When to Buy Your Next Car

Car Buying Articles

When to Buy Your Next Car

Myths and Truths About Timing Your Car Purchase


In the eternal quest for a great car deal, it sometimes seems that buyers spend too much time trying to figure all the angles. A favorite topic to explore is this: when is the best time to buy a car?

There are as many theories on this topic as there are days in the year. And, oddly enough, there is a grain of truth to almost each one. Let's run through the list and see what looks good.

Predictive TMV: Why guess? Let the pros tell you when to buy your next car. Edmunds.com's car-buying experts have come up with a strategic way to determine the best time to buy a car. Our True Market Value (TMV) Alerts predict pricing trends, showing you the likelihood of a price change — up or down — for current models available. Since many variables, such as incentives and prior transaction prices, can lead to a lower TMV price, this tool is a great way to determine the current pricing climate of the vehicle you are interested in.

Rainy Days: The idea here is that if there are no other buyers on the lot, the salesman will offer a deep discount to get your business. Any truth in this? Yes, but there's also a flip side. If you slog around a wet car lot, you'll send the signal to the salesman that you really, really need a car today and he may push for a better price. So this one is probably a wash (so to speak).

Holiday Periods: Once upon a time, business at car lots could be slow during the Christmas season, giving rise to the theory that deals could be had from dealers anxious to sell. A countervailing theory held that inventory was limited in December, so it was only a good time to shop if the vehicles you wanted happened to be in stock. The inventory picture has changed, however. In 2012, December was the month with the third-highest level of vehicles available for purchase, says Edmunds analyst Jeremy Acevedo. He expected that trend to continue in 2013. It is true, however, that dealers can be very motivated to sell in December. Read on for more about that.

15 Minutes Before Closing: Savvy buyers think that if they pop into the dealership 15 minutes before closing, the sales staff will want to go home and therefore won't do the usual two-hour back-and-forth with the boss. This theory is pretty misguided. What they actually do is put up the "closed" sign and continue negotiating. They're willing to stay late to make a deal.

Early in the Week: A dealer once told us that car salesmen refer to the weekends as the "tuna run" — there are so many customers on the lot, you just pull them into the boat. If you try to stand firm on price, the salesman will just hook another tuna. So why not shop during the week, when there is less foot traffic on the lot and you can get the salesman's undivided attention? After all, on a Monday or Tuesday, the tuna run seems like years away.

End of the Month: Now we're getting somewhere. Dealers might be a car or two short of a quota that will give them a big bonus. They discount the car to you and make up the difference in their bonus.

End of the Model Year: As the new cars begin to arrive, last year's model loses its luster and also its high price. There are some surprising discounts and often a lot of customer cash rebates. Be sure to check Edmunds.com's Incentives & Rebates for customer cash rebates, low interest incentives and dealer cash.

End of the Car's Design Cycle: The manufacturer is going to continue making a certain model car, but it is about to introduce a completely redesigned car under the same name. Now we're seeing some serious discounts. True, you are buying a car that is essentially outdated and out of fashion, but some people are more bargain hunters than they are trendsetters. Here, the savings will be huge, especially for the buyer that trolls information from Edmunds.com's Incentives & Rebates.

End of the Car's Lifecycle: Sometimes the manufacturer announces that the car will be discontinued — forever. Now we're talking off-the-charts savings. But there are two problems: you've got a car that will plummet in the depreciation category and you'll have to keep fielding questions like, "Didn't that car get the axe?" from friends and relatives.

Full Moon: Actually, we just threw this one in to prove our point. If you seriously thought there was a full moon discount, you are trying too hard to figure all the angles.

Really, the best time to buy a new car is when you need one and only after you have completed your research. Figure your price on the car using Edmunds.com's TMV® pricing and factor in the incentives and rebates. See if there are any Edmunds Price Promise® offers on the car, which can save you the stress and time spent  negotiating. Then make your deal. In the long run, this approach makes more sense than trying to predict the effects of weather, holidays and the seasonality of your car purchase.

To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.



  • geonolta geonolta Posts:

    The end of model year discount is a hoax foisted on the uneducated public and auto column editors. When I worked at Ford Motor Co. in the Finance Dept., I learned that they have "End of Year Cost Reduction Programs". This means that they cheapened the cars by taking out certain features, or making standard features optional. This manufacturing cost savings was intended to offset the so-called "end of year discounts". The consumer didn't really get a discount - he just got less of a car at a slightly lower price. No value there!

  • fowler3 fowler3 Posts:

    The best time to buy a car is when you need to move up or need a big change. I think most buyers are hoping to find the impossible: the car that can deliver 40mpg regardless of how fast he drives and makes sudden starts and stops. It isn't out there! If your driving habit is 85mph highway do not expect the best economy, regardless of manufacturer's claims. To get the best economy you have to drive the car, any car, at speeds and RPMs which will get the best results, as in SLOWER, as at 3000rp, or less as at 60mph. Do not buy a car based on things you have no control over. *Like* a luxury car is not the same thing as being a luxury car. Skyactive does not mean it will fly.

  • One of the timers to buy is when your trade in can still be driven onto the car dealers lot. When the repairs start mounting up and it looks like your going to need to spend $2,000 a year to keep the old clunker running and it's more than eight model years old.

  • A few months ago I purchased a 2012 new pick up truck with $6,000 off the sticker price, as advertised in print ads and TV. The 2013 started to arrive and I got it at the beginning of the ad campaign where the selection was limited but still descent. I had to go to two dealers to find the model/options/colors I wanted. It was the best time to buy.

  • There may be "end of year cost reduction programs", but that would only apply to cars that were actually made at or near the end of the production year. (In the U.S. cars are made from July to June, with the next model year's production starting in July.) When there are cars on the lot in July or August that were made midway or even early in the production year, which is common, I find your story flawed.

  • gaspasser5 gaspasser5 Posts:

    You forgot one: the end of the calendar year.

  • geonolta When did you work for Ford, 1920? I currently work at a Ford dealership. The incentives do increase at the end of the model year, on cars that are already built and on the lot. I've never heard of the "end of the year cost reduction programs" that you are talkiing about, and I have worked at Ford dealerships for the last 17 years. Please make sure the info that you are posting is current!

  • rizzyh rizzyh Posts:

    The best deal on a new car that I've ever negotiated was on a rainy day in so. California. We arrived at 11a.m., knew exactly what we wanted, made the excuse that we were meeting friends for lunch, and asked for their best price which we would consider while at lunch. We promised to call back one way or the other, which we did to say "No", another dealer offered a better deal (I'd actually called around to other dealers and asked, "Can you beat this deal?") Whoa! They threw in all kinds of extras (which we actually wanted) and lowered the price even more.

  • I can forgive the author for the last paragraph as Edmunds has to play nice to the advertisers. The best day to buy a car is the end of the month - duh - that's when the sales guys and the manager are trying to make their numbers

  • kja2 kja2 Posts:

    End of model year worked for me. Picked up a 2013 Acura MDX, fully loaded, every option available, $7500 off MSRP, $3700 under invoice.

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