5 Reasons You Should Buy a Used Car in December

A mature man and his young daughter are looking at  cars in a car showrooms .
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There’s a lot to consider when buying a car, and that holds true whether you are shopping new or used. However, there are different things to remember when buying used versus buying new. For instance, the best time of year to buy can be different.

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For used cars, the last four months of the year tends to be the best time to buy. That means December is an excellent time to buy, but the best used car deals might be running out soon. Here’s why December is the perfect time to buy a used car and why you should act now if you want a great deal.

People Are Already Buying Next Year’s Models

We might be in December, but people are already buying next year’s models. Vehicles sporting the next model year usually appear in late summer or early fall. In other words, people have already been buying them for a while.

New car purchases mean trade-ins, and that increases used car inventory. “This time of year sees the most sales of new-year vehicle models, which raises the inventory of used cars as these customers trade in their old vehicles for a new ride,” says Insurify data journalist Chase Gardner.

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Due to end-of-year sales and discounts, people also have incentives to trade in their existing vehicles. The combination of increased supply and demand for next year’s models means it could be easier to find a quality used vehicle. Best of all, that also means prices for used vehicles might be lower than they were in the summer.

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It’s Easier To Save

At other times of the year, you might find yourself scouring the internet for the best deals. So you check car search sites and places like Carmax, Craigslist, and the Facebook Marketplace. Deals are hard to come by, so you search high and low to find something that is a few hundred dollars less.

But you may find that it isn’t necessary to go to such lengths to find a good deal on a used car at the end of the year. Discounts will be much more common due to the situation discussed in the previous section. Hence, you can spend less time stressing over sticker prices and more time thinking about the car that best fits your needs.

Dealers Are Less Busy

Dealers can be very busy sometimes, especially when the weather is warm. That only adds to the stress of buying a car, which is already a lengthy process. If dealers are very busy, the process can take even longer.

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Dealers tend to be less busy in December, though, despite what commercials with snow-covered cars dressed in giant bows might have you believe. In fact, the very fact that this is a slow time of year for car sales is why car brands and dealers have so many year-end sales. At this time of year, people might be preparing for the holidays, or maybe they just don’t want to brave the cold.

“Colder weather can also limit the number of potential customers visiting dealerships, incentivizing dealerships to offer more frequent sales than in warmer months,” Gardner says.

Salespeople Have Targets To Hit

Salespeople at car dealerships may have monthly and/or quarterly sales targets, earning bonuses if they can meet them. Thus, they might be motivated to move inventory, especially in the latter half of December.

For the buyer, that means you might have more room to negotiate. Salespeople might be more flexible on prices, or perhaps they are less likely to charge you extra for premium features. Of course, every dealership is different, and there is no guarantee that salespeople will be more motivated. Still, the chances you will be able to negotiate a better deal are generally higher at this time of year.

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You Have More Leverage

One thing no one enjoys about the car-buying process is feeling pressure from salespeople. It makes people feel uncomfortable and can lead to an ill-advised purchase. But the ball is in your court when buying at the end of the year.

You might still feel some pressure — after all, there are those sales targets to meet. However, if they do have sales targets, they won’t want to lose your business with the end of the year fast approaching. That means they need you more than you need them. At this time of year, the onus is on the dealer to find something that works for you, not the other way around.

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About the Author

Bob Haegele is a personal finance writer who specializes in topics such as investing, banking and credit cards. He left his day job in 2019 to pursue his passion for helping people get out of debt and build wealth. You can find his work at outlets such as Business Insider, Forbes Advisor and SoFi.
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