When Is The Best Time To Buy A Car?There are always so many car “sales” out there at any giving point in time, but when is the best time to buy a car?

I have always been confused by the influx of car commercials that always make it sound like NOW is the best time to buy {whenever that NOW is}.

Year-End Clearance!

Model Year End Sale!

Deal Rebates!

Cashback bonuses!

Or some other you gotta “buy now” promotion.

With all the confusion, how are we supposed to know when we are really, truly, getting a good deal on buying a new or used car?

Everything you buy has a sales cycle. A time when the price is the lowest, and then a period where the price goes back up to normal.

Buying at that best time always requires patience. And when you’ve got an undrivable car, or a pushy salesman saying NOW is the best time ever to purchase… it can be hard to know if you’re truly getting the best deal.

When considering buying a car, I always thought the best time to buy was around a holiday such as Memorial Day or Labor Day, etc.

But that is not the case. And thankfully, it’s a little bit easier!

So I’ll teach you when is the best time to buy a car so you can be ready to find a deal.

Plus, with these best time to buy a car tips, you’ll be armed with the knowledge of how to get a good deal and not be taken to the cleaners by a salesperson.

So let’s get down to the business of when is the best time to buy a car.

when is the best time to buy a car

When Should You Buy A Car?

Believe it or not, the best time to buy a car (regardless if it is new or used) is at the end of the month.

Any month, just aim for around that last day.

You know why? Accounting.

The negotiations are going to be the highest at the end of the month because it is about to “close” and that means the quotas and bonuses are on the line as the month counts down to that last day.


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However, there are a few better “month ends” than others. The very best one is between Christmas and New Year’s. Yes, the very last week of the year (the very last day might bring you the very best deal).

One big thing you HAVE TO do is to go to 3 Dealerships in order to price shop. Do not go to one place and settle there only.

Last summer we needed a new stove. We went to Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Best Buy. If I can do that for my $400 stove, I can go to three dealerships for a $20,000 vehicle. You need to be an informed consumer and it pays to shop around.

With these best time to buy a car tips, you’ll be armed with the knowledge of how to find a deal. Let’s dig in deeper.

when is the best time to buy a car

Is Your Heart Set? Buy When You Can Get The Best Selection

Now, knowing that the negotiating should be done on (or near) the last day of the month is the number-related part.

But what if your heart is set on getting a white Honda Odyssey with 8 seats and a built-in vacuum that reaches every cheerio underneath every seat?

If you have your heart set on a certain vehicle, then shopping in late summer is when the new year models come out so you will get the best selection.

And when the supply is up, it automatically drives down the price of when to buy a car.

So, actually, that means the last day of a late summer month is when is the best time to buy a car (if you’re busy or traveling the last week of the year).

when is the best time to buy a car

The New vs Used Debate

I must admit that I am not a diehard “used car only” person. I can see the benefits of both and I’ve bought both types of vehicles. I believe which one you buy is a personal decision based on how long you are planning to keep the car.

But there are some important facts for you to consider when making a large purchase such as a car.

Today’s new cars lose an average of 20% of their value in the first year alone. They will lose 30% of their value in the first three years.

For example, I love my Honda Odyssey Minivan. If I were in the market to buy one today, a new one costs around $34,000. Obviously the specific price is based on the “trim” model you choose. I chose the “EX” for this example, and I rounded it to the closest thousand for easy math. One year later its trade-in value is $23,000. That’s an $11,000 loss…just for being its first owner.

That same vehicle, when 3 years old, will be worth $20,600 (trade-in value). That means in 3 years you’ve lost $13,400 value. That’s a 40% loss of value in 3 years.

It wouldn’t be so bad except that you probably still owe more than it’s worth, in debt.

The point of these numbers is that if you can let someone else drive the car first, let them own it first, then you will get more car for less money. When is the best time to buy a car? When someone has owned it first and taken the hit financially!

Try to find a car that is less than 3 years old and you are gonna get the best deal, that’s the “sweet spot” for getting the most bang for your buck.

when is the best time to buy a car

Know What You Want To Pay Before You Go

Here are 3 resources I use to research what I want to spend when I’m buying a new vehicle, and what my trade is worth:

  1. Edmunds
  2. Kelley Blue Book Cars For Sale Near You
  3. TrueCar

I also use the Facebook Marketplace (specifically sorted by cars) just to feel like I did my due diligence.

when is the best time to buy a car

Know The Extra Costs Ahead Of Time

When we buy a car we settle on one price, then we head into the finance office and end up paying a whole other amount. SO frustrating!

