So When's the Best Time to Buy a Car?

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Buying a new car can be as much fun as a root canal, even if you love everything about the automotive industry. You’re out to get the best deal, the dealer is out to make money, and the salesperson isn’t always on top of their game, especially if you know your stuff when it comes to cars.

So, what can you do? You can suck it up and pay the dealer’s asking price, but that’s not much fun. You can haggle your way to an acceptable price, but it’s a fine line to be walked and doesn’t always end up in your favor. You can also just wait for a sale and hope that the model you want sees a decent discount.

Alas, none of those are perfectly great options. Your best bet is to know when dealers are more likely to have sales, and to research when new models are coming out to get the best prices on the old ones. It’s not a foolproof technique, but shopping at certain times of the month or year can yield big savings.

Let’s get rolling.

Deals can be hard to find, but there are good times to buy.

When Is The Best Time To Buy A Car?

In general, the best time to buy a car is when you need to buy a car. You can wait for the next “big deal” to come along, but there will always be a better deal just around the corner. However, if you’re dead-set on finding a sale or promo before shopping, check during these times: 

End of Model Year

Even if a vehicle is a direct carryover, meaning there are zero updates for the new model year, it’s easiest to find the best prices by shopping at the end of the previous model year. In other words, even if a 2020 and 2021 model are exactly the same, the 2020 model should be cheaper on dealers’ lots. Next year’s models typically arrive between summer and the end of the calendar year, but that’s not a hard and fast rule.

End of Calendar Year or Month

Sometimes, the end of a calendar year will coincide with the introduction of a new model year, but that’s not always the case. The ends of years and months represent a crunch time for some auto dealers, when they are in a rush to move vehicles to hit sales quotas. You might be able to squeak out a good deal at these times, but it’s not guaranteed. Some dealers can see the deal-seekers coming from a mile away.

Holiday Sales

Labor Day, Black Friday, Memorial Day, and others can all be great times to buy a new vehicle. Many automakers roll out promotions and incentives at those times to catch people off work and ready to buy.

End of Life Cycle

Just like the end of a vehicle’s model year, you can score big deals on cars that are about to be discontinued. This is especially true if there are several units left for sale at the end of the life cycle. Dealers may be motivated to sell their remaining units.

Do your homework and you’ll get the best deal possible.

I Don’t Want To Buy. What About Leasing?

Automakers offer deals on leases all the time, but a vehicle lease isn’t for everyone. There are typically harsh mileage limits and other restrictions on leased vehicles, and at the end of the lease term you don’t actually own anything. You’ll have the option to purchase at the end, and monthly lease payments tend to be lower than finance payments, so it can be a good deal for the right person. 

What Is Considered a “Good” Discount?

This will depend on your financial situation, your tolerance for spending money, and what cars you’re considering. Some people will be happy paying the list price, while others will be able to negotiate a price that is somewhere near or below the vehicle’s invoice pricing. Don’t feel bad to ask for a discount, even if you think it’s unfair. The worst that can happen is that you’ll hear “no,” but keep in mind that dealers get rewards and incentives for selling cars, so that discount may not be as big a hit to the dealership as you might think.

Car Buying Terms You Should Know

Get schooled, yo! 

Dealership

Dealerships are usually franchised businesses that operate under the brand name of an automaker. The dealer pays for the vehicles and the right to use the brand and gets the recognition and support of an established vehicle brand in return. 

F&I

The finance and insurance department, or F&I, is a part of the dealership that handles lending and paperwork for the vehicles sold at that location. People sometimes dread interacting with the folks in F&I because it’s there that extra warranties and coverage are offered, and final negotiations take place

Lease

A lease is a contract between an individual and a financial institution in which the individual agrees to pay a certain amount each month for the right to use a vehicle over a specific period of time. There is usually a down payment or up-front payment due at signing, and the lessee usually has the option to buy the vehicle at the end of the term. Lessees do not own any part of the vehicle at any point in time.

Invoice Price

The invoice price is the price that the dealer sees on its bill when it receives a new vehicle from the factory. This is different from MSRP or other pricing. It’s important to remember that the invoice price is almost always more than what the dealer ends up paying, due to incentives and kickbacks for vehicles sold.

Buy when you need to, but shop around.

FAQs About Best Time To Buy A Car 

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

Q. Can I Buy A Car With Bad Credit?

A. You absolutely can, but if you’re planning on financing, you may have a hard time. There are plenty of lenders that cater to people with bad credit, but they charge dearly for the privilege. If you think you have bad credit, get pre approved by a local bank before heading to shop for a car. This will tell you how much you can afford and will help you with negotiating leverage.

Q. Why Does My Local Dealer Charge A Different Amount Than Is Advertised?

A. Dealers sometimes have the option to participate in promotions from the automakers they represent. There’s also the possibility that the offer you saw is not available in your area. There could also just be some fine print that requires certain financing or configurations before a deal is unlocked.

Q. Where Can I Find Invoice Pricing?

A. It’s a good idea to know the invoice price before you head to a dealer’s lot. Several sites online offer invoice pricing for various cars, but you can always just ask the dealer to get the right number.

Let’s Talk, Comment Below To Talk With The Drive’s Editors!

We’re here to be expert guides in everything How-To related. Use us, compliment us, yell at us. Comment below and let’s talk! You can also shout at us on Twitter or Instagram, here are our profiles.

Jonathon Klein: Twitter (@jonathon.klein), Instagram (@jonathon_klein)

Tony Markovich: Twitter (@T_Marko), Instagram (@t_marko)

Chris Teague: Twitter (@TeagueDrives), Instagram (@TeagueDrives)

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