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Smart Money

When Is The Best Time to Buy a Car? (Hint: It’s Now!)

October is one of the best months to buy a car if you're hoping to get a deal. Here's how to save on your next car purchase.

Rebecca Lake • October 19, 2021

When it comes to car-buying, timing is everything. And if you’re hoping to score a deal, according to Edmunds.com, October through December is a good time to buy a used car.

This is when you can typically reap the biggest discounts. So, if you’re ready to start car shopping, buckle up and let these tips jumpstart your savings!

In This Article

  1. Which month is the best month to buy a car?
  2. What's the best time of month to buy a car?
  3. Is now a good time to buy a used car?
  4. How do I get the best deal on a used car?
  5. Are you ready to buy your next car?

Which month is the best month to buy a car?

The best month to buy a car is any month when dealers are more motivated to sell. October through December are generally the best months to buy a car if your goal is saving money.

Why? 

It’s simple: The end of the year is when car dealers start clearing out inventory to make way for the new year models. Dealers may also be playing catch up at this point to meet their quarterly or yearly sales quota goals, so they have a bigger incentive to get cars moving. 

All of that adds up to savings for car buyers. And in terms of when you can get the deepest discounts on car purchases, the answer is December. According to TrueCar.com, you can save an average of 10.3% off MSRP if you can hold out until year’s end to buy a car.

What's the best time of month to buy a car?

If you’re car shopping in the October to December window, the best times to buy are near the end of the month or around holidays. 

Again, car dealers typically have sales quotas they have to meet. These quotas can apply monthly, quarterly, and annually. When the month has been slow going for car sales, dealers may try to make up for it at month’s end by slashing prices. So if you’re planning to buy a car in October (or November or December) you may find the best deals starting around the 20th of the month. 

Holidays can also translate to price cuts. The closer you get to the holiday shopping season, the more you may begin to see car dealers advertising sales. Black Friday through the last week of December, for example, could yield some great savings as people are generally more motivated to shop and spend. 

Is now a good time to buy a used car?

Used cars are typically attractive because they’re cheaper than new cars. And it’s possible to find a reliable used car that still has plenty of life left in it at a price your budget can afford. 

So is now a good time to buy a car? According to data from Edmund’s, the average transaction price (ATP) for used cars rose to $25,410 in the second quarter of 2021. That’s a steep increase of $20,842 from the second quarter of 2020. 

This increase in pricing is mostly due to increased demand and a limited supply. And according to the data, used car prices may continue to climb this year unless supply increases. But there is a silver lining; prices for new cars may soon level off as more vehicles hit the market. 

Pricing aside, the question of whether now is a good time to buy a car really depends on your financial situation. Specifically, it can depend on:

  • How much you’re able to put down
  • Whether you’re interested in buy new or used
  • How much you can afford for a monthly payment
  • What you expect to pay for insurance, maintenance, and fuel

If you have cash in savings for a down payment and you’ve crunched the numbers to figure out a workable monthly payment, then yes, now could be a good time to buy a car. 

How do I get the best deal on a used car?

Researching the best time to buy a car and the best months to get a good deal is a great place to start. If you’re looking at buying a car in the October to December window, you can start your prep in August or September. 

Here are some things you can do before you start shopping for a used car:

  • Review your budget. First, look at your current budget to get an idea of where a car payment might fit in. If you have student loans or credit cards, for example, would a car payment stress your budget even more? You can also look for expenses you can cut out to make car buying more affordable.
  • Set your buying limit. It helps to have a maximum dollar amount you’re willing to spend in mind before going car shopping. This way, you don’t end up falling in love with a car that’s outside your price range and committing yourself to a loan (and car payment) that you can’t afford. 
  • Save your down payment. While you’re likely to run into plenty of no money down deals at year’s end, putting something down on a used or new car means less you have to finance. So consider opening a savings account to hold your down payment fund and transferring money to it automatically each payday.

Once you’re ready to start shopping for a car, you can use these tips to save money:

  • Decide what you need. When shopping for a car at year’s end, you may find low prices. But selection could also be limited. So making a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves can help when comparing your options for buying.
  • Shop online. Before you hit a dealership, it can be helpful to shop online first. This way, you can compare inventory and pricing at different dealerships to help you decide which ones you may want to visit in person. 
  • Compare loan options. If you know that you’ll need a car loan to complete your purchase, you can shop for that online as well. You can try a car loan marketplace to compare rates and loan terms from multiple lenders. And if you’re able to get pre-approved that could give you an edge when it’s time to negotiate.
  • Don’t be afraid of bargaining. One thing to know about buying a car is that everything is negotiable. When you head to the dealership, be prepared to do some haggling over price as well as features and add-ons. And don’t hesitate to walk away from a deal if it’s not what you need to make your used or new car purchase more attractive. 

Are you ready to buy your next car?

Buying a car requires some time, planning, and a little patience to find that “just right” deal. October through December can present some great buying opportunities for savvy shoppers who want to land a bargain. In the meantime, getting your down payment savings account ready and doing some preplanning can make it that much easier to buy when the time is right!

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