What's the best time to buy a vehicle?

You won't always have the luxury of choosing when you need to buy a new vehicle. Some buyers show up at a dealership because their old vehicle has suffered a terminal breakdown or has been totaled in a crash. But if you have more leeway in when you can turn in your vehicle, you'll also be able to consider the timing of your next purchase.

The time of year, month, or even week can sometimes have an effect on the price of the vehicle. Dealers may have more of an incentive to clear out old inventory, meet sales quotas, or otherwise offer a vehicle at a considerable discount.

Time of year

Dealerships often offer year-end discounts on a variety of models. Ronald Montoya, writing for the automotive site Edmunds.com, says December tends to offer the best discounts, with considerable price cuts often available in the last quarter of the year as well. You're less likely to get a discount in the first four months of the year, when dealerships typically see more sluggish sales.

Buying a vehicle at the end of the year can offer savings for a few different reasons. The dealership may be short on an annual quota and eager to meet the sales numbers before New Year's Eve. They may also be looking to clear the inventory of the current year's models to make room for newer vehicles, and offer incentives to make these vehicles more enticing.

Some dealerships may have quarterly quotas. The automotive site Autotrader says these businesses may be more likely to offer deals as this deadline approaches not only at the end of the year, but also at the end of March, June, and September.

You can also do some research to find out when an automaker will be debuting a new model year. Montoya says that while the next year's models once appeared exclusively in the autumn, they now debut at varying times during the year. However, the late summer and autumn can still be popular times for new models to debut, resulting in more incentives on the previous model year.

Dealerships may be willing to cut costs or offer deals on certain models depending on the time of year. Jim Akin, writing for the credit bureau Experian, says these may include promotions on minivans tied to back-to-school sales or discounts on sports cars during the winter since these vehicles are less likely to sell in cold weather.

Plenty of dealerships offer sales events tied to holidays. Popular times include Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. However, you may also be able to find deals around Black Friday, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

Time of month

The end of the month is often cited as an advantageous time to buy a vehicle. Rick Kranz, writing for the auto valuation resource Kelley Blue Book, says the sales staff at a dealership may be eager to meet a monthly sales target, especially if they receive a bonus for doing so. Autotrader says the dealership may be more flexible with the vehicle's price at this time of the month, especially since the bonus may offset whatever money is lost on the last few sales before the target is hit.

You'll have to be careful when using this strategy, though. If you try to go in on the last day of the month, you may find it crowded with other people hoping to get the same discount. Michael Pearl, writing for the financial site Bankrate, says some dealerships even set their deadlines a few days before the end of the month.

There's also the risk that a dealership will be in a better negotiating position than you. Montoya says that if the sales team has already hit its quota by the end of the month, they'll be unlikely to offer as good of a deal.

Time of week

Many people have a Monday to Friday work schedule, so they'll go shopping for a vehicle on the weekend instead of taking time off from their workday. This means the dealership will be especially crowded on the weekends, making it more difficult to ask questions or complete a transaction.

Dealerships tend to be less busy earlier in the week. Pearl says Mondays are especially slow, along with Tuesdays and Wednesdays. A salesperson may be more likely to negotiate on these less hectic days, since there's more time to do so and they'll be more eager to complete a sale.

Depending on the dealership's hours, though, Monday can also be a fairly busy time. Montoya says people are more likely to stop by on Monday if the dealership is closed on Sunday. After all, they've had the weekend to research vehicles and see what's available on the lot.

The time of day can sometimes affect a sale as well. Autotrader says a salesperson may be more eager to go home at the end of the day, and thus more willing to negotiate. Akin says you may have less luck if you try to visit the dealership during the lunch hour.

While timing can help get you some discounts and incentives on your next vehicle, you'll also want to prepare for the purchase in other ways. These can include setting a maximum amount you're willing to spend for the vehicle, including how much you want to put down and how much you can pay each month; checking your credit report to make sure everything is in order; getting pre-approved for an auto loan; and checking with multiple dealerships to compare prices and incentives.

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