Buying a car, whether new or used, is a big investment. If you have time to shop around for the best price, consider waiting for a deal or price drop.
I’ve been researching car-buying websites for a while now, and I’ve used data from KPMG, Kelley Blue Book, TrueCar and more to determine when you’ll get the best price on a new or used car.
In this article, I’ll look at a few of the best times to buy a car throughout the year. I’ll include the best day of the week, the best time of the month and the best holidays.
When Is the Best Time To Buy a Car?
If you’re looking to replace your car, timing can play a big factor in when you’ll get the best deal. In normal years, you’ll likely be able to get a lower price earlier in the week, later in the month or at the end of the year. Unfortunately, the car-buying market in 2023 is still being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020.
“Used vehicle prices at one point went up 70 percent!” said money expert Clark Howard. “Since that peak, the prices have been going down month by month by month.”
Because of the pandemic, vehicle production has been affected worldwide. The pandemic caused factory closures, limited staffing and a shortage of semiconductor chips that are necessary in modern vehicles. This caused U.S. dealer inventories to fall to historic lows throughout 2021 while new car transaction prices soared past MSRPs.
Fortunately, new car inventories have started to improve. “Automaker by automaker, they’ve adapted. They’re building vehicles. They’re sending them to dealers,” says Clark. “Where dealers had no new cars on their lots, there’s still low inventory compared to normal numbers, but the new vehicle thing is gradually improving.”
Still, Clark advises that unless you’ve got to have a vehicle right away, keep driving what you have. While Clark expects car prices to gradually decrease throughout the year, it will be a slow process before the vehicle market returns to normal. So even if you have a costly repair for a vehicle (even if it costs more than what you owe on the car), it may be worth it right now to get it fixed and avoid the crazy high prices on both new and used cars.
Ultimately, the longer you can wait this year to buy a car, the better. If you do need to buy right away, check out Clark’s take on whether you should buy new or used.
Whether you need to buy a vehicle soon despite the current market or you’re planning ahead for next year’s purchase, here’s what we’ve seen traditionally:
- The Best Day of the Week To Buy a Car
- The Best Time of the Month To Buy a Car
- The Best Time of the Year To Buy a Car
If you’re getting ready to buy a new or used car, be sure to consider shopping around these times to get the best possible price.
The Best Day of the Week To Buy a Car
If you plan on buying a car right away, try to make your purchase earlier in the week. According to trusted car-buying websites, this is when buyers typically get better prices.
According to TrueCar, Sunday has been the best day of the week to buy a new car. In December 2020, the company found that there’s an average savings of 10% off MSRP on Sunday. In states where you can’t buy cars on Sunday, TrueCar says Tuesday is the best day to buy. Statistically, the worst day to buy a car is Thursday.
Edmunds, a Carmax-owned automotive information website, agrees that buying earlier in the week is best. Their experts say this is more about the level of attention you can expect from a salesperson than about getting a better deal.
When I asked Clark about the best time to buy a car, he said it’s once you’ve done your research.
“What really matters with the pricing is that you’ve done your homework,” he says. “Doing the shopping and being methodical about it is much more important than the calendar when you’re buying a vehicle.”
If you’re shopping for a new vehicle, Clark recommends that you get a pre-approved loan. Then, shop around online to find the best deal. For those looking to buy a used vehicle, shopping around is even more important because no one knows exactly what a used vehicle is worth. Clark recommends shopping at as many online and in-person dealerships as possible to figure out how much similar used models are going for.
The Best Time of the Month To Buy a Car
If you don’t need to buy a car within the next week, shop around for a full month to see when and where you can get the best deal. Many experts recommend buying a vehicle closer to the end of the month. This advice is based on the idea that salespeople may be trying to meet monthly quotas and will therefore be more likely to offer a good deal.
If you’re shopping for a new car, KBB recommends checking the incentives on a vehicle early in the month. Once you’ve priced the vehicle online, head to the dealership between the 16th and 20th. This is the time to shop. Finally, negotiate and make your purchase during the last two or three days of the month.
