When Is The Best Time To Buy a Car?


So, you’re thinking of buying a new car, and you’re wondering when the best time is to do it. The answer can depend not just on market conditions overall but also what’s on the lots in your specific community and even which salesperson you’re dealing with.

According to MarketWatch, new cars right now are selling like hotcakes, but prices are high. Typically, the time right around Labor Day is what’s known as the “sweet spot.” That’s because the new models come out around that time, and the dealers have to make space on their lots. That means that they have to get rid of last year’s models, which are still technically new and have no mileage other than what’s been accumulated on test drives. So they’re not “new,” but they’re not technically “used” either.

Wait to Buy

That stated, it seems obvious that if you’re not stuck on having a new model year, the longer you wait, the better deal you’re likely to get. In fact, you might even want to wait until the holiday season. Why is that? Well, with very few exceptions, and notwithstanding the “buy your loved one a new car for Christmas” ads, the reality is that very few people buy new cars during the holidays. That’s why the dealerships flog the idea of cars as a holiday purchase.

Take a walk around a car lot post-Thanksgiving. It’s a sad, sad place. Salespeople are wandering around, just hoping to find someone on the lot, and once they find a potential customer, they’re going to move heaven and earth to keep them there. Despite the bad press they often get, car salespeople are just like you and me – they’re trying to make a living, and they’re trying to make sure that Christmas is good for their kids. If there ever was a time of year when a car salesperson would be willing to compromise, it’s during the holidays.

Wait Even Longer

If you think car lots are sad places at Christmas, just wait until the New Year, when there are still all sorts of low-mileage previous year models just waiting to be snapped up. No one is buying, because no one has much money left after blowing the budget on Christmas. Car salespersons are in the same boat – they’ve maxed out their credit cards, and they’re relying on their commissions to pay off that holiday debt. And dealers are going to go the extra mile in order to keep good salespeople, and to move that unwanted metal off their lot.

Be Flexible

According to consumer advocate Michael Royce, one of the most important things you can do when shopping for a car is be flexible. He maintains that a good car salesperson knows if you’re stuck on a specific model. You need to keep in mind that virtually all the features that you love and want in one make and model are usually available in another make and model.

Time Your Visit

According to Michael Royce, timing your visit means much more than just picking a specific time of year, although that can help. He says that it can be a small factor in the grand scheme of things, but his experience as a car salesperson leads him to believe that if you show up late in the day, you’re more likely to find a salesperson who is tired and just wants to go home, and is thereby more willing to negotiate. The same goes for Friday or Saturday afternoon – they’ve worked hard all week, and they want their weekend with their friends and family. Of course, some salespeople may work outside the dealership’s regular hours, so keep that in mind.

Royce also claims that you can get a great deal on a vehicle at any time, if you just know what you’re doing.

That means not getting stuck on a particular model, being flexible when it comes to color, finding a salesman who appears to be desperate, and walking away when the deal doesn’t sound good enough. If you walk away, if the deal is at all reasonable, you can probably assume that the salesperson will call you back.

Look at the Chart

You’d be surprised how many car dealerships actually post their sales. It’s a tool that they use to motivate their salespeople to work even harder. The chart contains the name of each salesperson, and his or her sales for any given period. Look around, and see if you can find the chart. Then see if you can find the low-performing salesperson. He or she is probably going to be more than willing to compromise, take a lower commission for the sake of making the sale, and deliver savings to you that you might not realize if you’d dealt with a better-performing salesperson.


Buy on Weekends

Most car dealerships rev into “high gear” when the weekends roll around. They want to sell a ton of cars in a short period of time, and that works to your advantage.

Additionally, some dealerships offer bonuses to salespeople who sell on weekends. That’s because the sales manager is trying to make his or her weekly quota in order to bonus, and they’ll offer part of their bonus as an incentive to sell all week long and even into the weekends. A weekend salesperson usually really, really wants to make that sale. Monthly quotas are also a concern, so salespersons are likely to offer better deals at month end.

The Bottom Line

Generally speaking, you’ll get a better deal after Labor Day, and the more you wait after Labor Day the better. Weekends are good. Best-case scenario, you’ll buy your new vehicle on a weekend during the holiday season, preferably at the end of November (the month that includes the Thanksgiving holiday) or December. If you don’t buy then, do it early in the New Year.