Clark Howard

The Best Time to Buy a Car

We all know how much of a headache it can be to shop for a new car. If you’re buying a car for the first time, it can be an even more overwhelming process. 
Choosing the make and model of the car is important, but it isn’t the only factor that comes into play when you’re looking to get the best deal on a vehicle. 

You'll find the best prices for new and used cars just before sales quotas are due, during major holidays and at the beginning of the year. As with many purchases, Black Friday is also a great time to shop for a car.

“The vehicle market is completely overstocked and sales have slowed way down,” says money expert Clark Howard of Black Friday, “so if you’re interested in a big purchase new or used, this is the season to buy it.”
In this article, we’ll dive into more detail on the best time to buy a car and ways to save the most on this major purchase. 

When to Buy a Car

In addition to the interest rate and insurance, when you make your purchase is another factor that could have a big impact on the price you end up paying.

Before you start shopping, it's important to set a realistic budget . Know what you can afford, and only shop for cars that you can comfortably insure and pay off in a reasonable amount of time.

Once you’re ready to start price comparing, try to hold out until you’re likely to get a great deal. Here are the best times to get a low price on a vehicle: 

The Beginning of the Year

Early in the year is one of the best times to shop for a car. Dealerships are clearing out the previous year’s inventory to make room for the latest models. That means you’ll most likely be able to get a great price!
CarGurus has documented the prices of used cars over time, and here’s what they’ve reported since 2016: 
While the prices steadily rise year-to-year with inflation, there are clear drops in the average price of top car brands during the beginning of each year. 

"March is a great time for car shoppers to get a good deal on a new vehicle because the Japanese and Korean automakers' fiscal year ends," says George Augustaitis, the Director of Industry Analytics at CarGurus.

That means you’ll find reduced prices from those automakers trying to meet end-of-fiscal year sales targets. In turn, competitors will also be dropping prices to maintain business.


Whether you’re shopping new or used, consider making your purchase during holiday sales events. 
Although summer is typically one of the most expensive seasons to buy a car, you’ll likely still find deals around Memorial Day
Black Friday is another great time to look for deals on a vehicle. Money expert Clark Howard says “one item that’s not normally something you’d think of over Black Friday is going to be the best deal and that’s buying a vehicle either new or used.”

The End of the Month and Year

If you can’t wait for the beginning of the year or a major holiday, try to at least wait until the end of the month. Sales associates will likely be trying to meet monthly quotas, which gives you a better chance of getting a great deal. 
Dealerships also have quarterly and annual quotas to meet, which makes Christmas and the end of the year another great time to shop for a new or used car. You’ll likely be able to negotiate your way to a much better price.

Final Thoughts

According to Augustaitis at CarGurus, the three key times of the year that shoppers should consider looking for the best vehicle deals are March, August and November/December.

Shop for previous inventory at the beginning of the year, look for sales and offers during major holidays and make your final purchase toward the end of the month.
Black Friday and Memorial Day are two of the best holidays to look for car sales. The end of the year is another great time to get a good price, as dealerships will be hoping to meet quotas. 

If you're getting ready to purchase a vehicle, be sure to read Clark's guides to buying a used car and buying a new car

More Ways to Save

  • Use Kelley Blue Book to determine a good price point for the car you have in mind. It's always a good idea to check the average price and shop online, but you may want to visit a dealership to test drive and close the sale. 
  • Know exactly what you're signing up for before making your final purchase. Make sure you're comfortable with the total price of the car, monthly payments, insurance, interest rates and warranty limitations.
  • Run the VIN number for the used car you're looking to buy and get an inspection before signing any paperwork.
Do you have any additional tips on when to shop for a new or used car? Let us know in the comments!

Check Out These Articles for More Tips on Buying a Car:

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