Young couple buying a car from a car dealership sales representative; shiny black car in the background.

The Best Time To Buy A Car

5-Minute ReadNovember 15, 2021

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Knowing the best time to buy a car not only saves you some money, but it can make the entire buying process easier. Whether you want to get more personal attention from your salesperson or capitalize on manufacturer incentives, this guide reviews when the best times are to make your purchase.

Is Now A Good Time To Buy A Car?

COVID-19 has negatively impacted supply chains around the globe. The microchip shortage has forced auto manufacturers to cut production on new models, and the cost of new vehicles has reflected this. According to Edmunds, there’s only about a third of the new vehicle inventory available in 2021 of the amount there was a year ago. According to data from Edmunds, as of June 2021, new vehicle prices are up by 8.6%, and the cost of used cars has skyrocketed with an increase of 27%. 

In a seller’s market, you’re not completely out of luck. If you shop at the right times, you can still gain leverage in negotiations at key times when dealerships are more likely to want to move their inventories.  

Best Month To Buy A Car

The fall and winter months are traditionally the best times of year for car shopping as the model year comes to a close and new inventory arrives.

Months that offer great deals on new cars are not typically as great for people in the market for a used vehicle. For example, almost 1.6 million vehicles were sold in the United States during the month of December due to end-of-the-year events, but January is a better month to purchase a used vehicle. 

Pay attention to when the new year models are released, because dealerships provide discounts on previous year models to move them as the next year’s inventory arrives. If a vehicle has been redesigned completely for the upcoming year, you can save some money on the outgoing year. 

Overall, the best day to buy a car will be toward the end of the month. Salespeople are given monthly sales quotas to meet, and when the end of the month nears, they may be more willing to negotiate on pricing.

New Cars 

The last three months of the year are the best to purchase a new vehicle. Manufacturer rebates are typically higher, and many of the next year's designs are arriving at dealerships. Here are the reasons to shop for a vehicle in these months: 

October 

Most of the newer models are delivered to dealerships in October, which means you’re more likely to get a significant discount on one of the previous year's models.

November 

The month of November is most notable for its Black Friday sales events that offer significant incentives from manufacturers and lower borrowing rates. Black Friday occurs at the end of the month as well, when salespeople are trying to hit their quotas and earn bonuses ahead of the holidays. 

December 

December is normally when automakers offer employee pricing on vehicles and the manufacturer incentives are the highest. While this is the best month to buy a new car when you’re looking for a discount, it may be more difficult to find the specific vehicle you’d like because inventories are depleted. Dealerships also need to pay fees on the inventory they hold at the end of the year, so they’ll want to move as many cars off the lot as they can come New Year’s Eve. 

Used Cars 

The automotive calendar year begins and ends in October, rather than January. Winter is by far the best time to purchase a used vehicle, but the best months for used car buying follow the best times to buy a new car. January, February and December are when you’ll find the best deals, but the beginning of the year is far better than the final months.  

January 

Typically, January is seen as the best month to purchase a used vehicle. There are many vehicles available due to the trades that take place during the holidays, and dealerships looking to clear out their used car inventories. There are almost 29% more used car deals than average offered during the month of January, according to a study done by iSeeCars.com.

February 

While February is one of the worst months to buy a new car, it’s the second-best month to purchase a used car for many of the same reasons that January is a good month. There are almost as many deals available on used cars, 22% more than average. 

December 

Out of the winter months, December is the best month to buy a used vehicle. About 13% more deals are offered on used cars in December than the rest of the year.

Best Day Of The Week To Buy A Car

Tuesday 

Monday is almost as busy as the weekend, so Tuesdays are when most salespeople have more time to devote to each customer. The finance department can also get you financed and out the door quicker. 

Wednesday 

Tuesday is still a very popular day for people to shop for vehicles, so Wednesday is an alternative. There’s less foot traffic at dealerships in the middle of the week.

A Note On Weekends And Holidays

Black Friday 

Black Friday occurs shortly after the end of the seasonal design cycle and near the end of the month. There are also numerous incentives and Black Friday leasing deals available. When considering a leasing deal on a car, it’s important to know the difference between leasing and buying a vehicle. Black Friday is a great time to buy a new vehicle, but not a good time for used car buyers. 

New Year’s Eve 

Dealers need to meet their sales goal for the end of the year and are willing to discount their vehicles to do so. The last day of the year and New Year’s Day are excellent times to shop for a used vehicle because of an ample supply of trades taken in over the holidays. 

Three-Day Weekend Holidays 

Three-day weekend events are the exception to the rule on avoiding car purchases on weekends. Not every holiday offers the same good deals, however. 

  • Presidents' Day: This is a good time to find some deals on used cars.

  • Memorial Day: You’re less likely to get a killer deal, but you have much more inventory to choose from. 

  • Fourth of July: Some of the incoming year vehicles are released in July, so this provides an opportunity to get a deal on the last year’s model. 

  • Labor Day: This is the closest holiday to the winter and offers better incentives than the spring and summer events.

When To Wait

If you’re a month or two away from a big sale or winter is just around the corner, consider waiting to buy a vehicle. The extra patience allows you to shop around for the vehicle you want, and you could save a significant amount of money. 

The Bottom Line

The best time to buy a car depends on whether you’re looking for a new or used vehicle. If you shop at the end of the month and the middle of the week, you’re more likely to find discounts. Before you schedule a test drive, check the manufacturer's website to see what the incentives are so you know what to demand and expect.

Browse the Rocket AutoSM used car inventory to compare the best deals in your area.

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