Should You Buy a Used Car at the Start of the New Year?

Car salesman passing the car keys to a family man signing papers in a dealership showroom.
EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER / Getty Images

It’s about to be a new year, and for some, that might mean a new car. But, is the beginning of the year the best time to buy a new car–even if it’s used?

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GOBankingRates researched and talked to experts to find out what you should know when you’re trying to find out the best time to buy a used car. Read on to see if you should make a used car one of your first purchases of 2023.

Why Buy a Used Car?

You might want to treat yourself to a new car, but there are definite advantages to driving a used car. Besides a lower sales price, Insurify expert Clinical Professor of Finance at the University of San Diego School of Business Dan Roccato says, you’ll benefit from a lower cost of insurance, too. “Your heart wants a new convertible, but your wallet is happier with an older sedan,” Roccato said. “Driving a used car [will] save [you] on skyrocketing car insurance prices, which we project will rise 16% by the end of 2023.” 

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Other reasons to buy a used car include less depreciation, and reduced-rate loans. Although a new car might sound more luxurious, the future you will probably be glad you saved some serious cash by buying a used car. 

When Are the Best Months To Buy a New Car? 

Reports show that January, February and December–in that order–are the best months to buy a used car. In other words, you’re making a smart choice to buy a new car at the start of the year. The reason for this is that there are sales going on for cars made in that year, so many customers are trading in their old vehicles to get a deal on a new car. Because of this, there’s an increase in used car inventory, with a lower demand than other times of the year.

Another reason for lack of demand? The weather. “Colder weather can also limit the number of potential customers visiting dealerships, incentivizing dealerships to offer more frequent sales than in warmer months,” Data Journalist at Insurify, Chase Gardner, says. 

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Which Used Cars Should You Buy?

One aspect to look for when you’re trying to determine which car to buy is to look for a car that has recently undergone a substantial design remodel. “You are more likely to get a good price if the dealership feels pressure to make room for a new model year–particularly if the car is due for a redesign,” Matt Smith, Deputy Editor at CarGurus says.

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Additionally, any car that’s about to have a brand new release is another thing to research before you go to the dealership. “If you can manage to buy the previous-generation model right before the new generation lands at dealerships, you have a good chance of scoring a great deal.” Smith says. 

You’ll also want to think about what type of car you’re shopping for. The time of year that car is most desirable can also influence how much you end up paying. “If you are looking for a convertible, winter is the time to look for the best deal. Need an SUV? Summer might have the best deal as gas prices are typically higher during that time,” Smith advises. 

What Should You Know Before You Buy a Used Car?

Once you’re at the dealership and know what kind of car you want to buy, you’ll want to ask the right questions to get the best price. Joe Pendergast, Vice President of Consumer Lending at Navy Federal Credit Union says buyers need to go in with a strategy and know what they’re getting themselves into before they drive off the lot. “Interested parties looking to purchase a used vehicle should be sure to ask the dealer how many previous owners the vehicle has had, along with the amount of time it’s been driven. If there were several previous owners who drove the vehicle for a short period of time, that could be a cause for concern.” 

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Pendergast also recommends asking if the car has been in an accident, and if there’s a clear vehicle title. “A clear title states that the vehicle doesn’t have any remaining disputes to its ownership. If the dealer is unable to present a title, I would not suggest going through with the deal.”

Lastly, figure out how much your total selling price is so you know exactly how much you’re paying. “A dealer probably can match any payment you name, but you’ll likely be extending how long you’ll pay for the car — at a higher interest rate — which means you’ll pay more over the life of the loan,” Pendergast says. 

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About the Author

Sam DiSalvo is an LA-based comedian, writer and actor who's performed all over the country. Her written work has appeared in numerous digital publications. As a copywriter, she's worked with a variety of major brands including GoldieBlox and Thrive Causemetics. Sam loves dogs and is currently perusing leisure suits to buy for her corgi mix, Barry
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