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Buying a new car isn't high on anyone's list of fun activities. It's a time-consuming, stressful and expensive process that most people avoid until they can't any longer. But if you can plan your purchase and shop when it's the best time to buy a car, the experience can be exciting.

There are plenty of myths about the best time to buy a car, such as arriving at the dealership 30 minutes before closing before a holiday. We're setting the record straight so you can save money at the dealership and have a better customer service experience. Read on to learn the best and worst times to buy a car and a few car-buying tips.

When Is the Best Time To Buy a Car?

There's no right time to buy a car, but there are better times than others. At the bare minimum, the best time to buy a car is when you are informed about your decision and have had a chance to test-drive the vehicle you want. Otherwise, you risk making the wrong choice or paying too much.

Use the following information to help you decide the best time to buy a car from a dealership.

Best Time of Year To Buy a Car

There are several good times to buy a car throughout the year, although the opportunities get better the later in the year you wait.

Best Month To Buy a Car

The best month to buy a car is December. Dealerships are trying to clear out the last of their inventory for the year and make annual sales goals, so they are more willing to make a deal. Edmunds ran the numbers and found that dealers take an average 6.1 percent off the MSRP during December. Kelley Blue Book suggests the best days of the year are December 30 and 31 as salespeople push to reach their yearly sales quotas.

This also applies if you are in the market for a used car. Since so many people trade in their old cars for new ones in December, used car dealers need to make room for additional inventory.


Holidays are another good time to purchase a new car. The most popular are three-day weekends, including:

  • Presidents' Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Labor Day
  • Black Friday

The Fourth of July and New Year's Eve are also good times for car deals.

One note of caution: These holidays are often busy for car dealerships, so while you may get a better deal, you may also receive less-than-stellar customer service. You might want to avoid these times if you prefer to buy your car in a quieter, less stressful environment.

Tax Refund Season

Buyers often use tax refunds to supplement their trade-in or down payment savings. A 20 percent down payment on a car is standard, so if you aren't quite there or want to keep a little extra money in your savings, consider waiting until after you receive your tax refund.

Model or Design Changeovers

New car models can technically come out at any point after January 2, but most new models roll into dealerships in late August or early September. At that point, dealers tend to offer discounts on last year's models so they have room for this new inventory.

Unless they are redesigning the model and making changes to the body shape or adding new technology, last year's model shouldn't be too different from the new model. This is an excellent opportunity to get a new car for a lower price.

Clearance Sales

Dealerships tend to have seasonal or quarterly sales goals, so they often offer clearance sales to help them reach those goals. Shopping at these times may help you get a better deal. If a salesperson is close to their quarterly sales goal, they may be willing to offer more incentives to entice you to make a purchase.

Regional Seasonal Considerations

If you live in an area with harsh winters, shopping during the winter might give you more leverage when negotiating because fewer people want to shop for a car when it's cold and snowy.

This can also work in your favor if you want to buy a seasonally specific car. For example, most people wait to buy a convertible until it starts to feel like spring. If you walk into a dealership in December looking to purchase a convertible, there's a good chance they'll offer you a deal to make an offseason sale. The same is true with four-wheel drive vehicles in the spring and summer.

Best Time of Month

No matter the month, try to purchase your car at the end of the month instead of the beginning. Like the end of the year, salespeople are pushing to make their monthly sales quotas so they may be more flexible on prices.

If the best service is more important than the best deal, buy your car earlier in the month. Fewer people shop at the beginning of the month, so salespeople will likely have more time to answer your questions and help you test-drive multiple vehicles. The financing office may also process your offer faster.

Best Day of the Week

This answer is based purely on the best time to get good customer service, as the day of the week doesn't impact deals. Weekends are often busy, so for more personal service, shop for a new car on a Tuesday or Wednesday if the dealership is closed on Sundays. Otherwise, Monday and Tuesday are your best bets.