There are 3 costs you need to be aware of BEFORE you negotiate the price of the car. The car dealership doesn’t tell you these because they aren’t responsible to pay them.

Be a smart cookie and know these answers before you buy:

1. Insurance Rate Change

Call your insurance company and ask them to give you a quote on your new car’s insurance. Trust me, I hate to do this too… but you will have to call after you make the purchase, so you might as well ask them how much it will cost before you can’t back out. It may surprise you that a used sports car worth nearly nothing could still cost you more for insurance than a reliable new sedan. Call so that you aren’t surprised later.


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2. Gap Insurance & Theft Protection (available at the dealership AND with your insurance carrier)

This is another thing you need to ask your Car Insurance Carrier about because it is a typical “add on” item at the dealership and it might be a completely unnecessary expense. We have USAA and when we bought our new car (now this was ages ago) it was a fraction of the cost than the dealership tried to charge me. I was so shocked I called USAA while we were in the Finance Office just to be sure. Yep… I didn’t need it because they had me covered. Don’t overpay because of a lack-of-knowledge. Be a smart consumer.

3. Tax, Title & Tag (the hidden fees)

While you can’t avoid paying these fees when you buy a car, there is a chance you can negotiate the cost of the vehicle to be lower so that it absorbs these costs. Obviously, the less you pay for the vehicle, the less tax you pay. Taxes are based on the final negotiated number. Spend less and pay less tax.

Here are the common additional fees you’re going to need to pay when you purchase a vehicle:

  • Registration Fee (some states have a flat rate, while others base the fee on the weight, age or value of the vehicle)
  • License Plate Fee (some states allow you to transfer your old car’s license plate to your new one, while others require brand-new plates)
  • Title Transfer Fee (you’ll need to transfer the title from the previous owner, which could be the dealership, to you)
  • Lien Recording Fee (if you have a lien on the car (aka a loan), the DMV may charge you to record that lien on the title)
  • Documentation Fee (auto dealers typically charge their own fees to do all the vehicle-purchase paperwork. Some states place a cap on these fees.
  • Sales Tax (most states charge sales tax on vehicles at least you can estimate the cost beforehand)
  • Personal Property Tax (some states require you to pay an annual tax on the value of your vehicle, regardless if it’s old or new)
  • Emissions/Inspection Fee (states typically require a vehicle to be inspected when you purchase it and may require emissions testing too)
  • Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Fee (owners of hybrid/electric vehicles pay little or no fuel taxes so many states charge them extra fees when purchasing them)

When is the best time to buy a car? It’s time when you are prepared and fully know what you are getting into financially.

when is the best time to buy a car

Buying Used? Always Check The Vehicle’s History

I know that the car salesperson standing in front of you has gained your trust. I feel it too. But you cannot take the salesperson’s word about the history and condition of the vehicle. You must get a vehicle history report from CarFax.

Note that if you do this yourself, it will cost $40. However, most dealerships have given me this for free to prove that their used car is legit.

The report is important because it can alert you to possible odometer fraud, reveal past flood, fire, and accident damage, or tell you if a rebuilt or salvage title was ever issued for the vehicle.

You can also get a free VIN number check from the National Insurance Crime Bureau to determine if a vehicle has been reported as stolen, but not recovered, or has been reported as a salvage vehicle.

These best time to buy a car tips can help save you a lot of money and heartache!

when is the best time to buy a car

“Stall” With Your Trade

You have to insist on negotiating one car at a time. This is not a “lump” deal… the new purchase is separate from your trade-in.

Your first priority is to settle on the lowest price you can get on the new purchase. Only after you’ve locked in that price should you begin to discuss a trade-in or financing.

When is the best time to buy a car? When you have successfully gotten a deal on both a new car and your trade-in!

We went to get our car repaired a few months ago, and my repair was over $1,000. My Odyssey is over 10 years old and fully paid off.  They suggested that I look at getting a deal on a new car.

While I was waiting on my car to be repaired, I went through the entire negotiation process.

And so did the gal next to me. Her car was also getting repaired, and it was also paid off, and it was also an Odyssey.

