Just like fruits and vegetables, there are good times of year to buy a new car, and there are bad times. The car-selling season officially begins in March, and it runs through mid to late October, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those are the best times to buy.
For instance, if you’re looking to lease a vehicle, the best time to do that is March thru May. That’s because late in the first quarter and early in the second you’ll get good residual values, good rebates from the manufacturers, and good lease rates. In fact, you may even be able to get a good lease deal as early as January. However, once the second quarter ends in June, good lease opportunities tend to go away, and leasing becomes a lot more expensive as the manufacturers shift their focus away from leasing to purchasing.
The best time of year to purchase a new car (with either cash or financing) is August or September. Our advice here is to buy the current model (not next year’s), the reason being that manufacturers and dealers offer their best incentives at the end of the model year. The only problem with waiting until the end of the model year is that you may not get what you want: inventory levels are usually depleted by the end of September. If you’re trying to get the right car at the right price, it may make more sense to start shopping at the end of July (especially if the car you want is kind of rare or special).
Of course, you can wait until October or November and get a really fantastic deal, but because inventories have been picked through by then you may not find exactly what you want. In our experience, it’s better to get a car you like than to get a good deal because you’re more likely to trade-in a car you dislike earlier than you should. If you’re looking for a specific color, feature, etc., it’s best not to wait too long. But if those things don’t matter to you, the end of the year is a good time to almost steal a new vehicle.
One thing we come across all the time that we think is really bad advice (and is among the reasons we started this website), is that many people will tell you that buying a new car at the end of the model year is a bad idea. They’ll tell you that you’re basically getting last year’s model, and even though you’re getting a discount, the resale value is going to be lower.
However, none of those reasons should matter – you really shouldn’t be buying a new car if you’re worried about resale value, especially over the next two or three years. New cars are for people who intend to keep their vehicle for a very long time (5 years +). If you’re only going to keep the car you buy for only a couple of years, either lease or buy used – you’ll save a lot of money.
During major holiday weekends manufacturers spend a lot of time and money on marketing and incentives – think about buying during the July 4th, Labor Day and Memorial Day weekend sales. Dealers are aggressive and incentives are good.