Is the end of December a good time to buy a new car?

…or is it better to wait until January? Or does it not really matter at all?

It depends on the company. The company I went to said they have automatic discounts depending on your credit rating.

However, no matter when you go, the previous year’s model becomes a lot cheaper when the new models come out, usually around August of the previous year (2010 cars come out in August of 2009.) However, this doesn’t really matter in terms of time, as you can do this year round.

I tried to discover the truth of this rumor by going on Superbowl Sunday, 2007. The prices didn’t change. However, it was true that the car dealership had nearly no customers that day, and my service was very prompt. I was in when the game started and out right after the game was over.

The CW is that dudes give cars fo Xmas, thus it’s better to wait until Jan. But go to Edmunds.com, and check the current deals (rebates, special financing) on the cars you want, Dec may be better than Jan for your car.

The idea behind this is that the car dealer will make a better deal, to sell the car before inventory time, so the dealer can get rid of inventory rather than paying taxes it.

The problem is that
A) The buyer doesn’t know what day the dealer actually takes the official year-end inventory.
B) The buyer doesn’t know how desperate the dealer is to shave profits rather than pay tax on one more vehicle.

In realistic terms, choosing one day over another in December/January might save you a few bucks or cost you a few more, or not make any difference at all, and you don’t really know which day it will be.

Oh I remembered another one:

One salesperson told me that salesman commissions are calculated on the last day of the month, as well as quotas and target sales. Therefore, on the last day of the month, you can get a good deal if they need just one more sale or so to hit a target.

However, the other place I went to said this doesn’t work because they’ve never been 1 car away from their quota (they hold the Toyota monopoly in my state) on the last day of the month.

Again, undependable because you can’t tell if they need your sale or not that particular month.

I’ve heard that too, but I find it hard to believe.

Because the salesperson doesn’t decide on the price you get, they always have to run it by their manager (especially if it’s a real good deal). The manager wouldn’t cut into the dealership profit just to help a salesperson make their quota.

Former car company employee here. Yes on the last day of the month, you can get a swinging deal. If car sales are slow, the car company might throw extra money to the dealer for every car they sell that day. I have seen as much as 5,000 offered on any deal written and closed on the last night of the month.
And yes you can get an excellent deal on last year’s models at the end of December.
Best time to get a deal? On the last day of the month assuming it is a Tuesday or Wednesday and it has been raining all day.
That sales manager will go 7 kinds of crazy trying to roll something out the door that night.

I agree, as a former car salesperson.

December-January-February, but especially December, are DEATH at most car dealerships in northern climates. When I was selling cars, a top notch salesman would crank out 30+ cars in the peak spring ands summer months, but would be lucky to get over 10 in December. A salesman has gotta eat. So does his sales manager.

Remember, the Sales Manager has to make a commission as well. Now, a smart car salesman or sales manager would like to not give you the impression that they are desperate. Or try and fool you that they are giving you best deal because it is December, but don’t be afraid to call their bluff and walk out.

I cannot think of a better time of the year to buy a car.

If they’ve got any of the previous model year’s cars left, that can be a GREAT time to buy - we found this out the hard way in 1998 when our Civic was totalled just before Christmas. They still had one 1998 on the lot. IIRC we got it for couple thousand less than a 1999 model would have cost. The tradeoff of course was that we had to not care what color it was nor could we order much customization. We got them to give us an upgraded stereo at dealer cost, and we took it off the lot that same night.

For current-year models, others have better insight than I do.

Even though the salesman doesn’t decide the final price, he does a great deal of the negotiating. He probably knows fairly closely what the profit the manager will accept is, so if he has an extra incentive to close the sale that day, he will have an incentive to get you a better price (assuming you can convince him that a better price makes a sale more likely).

The one consistent piece of advice I’ve heard is wait until the last day of the month. It sounds like that’s been confirmed.

What about used car sales? Let’s say I have $25,000 - $30,000 to spend on a car. I can either get a pretty nice new car, but instead I want to look for a used luxury car that might be in that price range, that I couldn’t afford new. Are there any tips there?

Well, it used to be that the CW was to buy a late model used car, on the theory that a lot of depreciation happens in the 1st year. True, but today there are significant pluses to buying new, such as 0% financing. Rates on used cars are shorter and at least 1% higher. Nor does it matter a hoot what the 1st year depreciation is, if you’re going to buy the car and keep it for ten years. Few still buy new then trade in after 1-3 years.

I just brought my girlfriend with me. She’s much more hard-nosed about these things than I, and she has infinite haggle patience, whereas I was ready to sign a check after one hour just to end the ordeal.

Of course, when I went with her to buy her car, I was getting more inclined to violence at the four-hour mark.