When Can I Get the Best Deal on a Used Car?


When it comes to buying a used car, everyone has their own needs. Some of us want a new truck for work, others need a family vehicle for the daily school-practice-grocery runs. But, one thing that is common for us all is the search for a deal – specifically, when is the best time to buy a used car? Overall, there is some evidence to suggest that the best time to buy a car is at the end of each month. But, those statistics don’t always hold up – they can vary by where you live and what month it is. Plus, that doesn’t take into account that when you need a car, you might need one right away. The good news is that you can find good deals any time!

While it is true that you might be able to score some deals at the end of the month as salespeople look to meet their goals, there really is no tried-and-true formula that buyers can use. There’s no secret trick or time of the year to buying a used car. There are some chunks of common knowledge that can be useful… to a point. Sometimes these strategies are helpful but flawed, and sometimes the strategy is useful because you can rule it out as unreliable. Either way, we are here to help!

Is the End of The Year the Best Time to Buy a Used Car?

Some experts say that buying a used car at the end of the calendar year guarantees a great deal. And sometimes, they are right. According to Edmunds data, December has the year’s highest discount off MSRP and a lot of incentives. The thinking goes that dealers want to clear their books and their lots before new models arrive. However, that usually applies to new cars. There are likely no shipments of the same used vehicles coming to replace what’s there, so sellers won’t be as motivated to reduce prices. Plus, each dealer and maker handle selldown differently (even among new models): some dealerships may be overstocked while others might have slim pickings.

Can I get a better deal on a used car around certain holidays?

Unless a specific dealer is having a special local sale, this one is usually false. In fact, buyers should avoid holidays when families typically gather, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Easter Sunday. Dealers are likely to be short-staffed and private sellers are more likely to be focused on family events. But, you can check into who is having these sales and when they are happening – and then do your shopping afterward. Some holiday weekends are popular times of the year to buy new cars, with incentives and sales at large factory dealers, there may be a higher number of vehicles on the lots as trade-ins or lease returns.

Is it Worth Chasing Dealer Incentives?

Depending on the dealer, certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles can often be found with manufacturer-supported financing incentives. Buyers can find these cars with interest rates that are usually below the average in the marketplace. The issue here is that a buyer has to be in the market for the kind of vehicle sold at the dealership having that sale. Verified, true CPO vehicles are only available at the brand’s franchised dealerships and typically have higher price tags than equivalent non-certified used cars. However, they’re the only used cars that you’ll usually find with automaker-sponsored deals. What if the local dealership has a terrible reputation or substandard service department? What if there is not a dealer for that manufacturer in your area? The other side of that coin are used-car dealerships. You can often find some serious sales at many used car dealerships – but they often aren’t what they may appear to be. Less reputable used car dealers can be a bit… loose with their promises, which everyone has heard before. But what you might not know is anything about the actual cars on the lot: their history or their current condition. As the saying goes, “just because the sign says it’s a deal, that doesn’t mean you’re getting a bargain.”

Regardless of the time of year, the ads on the billboard, or the holiday that’s coming up, there is no magic formula to getting the best deal on a used car. None of these tips, tricks or myths will guarantee it – except just one thing. Your best bet, every time, is to work with a capable, honest and well-regarded used car dealer.


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