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August 23, 2023

What is the Best Time of Year to Buy a Car?

Discover the best time of year to buy a car for huge savings and deals. Get expert tips on car buying season and discounts.

Best Time of Year to Buy a Car: Tips for Big Savings and Deals | RateWorks
Written by

Sarah T.

Car ownership brings convenience, freedom, and a sense of pride. But it also comes with car maintenance costs that can add up over time. As a car owner, finding opportunities to save money while ensuring your vehicle receives quality care is essential.

In a world where sky-high car prices are a challenge for many Americans in 2023, understanding the best time of year to buy a car can make a significant difference in your wallet. In this article, we'll provide insights that can help you make the right choice and save on car maintenance while still enjoying a reliable and well-cared-for vehicle.  

Whether you're eyeing a new addition to your family of wheels or planning to upgrade your current ride, RateWorks is here to help you explore the optimal times to purchase a car for the best deals and savings.

Knowing the Best Time of Year to Buy a Car Can Help You Save on Car Maintenance Costs

Car ownership costs are steadily climbing, and every opportunity to save on car maintenance is valuable. The average price of both new and used cars has surged due to inflation and supply chain challenges. As of March 2023, a used car's average cost was around $26,213, while a new car's average cost reached approximately $48,008, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Maintaining your vehicle is another financial aspect to consider. On average, new car owners spend about $121 each month on repairs, maintenance, and tires, as reported by AAA. This regular expense covers crucial tasks like oil changes and tire rotations, typically needed three times a year or at 5,000-mile intervals.

This article will unveil the best times of the year for car purchases. By understanding these strategic periods, you can make a smart move that gets you behind the wheel of your dream car and helps you save on car maintenance expenses in the long run.

Understanding Seasonal Trends: When to Get the Best Car Deals

Car shopping isn't just about finding the perfect model; it's also about timing. Car prices and incentives can vary throughout the year, making it crucial that buyers grasp the concept of car buying seasons and their impact on pricing. While seasonal fluctuations occur, waiting until the year's end might just be your winning move.

Car buying seasons revolve around demand and incentives. The two peak seasons for auto sales span from March to May and from September to November. During these periods, prices can escalate by 10% to 15% due to high demand. However, December stands out as a prime time to make your move.

Dealerships sprint to meet year-end sales goals in December, often offering the best days of the year for car buying. Automakers lend their support by presenting enticing financing and cash-back deals, alongside efforts to clear out previous model-year vehicles. This month aligns with companies seeking year-end tax write-offs, prompting appealing lease deals available to both businesses and individual car shoppers.

Best Time to Buy New Cars

For further precision in your car-buying strategy, let's dive into key insights from experts. According to Kelley BlueBook, specific periods can grant you better deals and significant savings. Here's a breakdown of the best times to buy a new car, along with the reasons behind each: 

  • Year-End Sales Events: Dealerships are driven to hit annual sales goals in December, offering enticing deals and discounts. Automakers also lend their support, enhancing the appeal with attractive financing and cash-back car dealership offers.
  • End of the Month: As dealers strive to meet monthly sales targets, they might be more open to negotiations, leading to better pricing and incentives for you.
  • Model Changeovers: When a new model year is about to roll out, dealers are eager to clear out existing inventory. This creates an opportunity for you to score a great deal on the current model.

With these insights, you can confidently navigate the car market and capitalize on these strategic windows to save on your new car purchase. Remember, timing isn't just everything in comedy – it's a powerful tool in car buying, too.

Best Time of Year to Buy a Car: Tips for Big Savings and Deals Image 1 | RateWorks

Best Time to Buy Used Cars

When buying used cars, understanding timing can make a significant difference in your wallet. Used car prices tend to fluctuate based on inventory and seasonal factors. While Ian Lang, senior car advice editor at Bumper, notes that the used-car market's predictability is tied to new model releases, other events also play a role. 

The release of new car models, usually in late summer or early fall, sets off a chain reaction. Dealers discount current-year stock to make space for new models, which influences demand for used cars. Reduced demand prompts dealers to lower prices to move inventory. Additionally, new model releases lead to increased trade-ins, resulting in higher used car inventory.

Specific events can further impact used car prices. After holidays, for instance, trade-ins surge, adding to inventory and potentially driving prices down. Whether you're hunting for a used car during a post-holiday lull or aligning your purchase with the release of new models, understanding these dynamics can empower you to time your purchase strategically and save on your used car investment.

Impact of Economic Factors on Buying a Car

Economic conditions wield a powerful influence on car prices and promotions, shaping the landscape for car buyers. Recent years have seen substantial shifts, with both challenges and opportunities emerging. 

Car prices surged dramatically in 2022 due to global supply chain disruptions, especially the persistent chip shortage impacting auto production. While semiconductor supply is anticipated to improve in 2023, new car prices might remain elevated due to inflationary input costs.

The new car shortage led to heightened demand for used cars, driving up prices. The ripple effect of inflation also touched the used car market, where prices remain around 30% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Economic factors like interest rates and gas prices further sway car buying decisions. Lower gas prices make fuel consumption more financially viable, enticing consumers to consider larger vehicles like SUVs and trucks. However, the Federal Reserve's effort to control inflation through interest rate hikes has affected affordability. Lower-income consumers, especially those with credit scores below 620, are hit hardest, potentially favoring used vehicles over new ones.

