They say timing is everything. When you are thinking about a new car, your timing can save you thousands if you pick the right time of year – or cost you thousands if you don’t get the timing right. As the seasons pass, transaction prices can fluctuate with supply and demand.
Automotive financing, cash back, and leasing incentives change based on the time of the year. The inventory of new vehicles varies as model years change and new cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans arrive in the market. The discount you can get even fluctuates based on what day of the week or time of the month you buy.
Using data from industry sources and TrueCar (a U.S. News partner for our Best Price Program), we’ve assembled a list of the best times to buy. Take a look at the following slides to see, in no particular order, when the prices are right.
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1) Before You Need a New One
No matter what season of the year it is, the best times to buy a car are before your current vehicle leaves you stranded and when you are prepared to buy a new one. If that timing coincides with the best times on the calendar to buy, you can get a great deal.
If you wait until your current model expires, not only will you lose its value as a trade, but you may find that the pressure to get a new set of wheels forces you into a bad car deal.
Being prepared to buy includes finding the vehicle that meets your needs and wants, choosing a car that holds a spot high in our rankings of new cars (like the 2018 Honda CR-V above), and having a pre-approved financing offer in place before you head to the car dealership.
Some think that shopping on busy weekends or going into the dealership right before they close will force them into giving you a discount. The data, however, shows that isn't true. Visiting a car dealer at the end of the day or on a weekend won’t help shoppers get a great price.
A better strategy is to shop on a Monday. TrueCar’s buying data from 2015 show that buyers saved an average of 8.1 percent off MSRP on Mondays, compared to Saturday (7.77 percent) or Sunday (7.49 percent).
On Mondays (or other weekdays, to a lesser extent), the salesperson and customers will have more time to negotiate the best deal. A side benefit is that most lenders will be open for business on a weekday, so you can arrange and finalize your auto loan before you leave the car dealer.
3) The Month of May
The conventional wisdom is that springtime is not a good time to buy a new car, as lots of buyers get back into the market when the weather starts to improve. However, if you wait until late May, you can take advantage of Memorial Day weekend car deals.
If you’re shopping for a midsize SUV (like the 2018 Honda Pilot above), TrueCar’s data say that May is a particularly good time to buy. Buyers have forgotten about their winter weather driving struggles and families have yet to start thinking about buying a vehicle with large amounts of interior space for summer travels and back-to-school.
4) The Month of October
In October, dealers and manufacturers are starting to aggressively deal to move the last of the previous year’s vehicles off the lots to make room for next year’s models. TrueCar’s data show that on some days in late October, buyers were getting close to 8 percent off MSRP.
Full-size pickup trucks, in particular, tend to be good deals in October, according to TrueCar, as dealers have plenty of inventory, and new models start arriving during the fall. Pickups (like the 2018 Ford F-150 above) tend to change little between complete redesigns, so buying one that's one model year old usually won't require you to give up any significant features.
5) The Month of November
Deals tend to ramp up even more in November as the end of the sales year is in dealer’s sights and the holiday season kicks off with Black Friday deals. In recent years, carmakers have jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon, offering special incentives on the weekend following Thanksgiving.
Midsize car and compact car buyers (like those looking at the 2018 Subaru Impreza above) can get especially good deals in November, according to TrueCar. In general, deals on those segments are strong throughout the year, as buyers’ tastes shift to crossovers and automakers struggle to shift their production to SUVs and away from cars.
Unless you find a great Black Friday deal or an outgoing model that’s being replaced or redesigned for the new model year, it’s probably best to avoid SUVs and crossovers during November. Buyers are thinking about the inclement weather ahead, and demand for those vehicles ticks up.
6) The Month of December
As the holidays approach, dealers and manufacturers have one thing in mind: their annual sales goals. Look for deals that improve during the month, with your best negotiation leverage between Christmas and year-end. If your dealer is on the cusp of an annual bonus, they’ll likely make you a deal.
Even individual salespeople have goals, quotas, and incentives at the end of the month, so let them know that you are ready to buy and they might go the extra mile to make sure that they get your business.
According to TrueCar's data, December is also an excellent time to buy a small SUV or premium SUV (like the 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport above). Car dealers will be aggressively moving the last of the current year's models off their lots, but buyers may not find the wide selection they would have earlier in the sell-down season.
7) New Year’s Eve and Day
The end of the year can be a busy time at dealerships, because New Year's Eve and New Year's day offer some of the best deals of the year. Buyers in 2015 saved 8.5 percent on New Year's Day and 8.3 percent on New Year's Eve, according to TrueCar.
The periods that manufacturers use to determine sales do not necessarily follow calendar months. The industry’s calendar for 2017, for example, has the sales month of December ending on January 2, 2018. In other words, you can enjoy your New Year’s Eve party and start your car-buying adventure the next day.
8) When There Are Incentives
If you can’t time your car buying to any of the days on the previous slides, try to buy when manufacturers have financing deals, cash rebate offers, or lease incentives available on the vehicle that you are considering – or its competition.
Even if your favorite model doesn’t have incentives, you can use the fact that competitors are offering deals to negotiate a better price on the car you want.
You can see the best financing or cash back deals available each month on our car deals page, where the expert journalists and researchers of U.S. News scour the market to discover the best money-saving offers you can get. On our lease deals page, we find offers with low monthly payments, small amounts due at lease signing, or both.
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