Car shopping can be a rewarding process, especially when you come home with the vehicle you wanted that didn’t bust your budget. But haggling on price can be the most stressful part of the car-buying process, especially since many (if not most) dealerships offer very little pricing transparency.
Despite this lack of transparency, there are ways to save on your next vehicle, including knowing the best time to buy a car. Below, we'll cover the best time to buy a car and how to get the best bang for your buck on your trade-in too.
While car dealerships often have big sales advertising deep discounts, there are plenty of other ways to score low car prices. Here’s what dealerships don’t want you to know.
It may seem logical to walk into a dealership on a Saturday or Sunday because those are likely the days when you have the most free time. However, this is the same for many car buyers, which leads to more customers than the salespeople can handle.
With so many customers to choose from, the sales team has little incentive to cut you a deal or give you enough time to negotiate before moving on to the next customer.
Instead of heading to the dealership on the weekend, stick to a weekday, ideally a Monday. It's the best day of the week to make a car purchase because most people have just started their weekly routine and are focused on work, school, or other tasks — not buying a car. This means fewer customers for salespeople and more attention for you.
Also, salespeople are fresh off the weekend sales push and may get antsy with Monday’s limited sales traffic, leading to more potential discounts for you.
At most car dealerships, salespeople and sales managers get a commission for each car sale. They also get volume bonuses throughout the year for reaching specific sales goals.
For example, a salesperson may get $200 for selling you that new car at the beginning of the month. That same car sale may also be what they need to get their $2,000 volume bonus at the bonus period. If this is the case, they might be more motivated to cut an aggressive deal to get you to buy now.
These sales targets can be monthly, quarterly, or even yearly, so visiting the dealership on the last day of a month, quarter, or year will put you in the best position to get a good deal on a new or used car.
The downside at the end of the month, quarter, or year is that it’s also when dealerships usually have the least number of vehicles on the lot. This can limit your options, and dealerships only offer great deals on in-stock inventory, not special-order cars or inter-dealership trades.
When a new model year vehicle is about to arrive or the current model year is about to end, dealerships are incentivized to sell the old model year to make space. This can lead to deep discounts, making these some of the best times of the year to buy a new vehicle.
While automakers aren’t big on telling buyers exactly when production runs stop and start, many industry insiders post this information online. You can also keep track by monitoring automaker media pages to learn when the newest model will be on sale. Once it’s about time for them to hit showrooms, head to the dealership to see what sort of deal you can get on the outgoing model year.
During model year transitions, dealerships often get fresh incentives from the manufacturer — for example, cash rebates, special financing offers, or reduced monthly payments on leases — to help move older inventory.
Retail holiday sales are often gimmicky and filled with fine print, but in the automotive space, these specials are usually legit.
Many of these holidays follow key points in the automotive cycle, like the end of the year or right before the newest model year arrives. But others are just to get car shoppers to skip Aunt Martha’s perennial fruitcake and head to the dealership instead.
A great time of year to get a new car deal is around the following holidays:
There's more to the car buying process than just getting a great price on your new car. You also have to choose the best time to offload your old vehicle. Getting rid of your car too early or waiting too long can cost you money. Here are a few ways to know when it's time to consider an upgrade.
Cars depreciate in value quickly, especially in their first few years. This can leave you upside down on your auto loan, meaning you owe more on the loan than the vehicle is worth.
When you're considering buying a new car, always compare your auto loan balance to your trade-in value.
If your trade-in value is higher than the balance on your loan, this is the right time to consider a new car. Why? Because the dealership will likely pay off your entire loan balance when you trade it in.
You can find your car's approximate trade-in value on Kelly Blue Book or Clutch’s Trade-In Estimator.
Typically, the longer you drive your car, the more you save. But there eventually comes a time when the cost to keep it on the road exceeds the price of a new car payment. When this happens, it’s time to consider a new or slightly used car.
Take the amount you spend on yearly repairs — not including general maintenance like oil changes, tires, and brakes — and divide that by 12 to determine how much you spend per month.
For example, if you spend $2,500 in car repairs every year, you could spend $208 per month ($2,500 ÷ 12 = $208) on a newer car that's in better condition and costs less to keep on the road.
If that monthly amount is enough to pay for a newer car, it could be time to get a new ride.
Buying a car is generally the second biggest purchase you'll ever make — only a new home costs more. With such a big decision at hand, you want to get the best possible price on that new set of wheels. You can put yourself in the position to get a great price by knowing the best time to buy a car.
Some of the best times to buy a car include:
You should also consider the variables associated with your current car, including its trade-in value relative to any loan balance you have on it, and any major repairs you make to keep it on the road.
You can also skip all the guesswork and back and forth by buying your next used car with Clutch. We offer no-haggle pricing and easy financing, plus we’ll even get you a great offer on your trade-in.
On top of all that, we offer a seven-day money-back guarantee if you don't like the vehicle you buy.
With all this in mind, you'll be prepared to shop for a new car and score the best price.