When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

Buying a new car doesn’t have to break the bank—as long as you have this insider information on when to score the best deal.

It pays to know the best time to buy a car. By timing your purchase just right, you can save big—especially if you aren’t picky about colors and add-ons, experts say. “Being flexible and buying a car that the dealer already has on the lot will get you the most bang for the buck,” according to Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader.

But with bargains popping up everywhere you look, from year-end deals to holiday discounts, when is the right time to buy? Whether your old clunker finally bit the dust or you just want to upgrade, follow these guidelines for finding the best deal possible. While you’re at it, check out these additional car-buying tips your car dealer won’t tell you, either.

Best month to buy a car: December

Experts at Consumer Reports say that the final months of the calendar year, usually from October to December, are the best time to buy a car. Why? “This is typically when dealerships start to get new model year vehicles and they need to clear out the existing models, so they’re more incentivized to discount the outgoing models,” says Ronald Montoya, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds. Data from Edmunds found that shoppers in December can get the highest discounts off MSRP—about 6 percent on average—and the most incentives like payment deferrals, zero percent financing, and cash back. Before heading to the dealership, learn these simple tricks to outsmart your car salesperson.

Best time of year to buy a car: Winter

To score the best deal on a car, take advantage of the colder months, when fewer buyers are out shopping. “It’s easier for a dealer to discount a certain car if they know you’re serious about buying and you’re the only customer they’ve seen that day because of excessive snow or rain or cold,” explains Moody. If you are looking to buy at the end or beginning of the calendar year, opting for the previous year’s model can also give you more wiggle room on the price, he says. Keep saving money long after your purchase with these 74 maintenance tips guaranteed to extend the life of your car.

Best day to buy a car: Sunday

Conventional wisdom suggests that weekdays are the best time of the week to buy a new car, but new research has found otherwise. Car buyers might be better off going to the dealership on Sundays, when they can save an average of 10 percent off MSRP, according to a 2020 study by TrueCar. Tuesdays are the next best time to buy a car, the study found. And whatever you do, avoid buying on Thursdays, which apparently offer the lowest percent off MSRP. Don’t waste your money on these car maintenance repairs, either.

Best holiday to buy a car: Three-day weekends

Many dealerships offer promotions such as special financing rates, zero-percent loans, and cash-back deals for shoppers during long holiday weekends. In a recent study by iSeeCars, car buyers scored nearly 40 percent more deals than average on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day alone. “Dealerships know that people will have free time on their hands during a three-day weekend and are more motivated to offer a better deal,” Montoya says. He suggests starting your research ahead of time, so you’ll be ready to make a purchase that weekend.

Best time to buy a car: Model changeovers

Although the winter months and holidays are popular times for car discounts and deals, they aren’t the only opportunities to save. Some of the biggest bargains pop up when a vehicle is being discontinued or during annual model changeovers. Montoya notes that these discounts apply to outgoing models rather than new ones, so if you want the latest model, be prepared to pay more or wait until the market cools down. Can’t make it to a dealership? Here’s what you need to know about buying a car online.

Best time of year to buy a used car

Like purchasing a new car, you can save the most money by buying a used car between October and December. Because these months coincide with peak season for new car buying at the dealerships, there are more used or trade-in cars for sale—and better prices available, Montoya says. He advises shopping in December to find the lowest prices. No matter when you choose to buy, watch out for the 16 red flags you’re about to fall for a terrible car deal.

More car-buying tips

Both Montoya and Moody recommend being flexible to truly get the best deal on a car. “There’s a balance between getting the best deal possible and finding the exact color and trim combination you want,” Montoya says. And while you will get a better price by waiting until the end of the year, Montoya notes that there may be fewer vehicles to choose from, so you may get stuck with an older model or unpopular color. If you want specific features, “that’s going to be a full-price situation,” Moody says.

That said, don’t feel pressured to jump on a deal if you are not ready to make a purchase. “The time to buy a car is when you need it and feel ready to buy, regardless of the time of year,” Montoya says. “There will always be deals out there for those who do the research and are willing to consider other models.” Ready to start looking for a new ride? These are the best car brands for 2021, according to Consumer Reports.

Sources:

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is an Associate Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. She writes for rd.com, helps lead the editorial relationship with our partners, manages our year-round interns, and keeps the hundreds of pieces of content our team produces every month organized. In her free time, she likes exploring the seacoast of Maine where she lives and works remotely full time and snuggling up on the couch with her corgi, Eggo, to watch HGTV or The Office.