The Best Time to Buy a Car

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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 recently checked out data from 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 including 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, 2021 isn’t exactly normal, especially in the car-buying market. 

“This is not the year to buy a vehicle, new or used,” says money expert Clark Howard. “If you can at all avoid it, don’t replace your car. Keep your current car. The market is so terribly distorted right now.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, vehicle production has been affected worldwide. The pandemic has led to factory closures, limited staffing and a shortage of semiconductor chips that are necessary in modern vehicles. According to Edmunds analysts, new vehicle inventory at dealerships nationwide was down by 48% at the end of April 2021 compared to April 2020. Additionally, more than 12% of shoppers were paying more than the sticker price for new cars! 

Clark recently saw stickers on every single car at a nearby dealership stating that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price isn’t in effect right now. The vehicles were marked up a minimum of $10,000 above MSRP at the time. He advises that unless you’ve got to have a vehicle this year, keep driving what you have. “I’ve never said anything like that in my entire career,” says Clark. “There’s never been a situation like this.”

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:

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 is the best day of the week to buy a new car. The company has found that there’s an average savings of 10% off MSRP on Sunday. In states where car sales aren’t allowed on Sunday, TrueCar says Tuesday is the best day to buy. Statistically, the worst day to buy a car is Thursday.

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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 getting your loan pre-approved and shopping 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, consider shopping 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, Kelley Blue Book recommends checking the incentives on a vehicle at the beginning of the month. Once you’ve priced the vehicle online, head to the dealership between the 16th and 20th to shop and then 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. If you know what a good price is on the vehicle you want, 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 do need to buy a car earlier in the year, Kelley Blue Book recommends shopping around the end of each quarter when dealers may be trying to meet sales quotas (March, June, September and December).

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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. Not only are you going to get a better price on new cars, but you’ll also have a better selection of used cars that have been traded in throughout the year. New car models typically arrive around September and October, which 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.

But if you can’t wait until the end of the year to buy a car, that’s okay. You can still get a good price 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 as a buyer. But for most of us, it’s more about how you buy a car than when.


Final Thoughts

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 if you can hold out until President’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day or Black Friday, it could really pay off. 

When have you gotten the best deal on a new or used car? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

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