The Best Time to Buy a Car — by Day, Month and More

Stephen Fogel
March 7, 2019

Buying a car is a big deal. It’s an expensive, years-long commitment — so you want to get the best possible deal on your next vehicle.

The timing of when you buy can play a big role in what you pay. That said, we get it — not everyone will have the luxury of waiting around when looking for a car. When they need a new car, they need it right away. For these people, let’s start with short-term solutions and timeframes that are useful and beneficial. 

» MORE: See the most reliable cars, trucks and SUVs 

The best day of the week to buy

Monday has been proven to be the best day of the week to get a great deal on a new car. Why? Because most people shop on the weekends, which results in very busy dealerships and not as much personal attention from Friday through Sunday. With so many weekend customers, the salespeople will focus mainly on the deals that are most profitable for the dealership. 

Monday is the slowest day of the week for auto dealers. If you wait until Monday, you may be the only customer in the showroom. As the only prospect for a sale, you will be the sole focus of attention. The sales personnel will go to greater lengths to sell you a car on a Monday. If you can’t shop on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are also good, quiet days to shop and buy.

The best time of the day to buy

Plan to be at the dealership between the late morning and the late afternoon on that Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. These are their slowest hours of the day, and are a much better time to make your deal. 

Arriving too early in the day makes you look too eager to buy, while arriving in the evening will put you into a busier time segment, when people who have finished work for the day will also be out car shopping. 

Alternatively, you might consider arriving at the dealership an hour or two before closing. The pressure that the dealer will feel to close the deal that same day can give you extra leverage. This is a particularly good strategy for those who love to negotiate.

The best time of the month to buy

If you can wait until the last few days of the month, you should be able to get a better deal on your next car. This is because of the way that the carmakers’ dealer incentives work. 

Dealers are usually assigned a monthly sales quota for each brand they sell. If the dealer meets this quota, it receives a bonus. But with many incentive structures, if the dealer falls short, even by one car, it receives nothing. 

So if they’re getting close to that quote, your sale could make a big difference to them, which is good news for your pocketbook.

The time periods that apply to these monthly incentives don’t always line up exactly with the end of the calendar month. Check the manufacturer’s website for each brand you are shopping.

The best months to buy

In addition to monthly quotas, dealers also have annual quotas to meet. This makes December the best month for the greatest discounts, with November close behind. You’ve probably seen the holiday ads announcing big car sales — it’s easier to find great deals during the final week of the year, when those annual quotas must be reached.

The best holiday sales to shop

If the end of the year is too far away, there are many holiday-themed auto sales that provide good opportunities. Check our list, there’s likely to be a sales event coming soon to your local dealers:

  • Presidents Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day

» MORE: Find a certified repair shop near you

Other good times to buy

In addition to calendar-based events, there are other good times to buy a new car.

When the annual model changeover happens

This usually starts in the fall, but it can run through year’s end. As the new vehicles start to arrive at dealerships, there is increased urgency to sell off what remains of the current year’s models. 

There are usually increased incentives on these vehicles, making them very good deals even before the negotiating begins. Depending on the manufacturer and the model, then may be just a few of these “leftovers” on dealer lots, or there could be huge quantities. How can you tell? 

Check the manufacturers’ websites to see the model years being heavily promoted. If you see lots of leftover vehicles featured, it’s likely there are large inventories to be sold off — likely at a good price — before the year ends.

When a model is discontinued

With SUVs and crossovers selling more units than ever, many manufacturers are stopping production of some of their poor-selling passenger cars. Ford, GM and Volkswagen have all recently decided to kill off models.

Once the production that car ends, the remaining inventory on dealer lots loses significant value. Incentives are often added to clear out these “orphan” vehicles. You can benefit from this situation, saving a ton of money on a perfectly good new vehicle of this type.

When sales drop off for a type of vehicle

There are certain times of the year when there's simply not much demand for certain types of vehicles — that’s the best time to buy one! You can get a great deal on a sports car or a convertible in the winter, when no one wants one. Four-wheel drive sales often dip in the summer months, so buy one when the weather’s nice.

Do the best you can

Most car buying activity is need-driven. When your car fails and you need a new one, you can’t sit around waiting for the timing to be right. But you can take the pressure off, relax, and enjoy the process. Give yourself enough time to do things right. Here are a few tips: 

  • Rent an inexpensive car for a week, if necessary, so you have something to drive
  • Research online to find the a few options for a new car
  • Know the current deals and incentives from the manufacturers
  • Try to pick the best times to shop and deal, within your limitations
Stephen Fogel

About the Author

Stephen has been an automotive enthusiast since childhood, owning some of his vehicles for as long as 40 years, and has raced open-wheel formula cars. He follows and writes about the global automotive industry, with an eye on the latest vehicle technologies.

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