When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?


One goal millions of American consumers would like to attain before the new year arrives is to purchase a new vehicle. There are about 270 million registered passenger vehicles in the United States with an average age of 11.8 years according to IHS Markit. That’s a long time to hang on to a car and for many people getting a new one has become a high priority, especially if their current ride is experiencing significant downtime.

The months of November and December provide very good opportunities for people to purchase a new vehicle. For one, the year-end sales rush is on and brands such as Lexus, Buick, and Mazda are among those making the push right now. For another, the 2020 models have arrived and dealerships are anxious to clear lots of 2019 inventory. If you do your homework thoroughly, you can slash thousands of dollars off the sticker price of some new models before incentives are taken. Yes, this could be the best time to buy a car, SUV or pickup truck.

There is some debate among experts about the best time to buy a car. Manufacturers and dealers usually insist, “right now!” — but that isn’t always the case. With an eye on the remaining weeks of the year ahead, the following dates, days, and even times of the week may help you in your new car shopping decision.

Black Friday

The day after Thanksgiving is known as “Black Friday” or when merchants offer tantalizing deals to help kick off the Christmas shopping season. The day is so busy that stores are packed with customers from Thanksgiving evening to late Friday night.

Pity the poor new car salesperson who looks out at the traffic-choked highway and observes potential customers whose minds are locked on getting a Christmas gift deal and on nothing else. Very few customers venture to dealer lots and that omission may cost them a big bargain.

In 2013, Consumer Reports surveyed the automotive landscape just days before Thanksgiving and found that several older, but still new models had discounts ranging from 15 to 25 percent off the sticker price. For example, that means a $55,000 full-size pickup truck might retail for as low as $45,000 if buyers were aware of the incentives.

Consumer Reports noted that Black Friday could be an especially beneficial day to shop as “dealers may even sweeten the deal further to clear their lots” and the day is also close to the end of the month as “dealers are more willing to negotiate to meet their quotas.” If Black Friday isn’t the best time to buy a new car, it certainly ranks as one of the top days.

Best Days of the Week

You may think that shopping for a new car on a weekend is the ideal time to buy. However, that usually isn’t the case unless it’s the end of the month and dealers are battling to meet their sales quota. Keep in mind that there’s no way to know if the dealership has met its quota. Don’t expect the salesman to greet you as you enter the showroom by saying, “Gee, we’re really glad you stopped by today. If we make a sale, we’ll meet our monthly quota!”

Monday may be the best day of the week to buy a car as most of the business has been conducted over the previous weekend. The lower the foot traffic, the more likely you’ll have increased negotiating power. This may be even more apparent in December when people are stepping up their Christmas shopping. For instance, if you shop on the Monday following the Thanksgiving weekend — also known as Cyber Monday — you may find showrooms are nearly empty.

At Year-End

Some people think that December 31 is the best day to buy a new car, especially as the calendar year comes to a close. Although it can certainly be a good day, the first few days of the new year can be a good time to shop too. Why? Because those days are counted in the previous year’s totals.

Dealer’s work with what is known as a “U.S. Sales Reporting Calendar.” For 2019, the sales month and year cutoff are on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Many dealers are open on New Year’s Day and many will remain open late on Jan. 2, in a bid to get that final sale.

Dispelling Myths

Just as there is the best time to buy a new car there are some myths about timing your purchase that should be examined and dispelled.

For instance, some people believe that shopping for a new car on a rainy or snowy day is ideal for securing a bargain. On the contrary, many dealerships are packed with people whose plans were changed because of the foul weather.

Arriving at a dealership just as your sales associate is ready to leave for the day seems like a great way to snag a deal too. After all, she may have plans and is eager to get home. Don’t be fooled: salespeople are used to working well beyond their scheduled hours in a bid to secure a deal. Besides, it is the sales manager who ultimately approves or nixes any deal.

Get Prepared

Now that you’re ready to buy a new car, visit the manufacturer’s website to identify the vehicle and trim level that interests you. Contact at least three dealerships to obtain quotes. Learn what incentives are available, which is information that is typically found on the manufacturer’s website. You can arrange to finance on your own or do so through the dealership, but with the latter choice, you may forfeit cash back in exchange for cut-rate financing.

Photo credit Pixabay.

Matthew Keegan
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