The experts at TrueCar agree that you can expect to find greater savings after the 20th of each month. Exceptions include holidays that fall earlier in the month such as President’s Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.
Unfortunately for buyers, sales reports aren’t necessarily always due at the end of the month, which means you may not always get the deal you’re expecting after the 20th.
“There may be certain situations where a dealer may be trying to reach a sales incentive level by the last day of the reporting period, which won’t necessarily be the end of the month,” says Clark. “There may be an extra desire on their part to move a vehicle then. But as a consumer, you’re not normally going to know what those specific needs of a dealer are.”
This is why it’s best to do your research and shop around first. Know what a good price is on the vehicle you want. Then, you’ll know when you see a good deal. You’ll also know when you should hold out for a potentially better price later.
The Best Time of the Year To Buy a Car
If your car doesn’t need replacing right away, really take the time to shop around. A new or used vehicle is a big investment, and it’s important to do your research before you make the purchase. Waiting until you find the right price can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
In the past, some of the best car deals have been available during three-day weekend holidays, the end of each quarter and at year-end sales events. Because of this, New Year’s Eve is perhaps the best day of the year to buy a car. If you need to buy a car earlier in the year, KBB recommends shopping around the end of each quarter. This is when dealers may be trying to meet sales quotas (March, June, September and December).
Still, according to data collected by Edmunds, December has the year’s highest discount, 6.1% off MSRP on average, and the best incentives.
Experts at Autotrader agree that the last quarter of the year is the best time to buy a car. This is when you’re going to see the best prices on new cars. But you’ll also have a better selection of used cars that have been traded in throughout the year. In normal years, car models typically arrive around September and October. That makes these great months to start shopping for trade-ins and previous models. Dealers will be looking to clear these cars out to make room for new inventory.
Of course, 2023 isn’t a normal year for car buying. While COVID has affected vehicle production, you’ll still likely find the best prices in the fourth quarter of this year. Each month, prices are expected to get slightly better. So the longer you can wait into 2023 or even 2024 to buy a car, the more likely you’ll be to find a deal.
However, if you can’t wait until the end of the year to buy a car, that’s okay. You can still get the best price possible by doing your research first.
“I’m often asked if it’s best to buy a vehicle during one particular season or another,” Clark reflects, “But the only type of vehicle that has a real seasonality to it is a convertible in cold weather climates.”
Clark says if you’re buying a convertible in a northern community mid-winter, it’s going to be a deal. But for most of us, it’s usually more about how you buy a car than when.
If you’re looking to buy a new or used car, the calendar will get you only so far when it comes to getting the best deal. The rest will be up to you and the research you do ahead of time.
“I’ve been asked that ‘when’ question by reporters all through the years. They always ask, ‘When’s the best time to buy a new vehicle? Is it best to buy it early in the week? Is it best to buy it at the end of the month?’ They’ll ask all these ‘when’ questions,” says Clark. “But I’ll always frustrate them because I’ll say, ‘I don’t really care very much about the ‘when.’ It’s the ‘how’ that matters in buying a car.'”
According to Clark, the best time to buy a car is once you have been pre-approved for a loan and have shopped around at nearby and online competitors. Still, if you’re hoping to get a better deal, shopping at the beginning of the week, the end of the month and the end of the year may still ring true at some dealerships.
Data at TrueCar ultimately suggest that December 31st is still perhaps the best day of the year to buy a new car, offering an average savings of 10.9% off MSRP. Holiday events are also great times to find a lower price or better incentive. So holding out until President’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day or Black Friday in the future could really pay off.
If you have to buy a car this year, you’ll find that prices will start to gradually decrease throughout 2023. Hold off on buying for as long as possible and give the vehicle market a chance to stabilize.
When have you gotten the best deal on a new or used car? Tell us about your experience in the Clark.com community!