Whatever your reason for buying a new car — it’s your first set of wheels, your family size has changed or your old vehicle is on its last miles — timing is everything. Although a major part of your search for a new car will likely revolve around the make, model and style of vehicle you seek, don’t neglect to look at the financial picture as well.
When looking for new car deals, timing can have a big impact on your pocketbook. In fact, waiting as few as a few months before making that purchase can save you money, according to car-buying experts. If your need for a new car isn’t urgent, exercise a bit of patience and you will likely reap dividend rewards.
Now let’s look at a few reasons why certain times of the year are the best times to buy a new car, while other times of the year are the worst.
The Best Time of Year to Buy a New Car
Car-buying experts say you can typically save some money by buying a new vehicle at a specific time of the year, month, time of day or even day of the week. If you’re able to time your purchase accordingly, it could really be worth it.
1. At the End of the Month
This tip applies to any month of the year, so if you are really in a pinch to make a purchase soon, this can increase your chances of saving money. The customer who comes in ready to buy at the end of the month might get a better deal if it helps put the manager over the top for their quota, said Mike Rabkin, owner and founder of From Car to Finish, a national new car deals negotiating service and information provider.
“When a vehicle needs help selling, the end of the month is a good time to buy if negotiating the vehicle yourself, because sales managers at dealerships have a monthly quota to hit and get compensated on whether they hit it or not,” he said.
Tip for this tactic: Brush up on your negotiating tactics before you make an appearance on the dealer’s lot at the end of the month.
2. When Models Are on the Way Out
When new vehicle models come out, dealers are eager to get in with the new and out with the old. So it pays to watch the life cycle of your desired vehicle and pull the trigger to buy right before the next best thing comes out.
“End-of-model-years (leftovers) get the best discounts, as the dealer is paying to inventory these units, and they need to free up space and cash for incoming, newer models,” said Albert L. Engel, executive vice president and chief retail lending officer for Valley National Bank.
In order to get the best car deal, buy a car toward the end of the year, as in October, November or December, said Benjamin K. Glaser, features editor for DealNews.com, a website devoted to coupons and deals across the web.
However, end-of-model year doesn’t always mean the end of the calendar year. Although new cars tend to start shipping in the late summer or early fall, some models might start the new year in the spring, according to USA Today.
Tip for this tactic: Pay attention to sales when older models will likely go down in price.
3. Buy at the End of the Day
New car deals that can be found at the end of the day, or even on a specific day of the week, can also yield savings, according to car-buying website AutoTrader. Sales and finance professionals are ready for quitting time, but an eager salesperson will not let a serious customer walk away without buying.
Furthermore, the day of the week can also play into pricing. Sunday was the best day of the week to purchase a vehicle, according to a study by TrueCar.com, an automotive pricing and information website. Buyers on a Friday can pay as much as $2,000 more than those who shop on a Sunday for the same vehicle.
Tip for this tactic: Know which vehicle on the lot you want, then swing by the dealership just prior to closing.
4. Black Friday
On Black Friday, most shoppers are focused on getting deals on holiday gifts. However, if you’re in the market for a new car, you might want to hit the dealership that day instead.
Car dealerships’ Black Friday deals could save you up to thousands of dollars on a new car, according to Consumer Reports. Several events line up in the buyer’s favor: Dealers are trying to clear out older inventory for the new year, as well as trying to meet quotas at the end of the month. Also, since most shoppers are at the stores, you probably won’t be fighting a crowd at the dealership.
Tip for this tactic: Some dealers might also offer good Black Friday incentives on new models, according to Consumer Reports.
5. When a Rebate Is Being Offered
Sometimes dealers offer temporary rebates in order to clear out a model year entirely during specific days of the year, Rabkin said. This could get you considerable savings.
“These days can take place at any time of the year…. so dealers can sell a vehicle for less when they have the use of said incentives,” he said. “These can be in the form of a flat rebate per vehicle sold, or a stair-step incentive, which requires a dealer to hit a pre-set sales target set by the manufacturer, based on a specific dealer’s normal sales volume.”
Tip for This Tactic: Edmunds.com offers a search tool to find rebates and incentives by zip code and vehicle make.
The Worst Time of Year to Buy a New Car
Alternatively, there are certain times that car-buying experts say are the worst times of the year to find new car deals. If possible, delay your purchase to avoid these car-buying pitfalls.
1. When a Vehicle Is in High Demand
Like many commodities, buying a new car when it’s in high demand might not be the wisest decision. That’s when car dealers and manufacturers have the upper hand.
“The best time to buy a new vehicle will vary depending on the supply and demand of a vehicle,” Rabkin said. “If it’s in demand and selling faster than they can get them in, it’s a seller’s market, and there is no best time, because the dealer sets the price if they have what everyone wants.”
Tip for This Tactic: Consider repairing your current vehicle first, or tightening your budget for a few more months to hold off on the purchase of your new car.
2. Following Recent Credit Inquiries
If you plan on financing your new ride, auto dealers will check your credit score prior to negotiating the terms of an auto lease. Say you go to auto dealer A and apply for an auto loan, but do not like the interest rate you’re offered. If you then go to auto dealer B and do the same thing, you’re best off doing so within a 14-day window of the first inquiry, according to consumer credit bureau Experian.
By doing so, the credit inquiries all basically count as one inquiry. However, if you wait several weeks or months and then apply for another loan, the previous loan application could have a negative impact on your credit score and the loan rate you are offered. In short, to save the most, plan your applications and credit checks strategically, or hold off until you are certain you will buy no matter what the terms offered.
Tip for This Tactic: Don’t agree to a dealer’s credit check until you are ready to finance your purchase.
3. In the Spring
Avoid the buyer mistake of purchasing new wheels in the spring. Conversely, the worst time to buy a car is in the spring. While this generally holds true, it is difficult to determine exactly how much money can be saved on a specific vehicle by buying in the spring versus the fall because prices fluctuate, Glaser adds.
“Dealers still have plenty of time until next year’s models crowd the lot, consumers are looking forward to better weather and driving conditions, and some people might be putting their tax refunds towards a new car,” Glaser said.
Tip for This Tactic: Instead of blowing your tax refund on a new ride, put that money into savings until new car deals emerge later in the year. The average transaction price is higher in the spring than in August, which tends to have the lowest average transaction costs of the year, according to TrueCar.com.
4. At the Beginning of a New Model Year
While the sleek new body design on your desired vehicle might be enticing, think twice before shelling out top dollar for a few extra curves or driver perks. Underneath the vehicle might be exactly the same, but what meets the eye often comes with a higher price. Carefully consider changes between model years and decide whether a new perk, such as heated seats, is really worth shelling out extra dough.
Tip for This Tactic: Websites, such as Cars.com, offer comparison tools to help you determine what has changed during each model year a vehicle is made.
5. Before a New Model Has Been Reviewed
If you’re looking to avoid a lemon when you buy a new car, then you might want to wait until new models are reviewed by an independent agency such as Consumer Reports. The 2016 reports on the best new cars were just recently released, and Audi and Subaru came out on top.
Tip for This Tactic: Practice patience and wait for the pros to review your ride before you buy. Consumer Reports typically releases its list of the best new cars at the beginning of each calendar year.