When should I buy a car?
August 8, 2006 12:58 PM   Subscribe

When's the best time to buy a (probably used) car?

I've been looking off and on at buying a car. (Not sure quite yet whether it'll be new or used, but I'm leaning more towards used but relatively new.) Time and time again, I start looking, and ultimately decide to wait until a given point in the future. And then a month later, I start again, and decide to put it off. There are some complicating factors:

My insurance will drop significantly when I turn 21 in December. This seems to coincide with the advice of people who tell me that I should buy a car at the end of the year, when they're looking to get rid of the 2006 models. However, about 60% of my funds are tied up in a certificate that matures in late February. (A week or two after President's Day: a second time everyone says to buy.)

I've also heard it said that late summer is a good time to buy cars, as the 2007 models are starting to come out. So when is the best time to buy a car, and does any of that advice even relate to buying a used car?
posted by fogster to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's like any technology. There is always going to be a better time to buy for one reason or another. I say the longer you can go without a car the better you'll be. Wait at least until you have the full price of your chosen vehicle in cash. That makes for a much better bargaining position any time you go to buy a car.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:15 PM on August 8, 2006

In my area, early-mid summer seems to be a poor time to be trying to buy a convertible :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:02 PM on August 8, 2006

if youre looking to buy from a dealership, the last day of the month is generally the best day to buy.
the sales managers at car dealerships tend to be a lot looser with respect to discounts and negotiation. if you are a good negotiator on the right car, you'll get the same deal any day of the month, more than likely, but if you aren't so shrewd, you are more likely to get a low-profit deal approved during the last day of the month or the last day of the week if that isn't possible.
posted by kneelconqueso at 2:03 PM on August 8, 2006

Toward the end of the month/fiscal quarter of the manufacturer will sometimes make the dealers more willing to deal. I bought my last car on a Wednesday and pretty much got what I wanted and a 0.9% APR. I really did expect them to come back with a counteroffer from mine, but they didn't. Audi's parent, VW, was not having a good quarter and so they seemed to want to get the revenue on the books that quarter. The sales guy seemed hungry too. If they didn't give me what I wanted, I was ready to walk away. Whatever you don't don't fall in love with the car before you seal the deal.

Depends on the car you want though. Some will be in such high demand, there won't be much negotiating you can do.

For most brands the 2007 models will start coming out now, so in December it there may be some "old" 2006 models on the lot that dealers may wish to get out of inventory.
posted by birdherder at 2:12 PM on August 8, 2006

I'll go a little bit against the grain here.

The best time to buy a used car is when a used car that you really like is for sale.

It seems smarter to me to buy a car you'll like for 5+ years, and pay a little bit more for it than you would at another time of year if it were available then, than to get a car you'll want to get rid of in 2 years, but get it at the best possible price for that car. The goal isn't to beat the dealer, it's to get a car that you like over the long term for a price that seems reasonable to you.

In other words, don't worry about the time of year (assuming you have money in hand) -- worry about the quality of the car.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:28 PM on August 8, 2006

Got a very good deal on a used car recently. Try this:

1. Buy on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Not only is it the end of the month, but the holiday makes for much less traffic to the showroom.

2. Research your purchase online. Know what the car you want is worth according to Edmunds.com or similar sites.

3. Research who is selling the model(s) you want. Go to the dealers' web sites. Make printouts. Put them in a folder.

4. Choose the car you want the most. Go to the dealer that carries it. Bring your folder. And a cell phone. Pull out the correct printout from your folder (but let the dealer see the others). Tell them you're interested in that car.

5. Take a look at the car. If you're still interested, tell the dealer you want their best price. On paper. Because you have a lot of other cars to see. At this point, they will start "working" you and the haggling begins. They will probably not let you leave the dealership. That's fine.

6. Any time the salesman goes to "talk to my manager" pull out your cell phone and start calling the other dealerships. Check to see if your other cars are still available. Make an appointment to stop by and look at it later. Do this all right there in the dealers' showroom. Make sure the salesperson sees you on the phone calling other dealers.

7. Do not budge (much) from the price you think is fair based on your research. Every time the salesman leaves, start calling other dealerships.

8. Continue until you're satisfied.

Good luck.
posted by Work to Live at 2:53 PM on August 8, 2006

Figure out your budget, buy based on that. Don't pick a car and wait until it gets to the right price.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:16 PM on August 8, 2006

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