Many people might read the title of today’s blog and claim to know the unequivocally and objectively true and correct answer to this question — December. Is that what you were thinking? Buying a car in December is always the cheapest option because it’s the end of the calendar year and dealerships are desperate to offload inventory as quickly as possible.
Let us start by saying that if you have confidently started reading expecting to be proven 100-percent correct with the answer “December,” then prepare to be surprised as you read on. As it turns out, there’s quite a lot more to that answer than meets the eye.
The Ideal Time to Buy a New Car
As we said, the common thinking behind choosing the ideal time to buy a new car is in the month of December because it’s when dealerships are the most open to amazing deals as they desperately try to shift inventory in preparation for a new year with new cars and new deals to make. Even though the new model year vehicles come out and are available before the calendar year changes, the arrival of the new calendar year is the final nail in the coffin for the value of any car from the previous model year. For instance, even when 2022 car models arrive, it being 2021 will still help retain the value of any 2021 models that are out there. As soon as the calendar reads 2022, however, who would want a 2021 model at anything like that value?
There is definite logic behind the December push, and there is truth to the assertion that December is the best month of the year to buy. It is certainly among the best times, and we are not going to say that if you bought a car in December for a good deal you have been party to a pervasive automotive myth.
In today’s blog, we will show you that there are actually many great times of the year in the US when it becomes very opportune to look for a new car. It’s a myth to think that the only best time or that the absolute best time is December. We will broadly split up the information into three sections:
- Public holidays
- Best days of the week to buy a car
- Best months of the year to buy a car
You’ll find that your next great opportunity for a fantastic car ideal is a lot closer than you think and you needn’t wait all the way up to December 2021.
Public Holidays – Which Holidays are Good for Car Buying?
We’ll start with the less regular days/months, instead focusing on those special occasions which bring more than just time of work and school, but also surprisingly good deals on new cars. The first one is Memorial Day, the second Thanksgiving, and the third New Year’s Eve/Day.
Memorial Day (End of May)
Falling right before the end of May and marking the traditional start to the American summertime, Memorial Day is a key public holiday promoted for terrific deals on new cars. The very best offers might be specifically for Memorial Day weekend, but often they accompany very strong deals throughout the month of June.
But why? What’s so special about the final weekend in May before the summer officially kicks off? The main reason for a big sales push around memorial day and then often through the summer is because many of the vehicles of the new model year will start to arrive in the fall months. With that in mind, dealerships need to make space for them so that they can start marketing the next following year and making sales.
What Memorial Day is, in reality, is the start of the process we mentioned earlier about model years and calendar years. The calendar year may be 2021, but many 2022 models will start being sold at dealerships in the fall of 2021, which makes 2021-model-year inventory automatically less valuable anyway. The fact the calendar year hasn’t changed, however, often means that the dealership can sell at prices that are great for the buyer but not “rock-bottom” as far as the dealership is concerned. That bodes well for their bottom line.
Thanksgiving (Black Friday)
When the holiday season begins in November, one particularly infamous shopping day falls on the day immediately following Thanksgiving Day. We’re talking of course about Black Friday. It’s not just your local Walmart that is offering incredible deals on this epic day of retail madness, but also your local car dealerships.
U.S News and World Report gave some interesting information on the best car deals in 2020 that were available on Black Friday, among them were some truly epic deals not just on new car sales, but also on leasing. That’s the other thing to remember, which is that these holidays and other opportune buying times also mean better deals on leasing. Highlights from the U.S. News list included:
- $290 a month to lease a 2020 Honda Accord 1.5L with 10,000 miles a year included and $0 due at the signing.
- A 2020 Toyota Camry was available with 0% APR for 60 months.
- A 2020 BMW i3 all-electric car you could get also for 0% financing over 60 months.
Zero money down, no APR for years, and all for cars of that model year. This wasn’t just dealerships being generous, it was a huge drive to move inventory that they didn’t manage to move during the summer push. That calendar year shift is approaching and the new-model-year inventory is starting to pile up.
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
At the end of the holiday automotive savings season is New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This is the final push that dealerships are making not just to clear inventory now, but also to meet sales numbers and finish the year on a high note with a push in sales. Data from TrueCar shows that dealerships offer as much as 10.9 percent off on brand-new cars when you buy either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
New Year’s Eve in particular is a great day because it combines neatly with another great time to buy a car at any time of the year, and that’s the last week of the last month in a quarter. Furthermore, it’s the last quarter of the year. We’ll cover more on buying times in particular months and quarters further below.
Look for Deals on all Major Holidays
The US has many other major holidays, including Presidents’ Day, Independence Day and others, all of which may well offer further savings and deals. The market is incredibly competitive and holidays at all times in the year are a good pretext for huge promotions and discounts. Our advice when it comes to the holidays is always to look out for interesting car deals at your local dealerships. Even if the majority of them don’t offer something, there’s very likely at least one who is.
One More Note for the Holidays – Look in the Back
In an ideal world of sales, a car dealership will only hold any one vehicle on their lot for a maximum of 65 days. Some of the older cars on the lot may have found their way to the back or at least in the less prominent spots as they have had to make way for “better” stock. In this case, better means “newer.”
