Best Time to Buy A New Car?

When would you say is the best time of year to buy a new car, and why? Is Christmastime any better/worse than the end of the model year (Aug-Sep)? Is there a time, like calendar year-end, that car dealers are dying for your sale?

I’d say the best time to buy a new 2014 car, for example, is right after the 2015s come out and dealers really want the 14s off their lot. But your selection might be limited.

In my experience, auto assembly plants shut down production to retool for the new model year in July.


Best time for clean, low-mile lease returns is late fall, though.

If you can find a current or last year’s model still on the sales lot that you like, then buying when the next year’s cars come out is good.

Christmas isn’t all the best time as people are getting them for presents. After Christmas often is good up until the beginning of Spring.

It also can depend on local tax laws. In Missouri it’s best to buy a car early in the calendar year due to property tax laws. You don’t have to pay for the first year. In fact they have a scheme in Missouri that you basically ‘rent’ the car that you want to give as a Christmas present, but actually ‘buy’ it after January 1st.

It’s probably best not to to be one of the first to get a new model–wait until the early bugs have been eliminated.

One caveat to the above is that your ability to score deals on the outgoing model year cars during the end of the calendar year is very much affected by the inventory turnover of the model you’re looking at. If you’re looking at a car that they’re basically selling as fast as they can churn them out (well, say, less than 30 average days-to-turn) your room to negotiate is already fairly limited and there probably won’t really be enough old ones leftover for the dealers to want to cut you much of a deal. Waiting to buy solely to try to get a better deal on one of those probably won’t be worth it. I think Edmunds lists inventory turnover.

Another minor point is that selling prices on 4-wheel drives and AWD cars sometimes go up as the weather gets bad, so waiting to buy something like a Subaru until December could backfire on you.

Probably not what you are looking for, but I agree. I would never* buy a new car. Let some other sucker take the depreciation hit. I’m happy with a nice used car.

*well, I guess I would if I won the lottery or something, but since I don’t play, I doubt that will ever happen, but you get the idea.

Not exactly to the OP but a coworker who worked for dealerships says that one should :

  • Walk away from the first three meetings with the salesperson (to get them wanting the deal).

  • Show up again & buy at the very end of the month when everyone is pushing to meet sales goals.

Who are these people, and how do I become one of them?! I want a new car for Christmas, paid for by someone else! :slight_smile:

Agree that the best time to buy a car is end of model year. Also, if you can buy a slightly (as in 1 yr or a new lease turn-in) used car at the end of the month in the summer, you can get a deal. I did that for my last car, and got a more loaded version than I’d really been looking for, for less than the version I had planned to get.

I think car manufacturers would like people to believe that there is a huge demand for cars as presents. I doubt that the reality matches up to the ad hype.

I just bought a new car this week, a 2014 Civic. There was a nice 2013 used Civic on the lot, only 11,000 miles, but since I came to the dealership through my credit union’s car buying service, the “internet price” on the new car made it only about $800 more than the used one.

I chose now to buy, rather than any other time of year, because my 14 year old car (also bought new) has made it clear that it was ready to be retired.

Were they truly equivalent models, trim levels, accessory packages, options?

Using any of the “buying services” is a good step for anyone who doesn’t really want to get down and wrassle for a cost-plus price. But even from there, an $800 difference on a year/11k mile difference tells me the used one might have been the better buy.

ETA: Apples to apples, is my only point here.

It happens more than you think. In fact my daughter went and leased a new car for her hubby Christmas before last. Yes I delivered it with a bow.
Bottom line is for whatever reason December is an excellent month for car sales.

As far as I can tell, they were equivalent. I think the used one was overpriced. If they hadn’t had several 2014’s with manual transmission on site, I would have tried to get them to lower the price on the 2013. The 2013’s “internet price” was no different then the price listed on their website for that car. :confused:

So you’re saying the used one was $800 cheaper? That sounds pretty normal. The whole idea that a car’s value drops thousand and thousands of dollars the moment you drive it off the lot was always somewhat exaggerated and the currently high used car prices mean first year depreciation can be pretty minimal. Especially on something like a Honda that holds its value well in general.

I come from a family of “buy used” fundamentalists in the vein of Gatopescado and Amateur Barbarian but in today’s used car market there’s just not enough of a price differential between a 1-3 year old used car and a brand new one to make slightly used cars the no-brainer they once were.

The most likely result of such a strategy is that it will waste a bunch of your time and add a whole lot of aggravation without improving the deal you get at all. This is, quite simply, dumb advice. And i say that as someone who has, in the past, sold cars for a living.

This may or may not work, depending on the dealership, the car, the month, their inventory, and a whole bunch of other factors that you, as a customer, can only guess at.

It is certainly true that many dealership want as many cars out the door as possible each month. When i first started selling cars, i asked my sales manager, “Why is everyone so obsessed with finalizing as many deals as possible before the end of the month? Surely, if someone is actually going to buy a car, it’s no skin off our nose is they do it a few days later?”

His reply, essentially, was that the sales industry basically lives by the motto “Get out as many cars as possible this month, and worry about next month when it comes.”

Over the last few years, December has been one of the best months for car sales, although analysts at places like Edmunds tend to ascribe this to this like higher manufacturer incentives, combined with a desire to get the last of the old model year out the door before the calendar ticks over.

And the December trend is relatively recent. From 2000 to 2008, December averaged 7th (out of 12 months) in the number of new cars sold in the United States. Source

And Rick, if my wife went out and leased a new car for me, i would probably call that “Us leasing a new car,” and not “A Christmas present” :slight_smile:

Nope she did it with her income (they keep separate accounts) and totally without his knowledge. She wrapped up the key and put it under the tree.
I’d call that a Christmas present.

So, what’s the strategy for this? Just walk into a dealership and say “Show me your lease returns”?

Last sales day of the month is always a great time. We bought our Honda. After having spent a couple of hours with three cranky kids in tow, the sales guy said he couldn’t negotiate. any further. We were trying to knock a couple hundred bucks off of a ~$30k cash deal. Went back and forth, sales guy finally threw his hands up in surrender and said “you make this offer to my manager.”

We walked in together. Sales manager was on the phone giving his month end report, glanced at the offer and said into the phone “Joe just closed an Odessey so add one to the tally.”

Find out what the last sales day of the month is and go cut your deal then.

Me - if I ever buy another new car, I’ll go to a dealer that takes the Costco pre negotiated and deal. It’s a decent and reasonably fair price, and you don’t have to waste the time and effort to go through the kubuki of negotiation.

Find a month that ends on Wednesday and it has been pouring rain/sleet/snow for at least 3 days. Go in at 7PM.
You will get the deal of the century.