When You Need One

Sometimes, you just need a new car and can't wait for one of the best times to buy. If you experience any of the following, it's a good time to buy a car:

  • Your car was totaled in an accident.
  • You have a lifestyle change, such as having a child or an increased commute, that necessitates a new car.
  • Your vehicle needs change (for example, you move to an area with harsh winters and need four-wheel drive).
  • Your vehicle needs frequent repairs (major or minor) that add up to more than the car is worth.
  • You have concerns about your vehicle's safety.
  • Your gas mileage isn't high enough for your needs.
  • Your car has rust, corrosion or other structural damage that interferes with the car's integrity.
  • Your vehicle has high mileage (over 150,000 miles) and more frequent repair needs.

If you have any of the following issues with your car, you can probably wait until a better time to buy:

  • High trade-in value
  • Outdated technology
  • Interior damage that doesn't interfere with the safety of the car, such as worn or stained seats

Worst Time To Buy a Car

Just as there are great times to buy a car, there are also terrible times to buy a car. If you can, avoid buying a car under the following conditions:

  • When you need one ASAP: Purchasing a vehicle in a rush means you have limited time to research and comparison shop. You'll also lack leverage when negotiating with the dealership.
  • During peak demand seasons: Spring and early summer are popular times to buy a car since the weather is nicer. As a result, dealerships may not be as likely to make deals since they're meeting their monthly quotas, and the dealership will be too busy to focus solely on you.
  • When you want to purchase a brand-new model: New models are in high demand when they first arrive on the market, so it's better to wait until sales slow to get the best deal. Typically, waiting a few months is enough to allow sales to die down.
  • When you lack financing or a sufficient down payment: If you can't afford a car, no matter how badly you need one, you should avoid purchasing one. Dealerships, especially those that claim to offer loans regardless of your credit, will offer financing with higher interest rates, which can increase your monthly payments.
  • After a local flood: Flood damage is brutal on cars, but some may find their way onto the lot. It's best to wait a few months after a flood to allow damaged vehicles to be removed from the inventory before you shop.

Car-Buying Tips

Buying a new car can be an overwhelming and stressful process. Here are a few tips to make it more manageable.

If you have a car you'd like to trade in:

  • Get an estimate on your trade-in from sites like Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, NADA, Carvana or Carmax.
  • Gather the following paperwork on your current car:
    • Title (if you own the vehicle outright)
    • Loan information (if you still owe money on the car)
    • Maintenance logs
    • Vehicle manual
  • Make any minor repairs. Use our repair cost estimator to budget for these repairs.
  • Clean your car and remove any personal items. Depending on the cleanliness of your vehicle, it may be worth getting it detailed.
  • If you still owe money on the loan, contact the loan company for the loan payoff information a few days before you head to the dealership.

Before you buy:

  • Look at your monthly expenses and set a budget.
  • Improve your credit score to get the best possible interest rate. Request a credit report and have any errors corrected.
  • Get preapproval from a lender so you have more leverage with the dealer.
  • Research the car models you are interested in. Read reviews, check safety ratings and compare ownership costs. This is especially important when purchasing your first hybrid or electric vehicle.
  • Determine your down payment amount. If necessary, get a check from your bank since many dealerships may not take large payments via credit card.
  • Check with your insurance carrier on the price to insure the vehicle.

When shopping:

  • Shop last year's models or used cars for the best deals.
  • Comparison shop online. This gives you leverage when you negotiate.
  • Only buy the vehicle you need. If you don't need features like four-wheel drive, skip it.
  • When shopping for cars, negotiate the price of the vehicle, interest rate and trade-in value separately.
  • Always test-drive before you purchase a vehicle to ensure it runs the way it should. Ensure you test drive the car on the types of roads you drive regularly.
  • Start the shopping process online from the comfort of your home.
  • Purchases add-ons like gap insurance, extended warranties, etc. carefully. For example, you may be able to find gap insurance from your insurance provider at a cheaper price than the dealership.

New Cars Need Roadside Assistance, Too

The bottom line is that the best time to buy a car is when you want one and are ready to purchase. If you have the option, wait until December for the best possible deal.

New cars aren't perfect, so protect yourself with a AAA membership. No matter what car you're in, we'll provide roadside assistance and save you at least 15 percent on labor costs when you take your vehicle to one of our AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.

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