throughout the year, many consumers will benefit if they pay close attention to the timing of their new-car purchase and wait for the right time to buy that new car.
If you want to save money and get the absolute best deal, it’s important to find the best time to buy a car. Get that timing just right and the financial savings can be substantial.