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That's because there is no single time of the year that is ideal for everyone to purchase a car. For prospective buyers who don't have enough saved for a down payment, or who don't have a decent enough credit rating to even qualify for a sensible loan, the concept of a "best time to buy" has no meaning. But for the huge majority of consumers who can afford a reasonable down payment and have at least "okay" credit, the idea of the best time to buy does have merit.
There Are Several Best Times
In fact, most research on the topic turns up a very interesting factoid: Not only are there numerous best times to buy throughout the year, but there are also better-than-average times to buy within each month and within each week. Some nit-pickers will say there are even ideal hours during a given business day to purchase a car.
Unfortunately, that last claim is hard to back up with legitimate evidence. But experts who know the auto industry have uncovered some best annual buying periods, best within-each-month times, and ideal days within each week for car buying. What are they? That's what every prospective car buyer should know before setting out to sign on the dotted line.
The Big List of Best Times to Buy a Car
The "big list" is broken down into annual, monthly, and weekly periods. So for consumers who must purchase a vehicle this week, the list will help them find the ideal day or days to shop. For those who need to purchase a car this month, for whatever reason, they can refer to the monthly list below to discover the good and bad days for shopping. People who aren't in a rush to acquire a fresh vehicle can simply check out the annual list and discover the optimum time periods for car purchasing.
Some eagle-eyed consumers have found a way to combine all the lists and, first, choose the best month, then the best week or weeks within that month, and finally decide on a specific day within that particular week. It's like zeroing in on all the data to maximize the effectiveness of the purchase date.
Each section below lists best times to buy and includes a few "warnings" about the times NOT to buy.
Annual "best times to buy"
- April: Millions of taxpayers receive large refunds by late March or during April, depending on when they filed their tax return for the year. Data shows that there are quite a few deals offered for this specific purpose, but consumers need to check with individual sellers because some are more into "tax sales" than others.
- May: Dealers know that summer is a hard time to move inventory, so they often make a final pre-summer effort to give discounts and sell off some inventory. Plus, this is a common time for graduates to car shop with gift money or job sign-on bonuses.
- October: In late October, many dealers offer discounts up to about 8 percent off MSRP in anticipation of the new models coming in, and to generally clean house.
- November: Statistics show that November is also a pretty decent month for buyers. Dealerships are ramping up for Black Friday and year-end closeouts, so November is actually in the thick of the best annual season for automobile purchases.
- December: Most research points to December as the single best month for car buying. Year-end book closing, Christmas sales, seasonal incentives, the need to move last year's models, and other reasons all coalesce into a big, big opportunity for consumers who are in the market for a vehicle
- Late August: That's the typical end of model year, and marks a great time for consumers in the automotive market.Warning: Avoid the "summer bummer": Most consumer researchers say the summertime is the "down" season for discounts and deals on cars. That meshes with the above suggestions about shopping during the non-hot months.
Monthly Best Times
- The beginning of the month: Contrary to popular belief (very old popular belief, by the way) the early days within each month are better than any others for buyers.
- The end of each month: As noted above, end-of-month buying isn't what it used to be, but some sellers are still willing to offer discounts during this time. Always check with particular dealerships before assuming that any "best buying" month, day, or week is a smart time to purchase a vehicle.
Weekly Best Times
- Mondays: Consumer surveys have shown that discounts from MSRP are greatest on Mondays, week in and week out. How big are the Monday discounts? On average, buyers save about 8 percent off MSRP when buying on the first business day of the week.
Weekdays rather than weekends: Data shows that weekday shoppers save several percentage points more than weekend car buyers. This might have to do with the amount of customer (walk-ins, anyway) on weekends when sales personnel have a bit more leverage. The lesson is this: buy on Monday if possible, or at least on a weekday, but not on a weekend.
Warning: Avoid buying a car on weekends.
Special Times To Get A Good Purchase Deal
- Memorial Day: Memorial Day acts as a sort of model-year closeout sale time for dealers. Depending on when the new models arrive, this can be the best time of the year to snag a smokin' deal on a vehicle.
- From Christmas Day until New Year's Day: Most dealers are closing up their accounting year during this time, and while December 31 is not a hard-and-fast cutoff date for deals, buyers can take advantage of big sales during the final week of the year. Car dealers are like everyone else in this respect. They want to get rid of the old to make room for the new.
- New Year's Eve: The huge majority of dealers are experiencing a triple-witch accounting period on December 31, when annual, quarterly, and monthly sales goals all meet on the same calendar day. Some research has shown that the average savings on New Year's Eve work out to about 10 percent or more off MSRP. This might be a smart time to get a new car, which would be a good reason to go out and celebrate. Don't worry, all the best clubs will be open late.
- Black Friday: Always check with the local dealership before shopping, but Black Friday discounts are the amount best offered by most major retailers, and that goes for automobiles as well. Experts say average Black Friday discounts range from 7 to 21 percent off MSRP on certain models.
- Special local incentives: Consumers should keep a close eye on nearby dealerships because some have their own reasons for holding oddball sales on unexpected dates each year. Maybe a shipment was delayed, or a major fleet sale didn't' materialize, or whatever. There are dozens of reasons a dealer might hold a sale. That's why it's smart to watch for quick incentives and promotions at specific dealerships.
- Fathers' Day: This special day, along with Mothers' Day, has become a common time for sellers to offer significant discounts because some families like to give cars as gifts, and those are two of the biggest gift-giving days of the year outside of Christmas.
- July Fourth: During the summer doldrums of low sales and icky weather, dealers often advertise "blowout" July Fourth deals, many of which are legitimately legitimate. This day actually marks the last good buying opportunity until the cooler weather rolls around.
- Any time after hail storms and severe weather: Often overlooked, "bad weather sales," can be perfect times to find exceptional discounts on cars. Hail, heavy rains, wind, tornadoes, floods, severe freezes, and huge snowstorms do serious damage to inventories. Anyone who grew up in the Midwest or Northern U.S. knows about "bad weather sales," and they're completely for real.
- Warnings: Don't buy a new model that hasn't had time to be reviewed in the major automotive media. Consumers should buy new cars before they HAVE to buy new cars. That way, there won't be the pressure to ink a deal too soon.