When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car and Why?
TheStreet

It's autumn, the time of the year when auto makers are rolling out next year's vehicles on to showroom floors - and clearing those floors of 2018 models, usually at discount prices.

Yet November isn't the only favorable time of the year to buy a new car, truck or SUV. Other months have their good "buying moments," as do days of the week, and even hours of the day.

After all, vehicle costs fluctuate all the time, for myriad reasons, and it's your job as a new buyer to know exactly when it's the best time to purchase the car of your dreams, and at a substantial price break. That could mean buying on the right day, week, month, or even choosing the right holiday to buy a vehicle.

Best Time to Buy a Car

To get that job done, focus on these "best times" to buy a car.

Mondays

Aim for buying a new vehicle early in the week - Monday is the best day, but Tuesday and even Wednesday are good options, too.

The fact is that auto dealerships are much less crowded early in the week, and sales managers are much more amenable about cutting a deal, since there are few other customers around. It's all about supply and demand. The less demand you have for a product, the more aggressive the seller will be to move it off the lot. Conversely, the higher the demand - like on Saturdays and Sundays, the less of a reason an auto dealer has to cut you a break on price.

The data bears this out. According to TrueCars.com, average vehicle sales discounts are 8.1% on a Monday, versus 7.49% on Sunday and 7.77% on Saturday.

The Last Week of the Month

Shopping for a vehicle as late as possible in the month is a good way to grab a good discount on price.

In the auto sales business, monthly quotas are a reality for dealerships (although annual quotas come into play, too.) If enough cars or trucks aren't sold off the lot by the last week of the month, dealers will be more open to negotiating a vehicle price downward to meet a sales quota. That's why a great time to strike is the last few days of the month.

If you have the discipline to walk away, visit the dealership earlier in the month to check and see it has the car you want, and make sure to check out the sticker price and any incentives listed on the vehicle. A test drive is mandatory, too. Then circle back on the last few days of the month and start negotiating.

The End of the Calendar Year

For much the same reason, buying a new vehicle between Christmas Day and New Year's can save you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars off the price of a new car, truck or SUV.

Make no mistake, auto dealers are high incentivized to sell a vehicle before the new year runs out. Usually, prices are low in December anyway, as it's the holiday shopping season and it's a month where dealerships are trying move this year's models off the lot to make room for next year's models.

Auto dealers hate to carry unsold inventory on their financial books past Dec. 31. Why? Because the only inventory they want on their lot for the new year are the newest vehicles, as current model year cars and trucks lose value once the clock hits midnight on New Year's Eve.

Consequently, you can likely save big bucks by finding the exact type of vehicle you want, what it costs the dealer for that vehicle, and any extras and features you want on the vehicle. Use auto research and review sites like KBB.com, AutoTrader.com, ConsumerReports.com, and Cars.com to research your dream vehicle, and take that knowledge into the dealership with you on Dec. 30 or 31, and cut a deal that significantly lowers the price of your new vehicle.

Presidents Day and Other Federal Holidays

Auto dealers love to fly the flag and open the doors wide open on federal holidays - especially Presidents Day, Memorial Day, and July 4.

For dealers, the mindset is that vehicle buyers are more relaxed on holidays and more inclined to buy a car or truck on a long weekend. Quite simply, they have more time to shop and make a decision, even if they've been researching vehicles online for a few weeks.

Black Friday

This big annual shopping day can yield good deals on a new vehicle, too. Altogether, 15% of all November auto sales occur on Black Friday, according to Edmunds.com.

The savings can be big on the day after Thanksgiving. Car and Driver reports that buyers can potentially snap up discounts of up to 20% on Black Friday. Consumer Reports notes that buyers can get 14% off on a Kia Soul  and 11% of a Toyota (TM) Tundra in 2018.

        The Best Cars to Buy Used

Treat shopping for a new car or truck on Black Friday as you would buying a vehicle on any holiday or at the end of the month. Do your research beforehand, select the make and model of the vehicle you want, check the sticker price and the price the dealer is paying for the vehicle on sites like KBB.com and be ready to deal - and to pounce - on Black Friday.

The Worst Time to Buy a New Vehicle

Just as there are great times to lock down a new car deal, there are times when doing so isn't a good idea.

As noted above, weekends are the worst time to buy a car, as dealership traffic intensifies and sales managers are more reluctant to offer a good deal to new buyers.

Similarly, non-holiday summer days might be a checkbook closer, too, when looking for a new set of wheels. The new models start rolling in after Labor Day, so most buyers are focused on buying new cars, trucks and SUVs, and interest in current year models hasn't erupted yet.

Weather-wise, it's also a risky move to buy a vehicle from a local dealer if your community has been dealing with heavy rains and floods.

While dealers may be touting lower prices for certain vehicles after a flood, the reality is that the car you're considering may have been damaged by heavy rains and rising water. A vehicle exposed to flooding, for example, can suffer extensive damage in its wiring and in its engine, which can cause the vehicle to seize up while driving.

Tips on Buying a New Vehicle

Before cutting any checks on a new vehicle, make these smart financial moves first.

Budget wisely. Know going in how much you can afford to pay for a new vehicle, especially in terms of a down payment and with monthly payments. Don't forget to factor in gasoline, repairs, auto insurance, maintenance, and even the toll charges you'll accumulate while on highways. Aim for a 20% down payment, and don't accept a deal where you're paying more than four years in monthly payments (the interest rates really add up in year five and on.) In general, if you're paying more than 10% of your annual gross income in total vehicle costs, you're paying too much for that vehicle.

Get your credit score in order. The best deals on financing come with a great credit score. If you have a FICO credit score of 700 or more, your auto financing firm (often the dealer) will charge you less in interest, as it will deem you a good bet to pay off the loan and not default on the deal. Conversely, if your credit score is at the 600 level, you can expect to pay a higher interest rate, as the risk of your not defaulting on the auto loan rises - at least in the eyes of auto lenders.

Know your trade-in value. Getting a good return on investment on your old vehicle, via trade-in, can significantly curb the total cost of a new car purchase. Make sure the car is in optimal condition, and refer to a handy auto price comparison site like KBB.com or Edmunds.com and see what the value is on your current vehicle, honing in on make, model, condition and model year. Take that data with you to your new vehicle negotiations and use it as leverage to negotiate a better deal on your trade-in.

Shop around. The value in pitting two auto dealers against each other can't be overstated. Visit two or more dealers and see what the price is at each one for the exact vehicle you want. Doing a basic price comparison, and letting the dealers know where they stand on those price comparison, can save you hundreds of dollars on a new vehicle.

Get calculating. Use an auto affordability calculator to figure out exactly what you'll be paying for a new vehicle. Every online auto comparison site has them, and it only takes minutes to figure out your potential cost liability, on things like down payment, trade-in value, monthly payment, length of the loan, and interest rate on the purchase. A good exercise in calculating potential auto purchase costs can save you a bundle of cash down the road - literally.

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