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When is the best time to buy a car?

Are you ready to warm your cold winter bottom on heated front seats? Or breathe in the aroma of new-car smell, without it coming from the scented cardboard dangling from your rearview mirror? "There's no better time than right now to buy a new car," the ads hype all year long. You are ready, but is right now the best time to buy a car?

The best time to purchase a vehicle is when dealers are most driven to sell them. Early in the week, the end of fiscal quarters, the beginning of new model years, and three-day holiday weekends like President's Day may be great times to take advantage of deals. Sensible timing may save you thousands of dollars off a car's price and get you extra incentives or discounted upgrades.

Timing isn't everything, though. You might be ready to buy a car, but are you prepared? Showing up at the right time won't help you get the top deal if you show up empty-handed — research financing options before heading to the dealership. Check your credit and get pre-qualified, so you know where you stand. Then make your way to the dealer early in the week.

Mondays bode well for bargain shoppers, as they are generally slow market days. Salespeople have more time to spend with customers. After busy high-volume weekends, they also tend to take a more relaxed approach to negotiations. The last three months of the year also give shoppers more buying power. However, the best time of year to purchase a new vehicle won't show up in your datebook.

Best time of year to buy a car

Some of the premier sales promotions, and incentives aren't limited to particular days or weeks on the calendar, but rather specific intervals related to the auto industry. When is the best time of year to buy a car? Generally, it's when sales reps make last-ditch efforts to meet their quotas and dealerships look to get rid of the old inventory to make room for the new models coming down the pike. 

Auto dealerships and associates have set sales goals for each month, quarter, and year period. Often, they receive incentives and bonuses based on meeting those quotas. The closer it gets to the end of each period; the more determined sellers get to meet expectations. A salesperson might accept less commission if it gets them closer to a monthly bonus. A dealer is more apt to approve a lower sale price if it pushes them over their quarterly projection. 

The new year might start on January 1, but auto manufacturers run on a unique schedule. Automobile rollouts vary from model-to-model. Some go on sale in the summer, selling alongside the older ones, while others come out later in the fall. Either way, you're likely to save more money buying an outgoing model rather than a newly redesigned car (or even one in the middle of its yearly cycle). 

Best month to buy a car

While data shows that December is the best month to buy a car, it isn't the only month to get a good deal. December might lead the pack with incentives, but other months offer attractive buyer advantages as well. So, if your old vehicle breaks down in February, there's no need to wait 10 months to buy a new one. 

But why does the final month of the year consistently rank as the best month for buying a car? Unlike auto manufacturers, car retailers are committed to the calendar year. As the year comes to a close, dealers and sellers scramble to meet their sales goals and clear out old inventory, translating into significant savings for buyers. 

During December, car dealerships have a final chance to unload old inventory. However, September marks the new model season's peak. Next year's vehicles can arrive at showrooms anytime throughout the year, but the bulk shows up in late summer and early fall. New model changeovers bring incentives like zero down payments, rebates, and special offers on trade-ins.

Although December and September are typically healthy months for the auto industry, Motor Intelligence found that due to unfavorable market conditions, dealers cut back incentives in 2020 and Motor Intelligence expects incentives to remain tight through 2021.

Best holidays to buy a car

Holiday deal events are a great time to buy a vehicle. These occasions offer exceptional rebates and special financing offers. Besides the Christmas season, sellers also heavily promote New Year's Eve and New Year’s Day. When the end of the month falls on a holiday, which New Years' always does, salespeople get an extra day of business. If the holiday also happens to fall on a Friday, merchants get three additional days added to their monthly numbers.

A lot of promotional hype surrounds three-day holiday weekends. Dealers promise Labor Day "blowouts" and "huge" Labor Day savings, but is it all just an empty tactic? Is President's Day a good time to buy a car? It certainly can be. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, President's Day, and Black Friday offer buyers ample saving incentives. But prepare yourself for busy showrooms and sales agents.

Is now the right time for you to buy a car?

Knowing when to buy a new car is only half the battle. Timing tips won't help get you a premium deal if you don't have a well-laid plan. Use this car-buying checklist and arm yourself with knowledge. Test drive the cars on your wish list early so you can narrow down your choices to two or three favorites.

Don't wait until your old car leaves you stranded. Having the ability to walk away strengthens your bargaining position. Learn what car you want, determine what you can afford, then show up at the best time, and you may just drive away with a bargain!

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