They gave us the SAME FINAL PRICE. Only she had informed them that she was KEEPING her vehicle, so no trade-in.

The final price on my quote included my car to trade.

That means they were trying to get my car for FREE! While they were giving her an additional $4,000 discount (the value they offered for my trade) for nothing.

Do your homework and know how much your trade is worth and don’t pull it in until AFTER you’ve negotiated the new purchase.

when is the best time to buy a car

How Much Can You (Really) Afford?

Car advertisements on TV always list the car you can get by monthly payment.

That is not a good gauge because they don’t care how MANY payments it takes… or how much you can actually afford!

Consumer Reports’ financial experts recommend that your total car payment be no more than 36 percent of your gross income.

Going by this rule, it’s easy to calculate how much of your monthly income you could comfortably afford to put toward your auto payment:

  1. Calculate 36% of your gross monthly income (that’s the number before they take any taxes or insurance out).
  2. Itemize and total all your monthly payments, including your mortgage or rent, credit card bills, and any other debts/loans.
  3. Subtract the total of your monthly payments from the 36% number (Item #2 – Item #1)

The amount you get is how much you could afford to pay monthly while keeping your total debt under control (so you don’t have to eat ramen noodles every night for dinner).

Here’s A Quick Example To Follow:

1. If your pretax income is $50,000, multiply that by 36% = $18,000. This is the number your total debt payments should not exceed for the year.
2. Total up your existing debt payments (mortgage, credit cards or any other debt payments). Let’s pretend they are $1,100 per month (that’s $13,200 for the year).
3. Subtracting the $18,000 – $13,000 means you could afford to spend $4,800 each year on a new car payment. That’s a $400 monthly car payment!

Now, knowing that you can afford a $400 payment doesn’t mean that you should actually buy a car with that number in mind.

It just gives you a good gauge of what you could spend. But you don’t want to pay that forever! Multiply that payment by 6 years (the average length of a car loan) and you are buying a $28,800 vehicle (after taxes and before any interest). That is a LOT of car!

When is the best time to buy a car? It’s time when you know how much car you can actually afford without having to eat beans and rice every meal.

when is the best time to buy a car

Just Say No

I’m just gonna say it. Please don’t EVER let me hear that you paid extra for:

  • Car mats (cheaper at Walmart)
  • Service contracts
  • Glass etching
  • Undercoating
  • Paint sealants.

Those are all unnecessary add-ons to help the dealership maximize its profits. Just don’t buy them.

When is the best time to buy a car? It’s time when you know what to expect from the salespersons and be able to say no to the things you don’t need.

when is the best time to buy a car

Make Them Beat Your Rate

Before you head to the dealership ready to buy, you need to call your bank or a credit union to get pre-approved for a loan.

This works to your advantage in two ways:

  1. You know how much money you are allowed to spend (this will most likely be more than you can truly afford though, so be warned).
  2. The financing available at the dealership might try to beat that rate. WIN!


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When you sign your paperwork, double-check the numbers and make sure nothing snuck in there accidentally.

ALWAYS double-check them. {remember the old saying… measure twice, cut once… yes, always do the math!}

When is the best time to buy a car? When you are informed of the knowledge of how much you can actually get approval for and you have checked around for the best interest rate.

when is the best time to buy a car

What About An Extended Warranty?

Okay, I realize you are going to think I am crazy.

But listen, in all the research I’ve personally had and done, there is a break-even point on those extended warranties.

Every time I do the math it comes out at 6 years. Which means you will need to do some math.

Determine how much the warranty is costing per month.

If you choose not to do the extended warranty, you might want to take the dollar amount that it WOULD cost and withdraw that out of your checking account on the same day as your car payment and move it into a savings account.

Then, you’ll have a backup account to use in case any repairs arise.

If you don’t use it, then, when you get rid of the car, you have a nice down payment to use along with your trade.

So I hope you’ve when is the best time to buy a car so you can be ready to find a deal.

And, when you learn when to buy a car, you’ll be an informed shopper with all the tools to keep from paying more than you should.

Plus, with these best time to buy a car tips, you’ll be armed with the knowledge of how to get a good deal and not be taken to the cleaners by a salesperson.


Your Turn: What do you think? Are you headed to get a new car soon? What other questions do you have about the process? Let me know in the comments below!

when is the best time to buy a car
When Is The Best Time To Buy A Car?