As economic tides shift, awareness of these influences empowers car buyers to make informed decisions, finding the right balance between their needs and financial realities.

Dealer Promotions and Incentives

Dealers and manufacturers employ a variety of incentives to entice car buyers and fuel sales. These incentives, ranging from cash rebates to low financing rates, appeal more to your car purchasing journey. However, it's crucial to tread carefully and make informed decisions.

Before stepping into a dealership, thorough research into available incentives is essential. Flashy offers might not necessarily be the best fit for your unique needs. While discounts are alluring, finding the right car that aligns with your requirements should take precedence over grabbing a 'good deal'.

Throughout the year, dealerships roll out common incentives to capture your attention:

  • Customer Cash Rebate: A straightforward cash rebate applied to the purchase price.
  • Low-Interest Financing: Alluring financing rates that lower your borrowing costs.
  • Lease Deals: Attractive lease terms for those interested in short-term ownership.
  • Dealer Cash and Rewards: Offers directly from the dealer, providing added discounts or rewards.
  • Government Incentives: Tax credits or rebates for electric or hybrid vehicles.
  • Service Perks: Complimentary maintenance or service packages to sweeten the deal.
  • Aftermarket Warranty Coverage: Extended warranty plans to enhance peace of mind.

To effectively negotiate during promotional periods, Consumer Reports offers valuable insights into the art of car price negotiation. Armed with knowledge and a well-prepared approach, you can confidently engage in discussions and secure a deal that suits both your preferences and financial considerations. As you navigate the maze of incentives and negotiations, remember that finding your perfect car is the ultimate goal, ensuring that your choice aligns with your lifestyle and driving needs.

Tips for Maximizing Savings

When aiming to maximize savings during the best time of year to buy a car, a few savvy strategies can make a world of difference:

  • Research Extensively: Look into car models, features, and reviews well before heading to the dealership.
  • Compare Prices: Use online tools to compare prices from different dealerships and explore available incentives.
  • Timing is Key: Plan your purchase during the optimal periods to leverage the best deals.
  • Be Open to Choices: Don't fixate on a single model – exploring different options can lead to surprising finds.
  • Trade-In Strategy: If you have a car to trade in, understand its value and use it strategically in negotiating car price.
  • Negotiation Skills: Hone your negotiation prowess, aiming for a win-win with the dealer.
  • Consider Certified Pre-Owned: Don't overlook certified pre-owned cars for significant savings without compromising quality.
  • Focus on Car Maintenance: Remember that a reliable car with reasonable car maintenance costs can save you money in the long run.

By combining thorough research, wise negotiation tactics, and a willingness to consider various car models, you'll be well-equipped to seize the best deals during opportune times, enhancing your car-buying experience and securing a great investment for the road ahead.

End-of-Year Deals and Clearance-Events

When scoring the best deals, the end of the year opens up a treasure trove of opportunities. October, November, and December are prime months for navigating the sea of year-end deals and clearance events, making them safe bets for savvy car buyers.

Car dealerships operate on a framework of sales quotas, breaking down into yearly, quarterly, and monthly goals. These three goals converge as the calendar winds down, creating a favorable consumer environment. Dealerships are keen to clear out current-year inventory and reach their year-end sales targets, creating a space for negotiation.

With this convergence of goals and dealerships eager to meet targets, your bargaining power during these months is often heightened. Leverage the enthusiasm to your advantage, engaging in strategic discussions to secure a deal that aligns with your preferences and budget. By capitalizing on end-of-year deals and clearance events, you can step into the driver's seat of your dream car, enjoying both substantial savings and the satisfaction of a well-timed purchase.

Off-Season Opportunities

While the end-of-year rush captures attention, off-peak times present hidden opportunities for astute car buyers. When car buying demand is lower, these lesser-known windows can be your ticket to remarkable deals and savings.

Choosing to make your purchase during off-peak times comes with distinct advantages. With reduced demand, dealerships may be more willing to negotiate, putting you in a stronger position to secure favorable terms. You can expect a more relaxed and personalized shopping experience, as dealers have more time to cater to your needs.

Moreover, the availability of specific models may be broader during off-peak times, offering you a wider array of choices to find your perfect match. Exploring off-season opportunities can reveal remarkable deals that might have otherwise gone unnoticed, whether it's the middle of the week or a less-traveled month.

Best Time of Year to Buy a Car: Tips for Big Savings and Deals Image 2 | RateWorks

Savings Through Strategic Timing: Best Time of Year to Buy a Car

Timing isn't just an afterthought when buying a car– it's a powerful tool for unlocking substantial savings. From year-end car sales events to off-peak opportunities, understanding the best time of year to buy a car can significantly impact your financial well-being and car maintenance costs.

Remember, as the calendar turns, dealerships' goals align, creating a prime environment for negotiation. Whether it's the allure of clearance events or the advantages of off-peak times, each season presents unique avenues to explore.

So, as you embark on your car-buying journey, equip yourself with the knowledge to navigate these strategic windows. Plan your purchase meticulously, considering your budget and car maintenance needs. Whether you're aiming for a new set of wheels or seeking to optimize your existing vehicle, the best time of year to buy a car offers a gateway to substantial savings and a brighter automotive future.

Seize the opportunity to maximize your investment and drive confidently on the road ahead. And if you're already a car owner, don't forget to explore refinancing options to improve your financial stability.

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