You’ve done your homework: researched the kind of car you want and lined up financing. You’re ready to buy.
Not so fast. It’s true that the absolute best time to buy a new car is when you’re financially prepared — yet the season, time of the month or even day of the week can make a difference and may even shave hundreds off the price. Consider these facts as you plan your car-buying strategy.
Armed with as much research as possible about the car you plan to buy (Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds fair value and any trims or packages you may want or need, for example), you’ll walk into the dealership prepared. Popular makes and models are less likely to fetch steep bargains any time of year, but it can’t hurt to time your visit to ensure the best deal possible.
- Best day of the week. If you want to buy a car this week, try to shop on a weekday — the earlier in the week, the better. When foot traffic is slow, salespeople and finance managers may have more incentive to agree to your price rather than risking losing the business. They also might have more time to answer questions.
- Best time of the month. Head for the lot during the last week of the month, when sales teams need to meet monthly quotas.
- Best time of the year. If you’re buying a new car, try shopping just before the next year’s models come out. Dealerships are motivated to clear out last year’s models — and make you a deal. However, this can get tricky because different manufacturers release new models at different times. Honda, for example, revived the Passport well into January 2019 while the 2020 Toyota Corolla rolled onto lots eight months before the calendar turned.
More times that are best to buy a car
Car dealerships advertise heavily and get ready for big holidays and three-day weekends. That can create a buying opportunity for you.
- End of the year. Not only are dealers preparing for new models, they want to end their calendar year with strong sales. December is when dealers have historically offered the most off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), according to Edmunds.
- Holidays. Little surprise then that the final day of the year is one of the best times to buy a car. New Year’s Eve and sales events around Black Friday, Memorial Day and Labor Day, for example, are also good times. One caveat: these are also busy times at the dealership, so it’s best if you’ve already researched the value of your trade-in (if you have one) and lined up a preapproved loan from your bank. See more in our tips below.
- Whenever a rebate or incentive hits. Check out current rebates and incentives by make or vehicle type on Edmunds.
There’s no sense waiting 10 months if you absolutely need a car in February, but if possible, try to avoid these times for buying a car.
- When everybody else wants this car. If an exciting new model has just come out, try to wait. When dealerships can’t keep cars on the lot, they have little incentive to lower the price. In addition, if you wait to buy a new model, you’ll be able to read more reviews and see if the car really lives up to its hype.
- Beginning of the year. Buyers receive the lowest discounts in January, February, March and April as new models fill lots, according to Edmunds. The rule of thumb is that buyers are best off when there’s a mix of old and new models.
- Weekends. Car lots are busy on the weekends; you’ll generally do better during the week.
- When you’re not ready. Don’t buy before you do your research, or when you feel pressured and in a hurry — though, of course, there are times when you’ll need a car quickly. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers more excellent tips for researching a new car or used car. If you can wait, take time to improve your credit score and save money for a down payment or to purchase with cash.
Going to the car lot at the right time is only one factor in getting your best deal on a car. Here are some other things to consider.
- Buy used. If your heart is set on new car, we’ve already mentioned buying a current model before a new one is introduced. But used is almost always going to be cheaper — Edmunds put the average new car financing at $31,877, compared with used cars at only $22,004 in November 2018. Cox Automotive expects a wave of off-lease vehicles to hit the market this year, offering opportunities for buyers seeking gently-used cars.
- Negotiate. Many people hate to haggle on prices — however, negotiation is still expected at many dealerships. According to the FTC, dealers’ profit margins are often between 10% and 20%, which gives them room to bargain. Think about the money you can save, and don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price or walk away. You definitely shouldn’t pay more than fair value as recommended by the sources mentioned earlier, Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.
- Don’t get too chatty. Don’t tell the salesperson you have to buy a car today (even if your only car just died), or that you are in love with the car you’re test driving. Don’t volunteer information about how or if you are financing the car. The FTC recommends that you don’t discuss the possibility of trading in your old car until after you’ve negotiated the best price on your new car.
Watch your financing costs as closely as you do the car price. It’s no use getting a slightly better deal on your car and then overpaying for financing. Before you shop for a car, shop for a loan. It won’t hurt your credit to apply to multiple banks, credit unions or online lenders than it does to apply to one, as long as you do so within a 14-day window. You could fill out a single online application at LendingTree and be matched with up to five loan offers from lenders, depending on your creditworthiness. If the dealership offers you a better financing deal, great. Otherwise, work out your best deal on a car, but come prepared with your best deal on financing all ready to go.
Kat Tretina contributed to this report.
Interested in a personal loan?Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2019!
|Lender||APR Range||Loan Amount|
|1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.
3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.
4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.
6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.
All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.95% to 35.89%*. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% of the original principal balance and is deducted from your loan proceeds. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at the time of application. The average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. In Georgia, the minimum loan amount is $3,025. In Massachusetts, the minimum loan amount is $6,025 if your APR is greater than 12%. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months. Borrower must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or be in the United States on a valid long term visa and at least 18 years old. Valid bank account and Social Security number are required. Equal Housing Lender. All loans are subject to credit approval. LendingClub’s physical address is: LendingClub, 71 Stevenson Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco, CA 94105.
†Per reviews collected and authenticated by Bazaarvoice in compliance with the Bazaarvoice Authentication Requirements, supported by anti-fraud technology and human analysis. All reviews can be reviewed at reviews.lendingclub.com
**Based on approximately 60% of borrowers who received offers through LendingClub’s marketing partners between January 1, 2018 to July 20,2018. The time it will take to fund your loan may vary.
7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
8 Important Disclosures for Avant.
* The actual rate and loan amount that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and other factors. Funds are generally deposited via ACH for delivery next business day if approved by 4:30pm CT Monday-Friday. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.
** Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33
* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.
Upgrade Bank Disclosures
** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.
|5.74% – 16.24%1||$5,000 - $100,000|
|7.46% – 35.99%||$1,000 - $50,000|
|7.99% – 35.89%*||$1,000 - $50,000|
|5.99% – 24.99%2||$5,000 - $35,000|
|5.99% – 29.99%3||$7,500 - $40,000|
|6.79% – 20.89%4||$5,000 - $50,000|
|9.99% – 35.99%5||$2,000 - $25,000|
|6.95% – 35.89%6||$1,000 - $40,000|
|6.99% – 18.24%7||$5,000 - $75,000|
|9.95% – 35.99%8||$2,000 - $35,000|