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Black Friday Car Shopping Tips

How to Get a Great Deal and Keep Your Sanity

(updated November 13th, 2018)

While hordes of shoppers storm the doors of big-box stores on the day after Thanksgiving, some bargain hunters go in a different direction, searching for big savings on the car lot.

Black Friday became an important sales event in the car business during the last 10 years. In 2015, for example, it accounted for more than 18 percent of all car deals made that month.

Black Friday in a dealership can feel like the Twilight Zone if you go in without a plan.

Black Friday in a dealership can feel like the Twilight Zone if you go in without a plan.

But things are changing: Market conditions have prompted carmakers to turn the entire month of November into a shopping opportunity. Though dealers had a great November in 2017, Black Friday weekend represented less than 14 percent of the month's sales. Edmunds analysts expect this trend to continue this year.

Further, the November deals might well extend into next year, thanks to a sizable inventory of 2018 models that are still on dealer lots. You can expect to see a good supply of new 2018 midsize sedans, midsize SUVs and compact SUVs as late as March 2019, along with specials to move them out.

This trend translates to greater flexibility and less stress for you. Here's how to decide whether Black Friday is still the day to play or if you can safely sleep in and get a good deal later.

Buy Now if:

1. You're planning to lease your next vehicle: Because of the way leases are calculated, waiting isn't likely to help you.

2. Your local dealership is running an aggressive promotion: It's possible that a dealership selling the brand you're after might have a unique sales goal to hit. It could offer Black Friday incentives to get you to buy now. Free iPads, televisions or in-house zero percent interest loans are some of the perks dealerships have used to entice shoppers in years past.

3. You're looking for something specific: The longer you wait, the less selection you'll have. While prices on 2018 models may continue their slide through the first quarter of 2019, a low price on the wrong vehicle is a bad compromise.

4. The vehicle you're eyeing has a special low interest rate offer: Interest rates are rising. If you've found an attractive price on the right car, and the interest rate is a good one (given the times), you might want to make a deal. If you wait for a lower selling price but get saddled with a higher interest rate, you haven't done yourself any favors.

See Edmunds pricing data

Has Your Car's Value Changed?

Used car values are constantly changing. Edmunds lets you track your vehicle's value over time so you can decide when to sell or trade in.

Price history graph example

You Could Wait if:

1. You plan to purchase with cash: As cars languish on dealer lots, chances are that good prices will go even lower. If you're paying cash and aren't concerned with rising interest rates, waiting may save you money.

2. Your vehicle needs are flexible: Most of the hot products are going to be sold first. If you don't mind selecting from what's left in exchange for a lower selling price, it may make sense to wait.

3. Your credit is iffy: Maybe you can't get a low interest rate now because of your credit profile, but you still want to get a heavily discounted clearance vehicle. Use this time to improve your credit standing so you'll be able to take advantage of clearance pricing and a low interest rate in early 2019.

Tips for Black Friday Warriors

Don't forget these steps if you do plan on hitting a dealership on Black Friday:

1. Get your trade-in appraised early. 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 there's no CarMax in your area, 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.

2.Test-drive early a few days ahead of time. The rush of shoppers will tie up available salespeople on Black Friday. Make an appointment to drive and go on a weekday before Thanksgiving.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 preapproval from a bank, especially at this time of the year.

6. Have all of your paperwork current and ready to go before you head to the dealership. Bring your driver's license, proof of auto insurance and your method of payment. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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. Know the rules for the perks. If the dealership has gifts with purchase, 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.