How To Buy A Car: When To Buy A New Car


As you may recall, I’m looking to buy a new (to me) compact SUV. This was the subject of a recent blog post  in which I explained how I was looking into four options: the Honda CR-V, the Chevy Equinox, the Toyota RAV 4, and the Subaru Forester. Since then, I’ve done more research on car-buying, specifically on when to buy a new a car. Here’s what I found.

A previous blog's title page consisting of the words "How to Buy a Car: Picking a New Car" and the Honda CR-V, The Chevy Equinox, the Toyota RAV 4 and the Subaru Forester.
The last installment of the How to Buy a Car series focused on comparing the above four vehicles’ strengths and weaknesses.

When to Buy a New Car

Now, it’s important to note that I’m skipping an important step for the car buying process. Where I’m just jumping into the best time for when to buy a new car is, others would be looking into loans. I’m skipping this step because I am not yet ready to actually purchase a car, so I don’t know my exact budget.

“Make sure you don’t get too distracted by the monthly payment figure.”

But it’s safe to say that if you’re going to buy a new or new-to-you car, you’ll definitely need to have your budget worked out with the bank and so on. The only advice I can safely give you about finances while buying a car is to make sure you don’t get too distracted by the monthly payment figure. You’ll want to focus on the overall value, and then look at your monthly payment because it could end up saving you thousands in the long run. If dealers know you’re comfortable with a certain monthly value, they may try to stick you with something more expensive that takes longer to pay off. So again, stick with the total value of the car and not the monthly payment you’re most comfortable with. You may also want to consider leasing, but we’ll cover that in a different blog post.

A car lot with balloons.
Monday during the work day is the best time of the week to get a deal on a car.

Anyway, as far as when it’s best to buy a car, there are some universal truths, and some general theories that may or may not save you thousands.

For one thing, the internet seems to agree that the best time to get a deal on a car is at the end of a month, end of a quarter (March, June, September and December), and more so at the end of the year. The reasons for this are all over the place. Some say it’s because dealers are trying to clear out older models, and some say dealers are trying to make sales goals, while others say it’s a combination of that and the holiday spirit that makes the salespeople more giving. Whatever it is, hitting a sale on or right before the new year is generally a great way to save thousands on a new car, especially luxury SUVs. But be warned, it’s also a busy time for car buying which could impact your experience because of busy salespeople. And though the rebates are great for newer cars, older car sales depend on the dealership and salesperson. Just remember that rebates are key.

The Lexus December to Remember Sales event poster. One of the best times of when to buy a new car.
The most wonderful time of the year is also the best time to buy a new car.

Other than the end of the quarter/year, the internet has a great many theories on when to buy a new car. Fall is generally the best season to buy if you’re looking for a particular time of year that won’t be crazy busy, but still land you a relatively good deal. The best day of the week to buy a car is Monday, the second-best being Thursday, so if you’re considering hopping into a new ride but can’t wait for the opportune seasons, those are your best bet at guaranteeing that you get the undivided attention of a salesperson that might be looking to improve upon a slow day. If you can help it, going during the day on a day of the week is also advised because that’s when most people are at work, so there’s less competition for the dealer’s attention. Evenings at a dealership can become busy because of the after work crowd.

When NOT to Buy

And though there are many a theory on when to buy a new car, there seems to be a general consensus of when to buy a new car is NOT recommended. The first and most echoed is that Spring is a terrible time to buy a car because it’s when most people want to buy. Though Memorial Day can be the one glimmering exception to that rule, it’s important to look at the rebates and what’s advertised. The worst day of the year to buy a car is the Fourth of July.

A fourth of July sales event poster
The worst day of the year to buy a car is reportedly the Fourth of July.

Some other bad times to buy are when the vehicle you’re looking into is in high demand and before it’s reviewed by a reputable source. Either of these can cost you thousands or get you stuck with a car that gets old pretty darn quick.

Other tips.

If you can help it, don’t buy after a credit inquiry. A bad credit check could push up your monthly payment and the interest rate on your loan.  It’s also never a good idea to buy a car without a test drive. There’s a possibility that the vehicles you’ve been researching and want to buy are not what you expected, and therefore not something you want to financially tether yourself to for the foreseeable future.

Finally, the best advice for any car shopper is this: take it slow. Unless you have some sort or emergency or you’re under some sort deadline to buy a car (like, say if your last ride has broken down or was totaled and you need something immediately), there’s no reason you should be forced to buy a new car that you’re not completely and totally comfortable with.

Keep an eye out for a future blog where I compare the merits of car buying versus leasing. Until then, happy modding.

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