You can actually find the specific date of manufacture on a car by looking in the door jam on the driver’s side. Right there on the lot you might find a bit of hidden treasure that is already months old, and really needs shifting. For these cars in particular that have greatly exceeded their 65-day “shelf life” on the lot, dealerships will invariably be up for very good deals. It’s also easier for you if you can find a suitable car this way, because you don’t have to wait around for them to get a car in (or order one) that meets your exact specifications in terms of color, features, trim, etc. If one is sitting there ready to go and it has been on the lot a long time, then the ball is firmly in your court.
One more valuable and reassuring detail is that the cars’ warranties don’t kick in until you’ve actually purchased it. That means that even when you buy the “older” inventory, the manufacturer’s warranty is still fully valid from your purchase date and not the manufacture date.
Which Day of the Week is the Best One to Buy a New Car?
Next, we come to days of the week — any week with few exceptions (e.g., weeks with public holidays where things might be different) — that usually give the best car deals. Once more, our intuition can kick in here and tell us that the best day of the week to buy a car is always Monday or Tuesday when foot traffic at the dealership is low and they want to gain sales. Logically, it absolutely makes sense, but once again the data shows a different reality.
Specialist data from TrueCar and pathwaysbyamerica.com shows that it is in fact the opposite to what our intuition would tell us. It is actually the weekends on which the best car deals are offered, as well as Monday. It’s not an earth-shattering difference, in fact, but the data shows that Saturday, Sunday and Monday are the best three days, with Sunday being the best single day.
According to the data from TrueCar, the average savings offered on MSRP prices are as follows each day:
- Sunday – 9.5%
- Monday – 9.2%
- Tuesday – 9.1%
- Wednesday – 8.8%
- Thursday – 8.8%
- Friday – 9.1%
- Saturday – 9.2%
It shows that there are potential savings to be had at any time of the week, but the weekend is still the best time, as well as Mondays. One difficulty in some states can be that car dealerships are restricted from operating on Sundays. Even if that is the case in your home state, you still have Saturday and Monday, and perhaps these two days have even better deals to make up for the lost time.
Which Months of the Year are the Best for Buying a New Car?
Finally, we come to the months of the year and which are best for car buying. In the introduction to today’s blog, we already explained how it’s a lot more involved than people think when it comes to choosing the right month of the year to buy a car. It’s not just the month, but also the right time within each month. We’ll try and cover it all below.
First, let’s take a look at the month of December. This is the month that most people would assume has the best deals on cars. While it does have arguably the single greatest day for deals — December 31st, New Year’s Eve — it is not necessarily overall the best month. Having said, it’s definitely a good month.
As we mentioned earlier, December is a key sales month because dealerships are very keen to shift old inventory to make way for new-model-year vehicles, and also inventory that has been on the lot more than 65 days. Models from 2021 will lose at least some of their value when the 2022 model arrives for sale, but when the calendar year also shows 2022, then the value drops even more.
Closing of Every Month
It’s not only New Year’s Eve and the end of December that brings great deals at the dealership, but the last several days of every month, and especially if it’s the last month of a quarter. In any month of the year if you happen to be buying a car, try to aim between the 27th and 29th of the month. This is when sales deadlines are passing and dealerships are calculating their monthly sales. Last-minute boosts can do a lot to boost overall performance. This is even more pronounced in March, June, September and December, the months that mark the end of each quarter.
While monthly sales are important, quarterly sales numbers are publicized even more. These sales figures are greatly prized by the automotive brands being sold at the various dealerships. If quarterly sales are up, it’s the source of much good publicity for that brand. Dealerships sales staff know that the potential rewards for facilitating such good news can also be great.
Besides trying to fill quotas each month and each quarter, dealerships are also greatly concerned about boosting sales in those months that account for the lowest share of the annual sales total. Traditionally these are, according to TrueCar:
- January – 7.3% of annual sales
- February – 7.7% of annual sales
- October – 7.9% of annual sales
- November – 7.7% of annual sales
Dealers will be especially keen to push up numbers during these four months, so if you combine that knowledge with a day (preferable a Saturday, Sunday or Monday) that falls within the 27-29th of the month or perhaps on a public holiday, then you should find some particularly good deals on cars. This partially explains why Black Friday has such amazing deals like the examples we described further above.
Conclusion: Pick the Right Moments
Using the above information, you should be able to combine individual details to find several times of year that are exceptionally good for buying a new car, or if you don’t have the patience to factor in a public holiday, then at least what times of each week or month are the best to help you get the best deal.
Don’t forget that all of this is just advisory and based on existing average data. It’s no guarantee that you will definitely get the best deal either on Black Friday or on December 31st. There will always be other factors at play and your own ability to negotiate and deal with the salespeople will have a huge impact on your success rate when it comes to getting discounts. Ultimately, the dealership is still a business with a bottom line to consider, and they have limits on what kind of deals that they can offer to us.
The variety of times at which potential deals are available, however, should embolden buyers to go looking for their next car not only in December, but at other opportune moments throughout the year, too.