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The Best Time to Buy a New Car: Timing is Everything

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When my book Buy Ketchup In May And Fly At Noon: A Guide To The Best Time To Time Buy This, Do That And Go There was released in late 2009, interviewers from Australia to Italy came calling, and it became very clear very quickly that there was one thing that everyone wanted to know: When’s the best time to buy a car?

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Cars are the largest (or second largest) purchase that most of us will make, and we want to know how to buy them. How to buy them includes when we buy them because knowing the best time to buy can save us hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

I’m a journalist and have never worked in the car industry, but I’ve interviewed dozens of people who have. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Best day of the week to buy a new car?

Tuesday or Wednesday. Fewer people shop for new cars on those days, and that’s a good thing for buyers for two reasons: 1) Fewer shoppers increases the likelihood that dealers will lower prices to sell cars on those days; and 2) Shopping on those days means you’ll get more attention from sales people, especially right after the dealership opens or in the early afternoon.

Extra tip: If you think you may be spending a long time at a dealership, make sure you’re well rested and well fed so nothing will distract you and you’ll be less likely to rush the negotiations.

2. Best time of the month to buy a car?

At the end. What you’ve heard is true: Dealerships and sales people are more eager to sell cars at the end of each month to make their sales quotas.

3. Best time of the year to buy a car?

The fall. New cars often begin arriving at dealerships in September, and that’s also when dealers begin discounting current-year models to make room for next-year’s models. Expect to save 10% to 20% on current-year models in September. That may be the best month to buy if you’re worried someone else will snap up the car you want. But the longer you’re willing to wait, the better deal you’ll get because dealers become very anxious to clear their lots of older models as the months wear on.

So in December, you may get a great deal on a car, but that car may not come in the color you want or have all the bells and whistles you want. (Many of the bright purple, green and orange cars you see on the road were bought in December.)

4. Best time to buy an SUV?

When gas prices are high. When gas costs a lot, many people who own gas guzzlers are willing to sell them for much less than they otherwise could get for them. That creates an excellent opportunity for a buyer who may have a very short commute to save thousands of dollars on a car and spend less on gas than the previous owner.

5. Best time to buy a used car?

When the economy is great. When the economy is booming, we buy more new cars and dealers are willing to sell their cars for less. When the economy stinks, we hold onto our cars longer, shrinking the supply of used cars and giving sellers the upper hand during negotiations.

You’ve heard people say timing is everything. When it comes to buying cars, that is definitely true. Make sure to check out your free credit score and utilize our online tools to prepare yourself for the car buying process.

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