I love buying cars. It’s an absolute rush, like playing a high-stakes match with a salesman and the prize is a sweet ride! But, a lot of people hate it. And I get it. So, as part of the ideal lifestyle, I’m going to keep teaching you how to get the most from your car buying experience.
This article is all about when to buy a car. And I’m going to be your car buying professor and teach you the very worst times to buy a car.
This is going to go like this: I’ll tell you what not to do, why not to do it, and then tell you what to do instead. Just make sure to hit the spicy button on Rate My Professors. Now, just as a note, this advice is mostly for dealing with dealers and new cars. We’ll do another article for used cars.
If you want a head start, head over to the Ideal Car Strategies and learn how to chart car values.
Don’t Shop During the Spring and Summer
The gloom of winter is gone, school’s wrapping up, and everything feels bright. The world is your oyster. It’s the perfect time to start a new chapter of your life, maybe by getting that sports car you’ve been dreaming about? Well, don’t.
First of all, that’s when most people shop for cars, so you will have to compete with all of them. Do you think a dealer will negotiate with you when they know that in three minutes some other sucker will come along? Nope.
Second, that’s when dealers have maximum inventory, so they don’t need to make a deal. They’re holding all the cards. And, finally, they’re probably out of last year’s model, meaning they don’t have any options for you to choose from. All that combined means that the average dealership has no reason to make a deal with you, and so you won’t get a good deal.
The only real exception is that there are a few days in May where it’s a good chance to take advantage of dealer incentives, but more on that later in the article. For the most part, you’re way better off waiting until the gloom and doom of winter.
Do Shop at the End of the Year
At the end of the year, dealers are hurting. They need to get rid of last year’s model so that they have room for next year’s model. No one’s out because it’s cold and people don’t do things when it’s cold. And no one has any money anyway since they spent it all on presents for their kids. Sprinkle in the fact that the dealer will probably have to pay extra taxes on any existing inventory, and they will be desperate to get rid of what they have. That’s where you come in.
You can help them by clearing up their inventory, you’re probably going to be the only interested party, and you budgeted for the car, so you aren’t just taking them for a ride. You did budget, right? You watched the “Car Buying Mistakes” video and aren’t about to go upside down? Good.
And, when you go, don’t go on the weekend.
Don’t Shop on the Weekends
Sometimes, people will tell you to go to a dealership when it’s crowded because then maybe the salespeople will be stressed or something. But, the truth is that they live for that shit. They want to be juggling a hundred deals and raking in the commissions, and they do it all the time.
You? You probably negotiate for a deal once a year, if that. That means if it comes down to a game of speed, stress, and fast-talking, you will be at a disadvantage. Most people shop for cars on the weekend. So, if you want to avoid the crowds, which I suggest you do, don’t go to a dealership on the days when everyone else has the day off and has to hurry to close a deal.
Instead, go on a Tuesday.
Do Shop on Tuesday
That might require you to take a day off. But, trust me, it’s better. Not only will you avoid the stress of having to close a deal before the weekend ends, but the salespeople will be way more likely to focus on you and your needs. Also, shopping on a weekday makes the process easier. Most institutions will be open, so you can just call them and ask them questions while you’re negotiating for the car.
Now, I say Tuesday instead of Monday because usually dealers will be catching up on paperwork from the weekend when Monday rolls around. Plus, people are just grumpier on Monday. There’s one exception to this, though, and that’s the three-day weekend.
If you have to buy a car on a three-day weekend, like you’re taking advantage of fabulous holiday sales (more on that in a second), then make sure to get there early Saturday. If you wait until Monday or Tuesday, everything you want will be gone.
For the most part, though, the beginning of the week is great. The beginning of the month? That’s not great.
Don’t Shop During the Beginning of the Month
You have to think of each year as a major reset for dealers and each month as a little mini reset. After the reset, like in spring, or the first of the month, dealers have less incentive to move inventory. They aren’t threatened by taxes since they just paid them and they probably just got a bunch of new cars in.
This is pretty straightforward: if they have no incentive to move inventory, they aren’t going to make a deal with you. Again, for the third time, there’s one exception: holidays, which I’ll get to right now.
Do Shop During the Holidays
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, what month it is, or what day it is. If a dealer is offering an amazing incentive to buy on a holiday (like Toyotathon or Happy Honda Days), it’s usually a great chance to get a great deal. Independence Day, Labor Day, New Year’s Eve, and Black Friday all usually have fantastic deals.
But, the best might be Memorial Day. Memorial Day has everything. It’s usually at the end of the month when dealers want to move inventory, it’s at the end of winter so sales have been super slow and they need space, and it’s about the time that car manufacturers start switching to the next year’s lineup.
Speaking of models, we’ve mentioned going for last year’s model a few times, and that’s because you should avoid jumping on a brand new model.
Don’t Shop for Brand New Models
Usually, a big manufacturer like Ford will release next year’s model sometime in the spring. Although, honestly, it can be really wonky, like the Nissan Z’s model year is 2023 even though they announced it in 2021. But, that’s not the point here.
The point is that when they release a new model, that’s what everyone wants. And you don’t want to compete with everyone. Someone will surely walk into a dealer, go “Oh, shiny,” do zero negotiating, and just pay 10% over MSRP.
Do Shop for Old Models
Don’t be a five-year-old. Last year’s Supra is probably just as fast as this year’s Supra, so go for the old model instead. Not only will any recall work already be done, but dealers are strongly encouraged to get rid of old models as soon as possible because they don’t look good sitting on the lot. They also cost more to keep on the lot. And, the longer a car sits, the less it’s worth.
You can help them by taking it off their hands. By grabbing a new Mustang GT from last year’s lineup, you’re actually doing them a huge favor. And I know how much you love altruism. You deserve that new ride. Just make sure not to need it.
Don’t Wait Until You Need One
This is actually, in my humble opinion, the biggest thing you can do to help yourself. If you take nothing else from this article, listen to me now. Do not buy a car when you are desperate. If your car blows up on a Friday in the middle of summer, well, you’re buying a car on the weekend during the busiest day whether you want to or not. You’ll be forced to make all the mistakes.
And this one applies to every car purchase, whether it’s a dealer or some guy in a Walmart parking lot. The minute you’re in a situation where you need something, you lose every ounce of bargaining power. What are you going to do? Walk on the deal? If you do, you’ll be walking everywhere.
And while I think I could definitely use the exercise, it gets really cold here in Seattle, so that sounds terrible. Instead, pay attention to your car and get a replacement before you have to.
Do Buy Before It’s Necessary
The best way to do that is to have an exit plan, which is a core part of the Ideal Car Strategies. You can level up to a newer, better car by basically watching your experience bar fill up and knowing when you’re going to hit that next level.
That way, when you go to buy a car, you won’t ever have to worry about being pressured. You can just drive away from one dealership and force them to beg for your business, which gives you all the power. Nice.