New or used? Lease or buy? Gas, electric, or hybrid? Buying a car raises lots of questions. This MasterKit has the answers. Our quizzes, articles and videos will help you get the best car for your money by making sure you ask yourself, and the salesperson, the right questions at the right time.
Timing is everything — even when buying a new vehicle. But thankfully it's not too hard to know when you should — and shouldn't — hit the dealership to make that big purchase.
When you're buying a car, not only does the time of year make a difference, the time of day you visit the dealership can even factor in to whether you get a good deal or not. Luckily, determining these windows of opportunity is easier than you think. Take our quizzes if you need help deciding whether to buy new or used, or whether your new vehicle should be gas, electric, or hybrid.
Best Times to Buy
1. In the Winter Months According to TrueCar, buyers can save between six and seven percentage points off MSRP in the winter months.1 The discount varies by the month, though, and buyers tend to save the most off MSRP during the month of December - a total of 7.3 percent compared to March and April when they save the least. Now, 7.3 percent may not seem like much, but that's just the average savings – your discount could be higher. And when you're talking about a $60,000 to $70,000 car, maximizing all the savings you can is the goal.
There are several reasons why shopping for a car in the winter can be to your advantage. First, there are end-of-year sales on the previous year's cars to free up space on the lot for the new models. This is especially true if the new model has been redesigned or upgraded, so dealers will usually be willing cut prices on cars they need to move off the lot.
The weather also plays a role. People don't want to roam the lots when it's cold, so there are fewer people shopping for cars. When you're one of the few people to visit the dealership on a cold day, salespeople might be more likely to give you a great deal.
2. At the End of the Month It's true that dealerships often have monthly quotas that their sales associates must meet. This means that salespeople might have extra incentives to close the deal with you on that car you want at a lower price than usual if you shop at the end of the month.
Pro Tip: Brush up on your car negotiating skills before you're ready to make a deal, no matter what time of the year you're buying.
3. At the End of the Day Some dealerships also have daily goals, so showing up later in the day and taking advantage of that mini-quota can work in your favor as well. If you wait until Sunday afternoon, you may save even more.
4. On Weekdays Dealerships are always busier on weekends, so head in on a weekday and you're more likely to save. Shop on Mondays for the biggest discounts - as much as 0.61 percent more on average when compared to Sundays.1 That may not sound like much, but it can add up, especially when you're talking about thousands of dollars.
5. Black Friday and New Year's Day Black Friday is known as the biggest day of the year for savings, and the same is true when it comes to buying a car. Dealers usually heavily discount last year's models to make room for the new year's models. Black Friday also falls around the end of November, so your salesperson may need to meet his or her quota—don't be afraid to negotiate hard to get the best deal.
New Year's Day is another holiday when buyers can get a sweet deal. TrueCar analyzed more than 12 million car sales between 2011 and 2015 and found that buyers got the biggest discounts off MSRP on January 1 - an average of 8.5 percent off.1
Pro Tip: You could also get good deals during other holidays, including President's Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day. Just do your research upfront and don't get too caught up in the dealer's hype.
Worst Times to Buy
1. Spring Time Historically, spring isn't a good time to buy a car. According to TrueCar, buyers on average get the worst discounts off MSRP during the months of March and April - 6.7 percent and 6.6 percent respectively.1 During these months, people are eager to get out on the road after being cooped up during the winter. Many also have a fat tax return check they can't wait to spend, and the dealers know it. They also have a bit of time before next year's models roll in and fill up their lots in the fall, so they probably won't be too pressed to cut any great deals with you.
2. When New Model Years First Come Out If you have your heart set on that brand new model year SUV, expect to pay for it. As we mentioned previously, dealers are more eager to make deals on last year's models when new inventory is filling up their lots. So consider whether you really must have the latest model of the car you've been eyeing. You could get a better price negotiating last year's model.
Pro Tip: Don't make any deals on a new model until it's been reviewed by reputable industry professionals.
3. Seller's Market Car buying, like everything else, falls under the basic principles of economics. When a car is popular (or in high demand), the dealer holds all the cards in negotiating the prices, especially when supply is low. Don't buy when it's a seller's market. Hold out until more cars are available. The price should fall, and you'll have more room for negotiation.
Keep in mind that dealerships always want to make money and sell cars, so a shopper armed with research and some negotiating skills can buy a new or used vehicle at a reasonable price any time of the year. But if you can wait to buy at the end of the day at the end of the month in the winter, you might be able to shave a little extra off the total purchase price for the best deal.