While hordes of shoppers storm the doors of big-box stores on the day after Thanksgiving, other bargain hunters go in a different direction, searching for even bigger savings on the car lot.
Black Friday is now one of the busiest sale days of the year at many car dealerships. What does this mean for you? Well, if you know what you're doing and have a game plan, you can get yourself an extra-special deal.
Black Friday bargains are available because of a perfect storm of conditions. Shoppers have come to expect all kinds of retail deals on Black Friday, and carmakers want to take advantage of that buzz. That usually means generous incentives and rebates.
At the same time, Black Friday finds many dealerships selling cars with deep discounts to meet sales goals and to make up for lost ground in November. (As a rule, the weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving are pretty slow for car sales.) And with Black Friday falling at the end of the month and close to the end of the year, the day is now one of the best opportunities for bargain hunters to find a deal.
Things You Should Know
If you want to take advantage of Black Friday deals, there are a few things you should know, and here is the first: Buying a car on Black Friday will likely take longer than usual, due to increased traffic at the dealership. If you can't stand the idea of spending several hours in a car dealership, Black Friday may not be for you.
But if you don't mind spending an extra hour or two to get a deal, here is a list of dos and don'ts that will help you make the most of your Black Friday shopping.
1. Test-drive before Black Friday. It might be hard to test-drive multiple cars on the day itself. The rush of shoppers will tie up available salespeople.
2. Check the dealership's inventory online, and have your vehicle picked out ahead of time. It might be a good idea to have an alternate in case the car you want is gone.
3. Have your financing in hand before you get to the dealership. Keep in mind that the dealership may have offers that are better than a pre-approval from a bank, especially at this time of the year.
4. Eat something before heading out, dress comfortably and consider bringing snacks and something to read. You may be at the dealership for a while.
5. Try to arrive at the dealership early. You'll have a better selection to choose from, and there will be fewer shoppers to contend with. Some dealerships will open as early as 6 a.m.
6. Review ads carefully and read the fine print. Dealerships and carmakers will flood the airwaves with a slew of ads offering crazy deals, and the time to dig into the details is before you head out to the dealership. And, as always, get a few price quotes from dealerships in advance. It's easy to do by phone, text or email.
7. Be patient with the sales process. Some dealerships will run out of salespeople. Some salespeople may have to juggle more than one customer at a time.
9. Have all of your paperwork current and ready to go before you hit the dealership. Bring your driver license, proof of auto insurance and your method of payment with you. If you've got a trade-in, bring in its corresponding paperwork, too. Remember, many businesses will be closed for business on Black Friday. So if you bring in an expired auto insurance card, for example, it may be a challenge to get in touch with your insurance company to prove the policy is up to date.
10. Know the rules for the perks. Some dealerships will give gifts to go along with a vehicle purchase. We've seen dealerships offer televisions, iPads and gift cards to sweeten already discounted deals. Clarify ahead of time if you'll be getting the gift when you take your car home and, if not, when you should expect it.
1. Go window shopping on Black Friday. You wouldn't pick that day to go window shopping at Walmart, and starting your car shopping on Black Friday would be a mistake, too. It's a day geared for buying, not browsing.
2. Wait until Black Friday to get your trade-in appraised. If there is a CarMax near you, get an appraisal there a few days before Thanksgiving. That way, you have a trade-in amount for comparison at the dealership on Black Friday. If no CarMax is available, it is still a good idea to get your trade-in appraised in advance. Your local dealership should be able to give you a price.
3. Assume you'll have to negotiate for hours to get the lowest price. Chances are good that prices you'll be offered on Black Friday are already at or near rock bottom. Check Edmunds for the average price paid on the vehicle you've selected. If the price the dealer offers you is well below that, you can feel confident you're getting a good sales price.
4. Sign up for a zero-percent APR loan without first checking to see if there is a cash-back offer. It might actually save you more money. Check our Incentives and Rebates page to see what is available. Then use our Low APR vs Cash Back Calculator to see the best deal for you.
5. Assume the car you've got your eye on will automatically get a dramatic after-Thanksgiving discount. Not all carmakers will have Black Friday specials, and not all dealerships will be offering extra-special deals. Visit the carmaker's website, check our Incentives and Rebates page, or reach out to your local dealership ahead of time to see what Black Friday specials you can expect.
Being prepared, getting quotes and checking pricing are all still essential steps to take. But Black Friday is a one-of-a-kind shopping day on the car lot. Be ready to adjust to changing situations and unexpected offers, especially if the offer is in your favor.
On the other hand, don't be rushed into buying a car just because you are caught up in the hysteria of a seemingly good deal. Many of the manufacturer offers are good through the end of the month — some until the new year. Buy the car that's right for you, at the right time.
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.