Don’t wait to buy a new car. We know everyone has probably been telling you that for the past year, but this time we really mean it. Because the perfect storm that has contributed to record low car prices since 2008 is rapidly blowing itself out.
When the economy tanked, car manufacturers learned to transition with it. They cut way down on production to reduce costs and manage inventory. Now they’re making fewer cars, and sales are actually picking up -- which means this buyer’s market won’t last much longer.
But don’t just take our word for it. Jesse Toprak, vice president of Industry Trends and Insights at TrueCar.com, says the summer months (June through August) will be the best times to buy a new car for a while. Pricing is expected to stabilize and even begin to increase this fall.
“Discounts will be less attractive [this fall],” Toprak says. “Summer is a great time to buy because discounts will be attractive and inventory will be decent. There’s a good chance you may not even find the car you’re looking for this fall.”
If you’re thinking of buying a new car this year, consider buying it in the next few months. To get the best deal, check out these tips from Toprak and TrueCar.com:
Find the Best Price on Your Next Car
Use the U.S. News Best Price Program to get a great deal.
Get upfront pricing on inventory
Lock in your guaranteed savings
See what others paid for the car you want
1. Don’t Buy a Convertible or Minivan
Here’s the one exception to the “buy this summer” rule: If you’re interested in a fun summer convertible or a family hauler, wait to buy. Toprak notes that “prices for these vehicles typically are highest” in the warm summer months. The convertible’s appeal in the summer is obvious, and many families buy minivans or SUVs for summer road trips. High summer demand means higher prices for car buyers.
2. Buy a 4WD SUV or Truck
Just as convertibles and minivans are in high demand during the summer, other vehicles are in low demand – and that’s where you’ll find the most discounts. According to Toprak, four-wheel-drive SUVs and trucks are heavily discounted in the summer.
“If you’re planning to buy an SUV or truck later on the year, you may want to look at the market now,” he urges. “Look at large SUVs and large trucks.”
As of June 2010, TrueCar’s data shows that large trucks are going for the biggest discounts. The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is going for an average of 23.1 percent below its MSRP. The GMC Sierra 1500 and Ford Super-Duty F-350 are close behind, with discounts of 22.3 and 21.7 percent below MSRP, respectively.
Large SUVs are also good buys, with the Jeep Commander going for 18.2 percent below MSRP. Even luxury SUVs are highly discounted. TrueCar’s data shows the 4WD Lincoln MKX is going for 14.8 percent below MSRP.
Compare these numbers to those for minivans and convertibles, and it’s a different story. The Honda Odyssey minivan is only going for 8.9 percent below its MSRP, and the Ford Mustang convertible for just 7.3 percent below MSRP.
3. Shop at the End of June
Automakers always hold enticing sales, complete with flashy advertisements, over the 4th of July weekend. However, Toprak advises customers to resist the hype. In fact, he says the 4th of July weekend doesn’t even make the top 10 best days for discounts all year.
On top of that, “A lot of consumers drop their guard over the 4th of July because people assume it’s a great time to buy,” he notes. Because of that, those customers aren’t getting the great discounts they should.
Instead of shopping over the frenzied 4th of July weekend, Toprak suggests shopping during the last three days of June. You’ll be more at ease and you’ll find even better discounts, especially on June 30, the last day of the month.
4. Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
No matter when you shop or what vehicle you buy, the best discount is the one you get yourself. If you come prepared, you’ll be able to negotiate a great deal.
First, look up the average price people are paying in your area (using TrueCar data, we list the average price paid for every model we cover). Bring this information to the dealership, and you’ll know if you’re getting a fair deal.
The second step is to research manufacturer incentives. Using our Best Car Deals, you can quickly find the best incentives on the market. If you’re more interested in looking at a specific brand, check out our deals pages for Honda, Ford, Jeep, Lexus, Chevy, Toyota and Nissan.
The final step is to line up financing. Dealers can usually get slightly lower rates than you as an individual -- and in today’s market many of them are even offering zero-interest rates. However, it always pays to know what you can get at your bank before comparing it with the dealer’s offer.
If you’re gun-shy about negotiating with a dealer (as many people are), you’re in luck. Several companies offer services allowing you to lock in a fixed price online. We offer a fixed-price coupon when you get local dealer price quotes from participating dealers. TrueCar’s new “Up-Front Pricing” program is similar. They work with 3,000 dealerships that are willing to sell a car below its market average price. To access the fixed prices, simply look at a pricing report on TrueCar.com (such as this one for the Honda Odyssey) and look for the “Lowest Certified Price” box. Even Costco and some credit unions offer guaranteed pricing services.
More Shopping Tools from U.S. News & World Report
Buying a car is one of life’s biggest financial decisions. Buy right, and you’ll have years of smooth, low cost driving ahead of you. Buy wrong, and the road ahead will be filled with costly potholes. Our new car rankings and used car rankings will help you find a vehicle that meets both your needs and budget. Our reviews are based on the consensus opinion of the country’s top automotive journalists, blended with quantifiable data on predicted reliability and safety to create a score.
When you find the perfect ride, explore our new car deals page to find the best offers from automakers. We track the best financing and cash back deals available. If you prefer to lease, our lease deals page shows offers with low monthly payments, little due at signing, or both. Both lease and purchase customers can save even more with our Best Price Program, which connects them with local dealers offering guaranteed savings. Buyers save more than $3,000 off MSRP, on average, when they take advantage of the program.
In addition to savings off MSRP, getting the best interest rate on your car loan can save you thousands as well. Compare rates from up to four lenders with MyAutoloan to get the best deal.