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Best time to buy a car in 2020

Looking for a deal on a new car? The absolute best time to buy is December, but you can save big other times too. We ran the numbers so you don't have to.

Ramit Sethi

UPDATE: the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the car selling industry. Many dealers and manufacturers are offering special financing terms due to economic uncertainty caused by Coronavirus. According to US News, manufacturers like Chevrolet and Buick are offering 0% interest rate financing, and Ford is offering a deal that gives car buyers 6 months to make their first payment. If you need to buy a car during these times, you can use the advice I’ve provided in this article AND take advantage of the great deals that are being offered to get the car of your dreams at a price you can afford.

Previously, I gave you the exact systems to help you negotiate lower car insurance rates. Now, I want to talk about another aspect of buying a car that many don’t consider: the best time of year to buy a car.

The Best Time of Year to Buy a Car: At A Glance

image of new car at a dealership

So what is the best time of year to buy a car? The answer is surprisingly simple as long as you understand car salespeople.

The best time of year to buy a car (aka the number one thing salespeople don’t want to tell you)

The absolute best time of year to buy a car is December.

To understand why December is the absolute best time to buy a car, you need to first understand the process and mentality of the humble car salesmen.

Like any other salespeople, they have quotas. They often come in the shape of monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals for the number of cars they have to hit.

This means that your car purchase could determine the difference between their dealership hitting their sales goal and the salesperson receiving a nice annual bonus or…well, not doing those things.

That’s why December (more specifically, the last week of the month) is the best time of year to buy a car. According to Cars.com, the final days of December see the highest amount of incentive spending. Sometimes this even extends to the first day or two of January, depending on what day the end of the year falls.

get the absolute best deal on a car, you should see if you can negotiate a car deal on December 31st, New Year’s Eve.

According to TrueCar, you can end up saving up to 8.3% off the price of a new car if you visit the dealership on New Year’s Eve instead of any other day. This is because this is the last day a dealer has in order to make both their quarterly AND yearly goals. As such, they have a fat bonus on the line so they want to get the cars out the door as soon as possible.

Let’s say you were looking at a nice used car going for about $20,000. If you went in on New Year’s Eve, you stand to slash $1,660 just because you went in on that day alone. Imagine what you could earn if you compounded it with great negotiation tactics.

Bonus: Getting an amazing deal on a car is a great first step to improving your finances. But there are a lot of other steps you can take (and some of them are even easier). Check out my Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance to learn more.

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What if I can’t wait for December to buy a car?

Sometimes, you can’t wait until the end of the year to buy a car. If this is the case, you can still get a great deal by buying on the last day of another quota.

The next best thing to the end of the year is the end of the quarter. For those of you who don’t think in financial quarters, this basically means:

  • March 31st (last day of Q1)
  • June 30th (last day of Q2)
  • September 30th (last day of Q3)
  • And of course, December 31st (last day of the year, and Q4)

You’ll get a good deal on a car anytime during the last week of a quarter, but it’s best if you can go on the exact last day.

If that’s still too long to wait, then the next best thing is to go on the last day of the month.

According to Mike Rabkin, owner and founder of From Car to Finish, the end of the month is great due to the aforementioned quotas that car salespeople have to hit.

“When a vehicle needs help selling, the end of the month is a good time to buy if negotiating the vehicle yourself,” he says. “Because sales managers at dealerships have a monthly quota to hit and get compensated on whether they hit it or not.”

If you can’t wait until the end of the month … then you need to take a hard look at your life! Going on the last day of any given week isn’t going to be much more beneficial than normal, if at all. In fact, Sunday is one of the worst days for savings.

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My local dealership is having a Labor Day/Memorial Day/4th of July/Hanukkah blowout sale. Is this a scam?

While those huge blowout sale days might seem more like slick advertising than anything else, they actually offer solid savings if you choose to buy then.

According to Autotrader.com, many car companies offer cash-back deals and good financing for holiday weekends — which allows the dealers to take advantage and try to lure you in to buy a car with sales.

So instead of heading to your buddy’s BBQ for Labor Day weekend, you might want to make a trip down to the car dealer to see what sweet deals you can snag. Then, of course, go to the BBQ after in your new ride.

Need to find a way to work from home? Download my Ultimate Guide to Working from Home to learn all of my best strategies for the short term, AND the long term.

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The best day of the week to buy a car

If you want to further optimize your savings on a car purchase, buy your car on a Monday.

Most people do their car shopping on the weekend. Not many think about going to a car dealership in the middle of a Monday ready to negotiate.

On average, people save up to .61% more when buying a car on a Monday than Sunday (the worst day of the week to buy a car). This could be chalked up to the fact that EVERYONE goes to buy a car on Sunday.

Check out the chart below to see the average savings on the market price of a car by day.

Day of the WeekAverage Savings Rate
Sunday7.49%
Monday8.10%
Tuesday8.05%
Wednesday8.07%
Thursday8.08%
Friday8.06%
Saturday7.77%

(Source: TrueCar.com)

If the stars align for the last day of the month to fall on a Monday, you can get even more leverage. In 2019, September 30th (the end of Q3) was a Monday! If you missed it, don’t worry. It’ll happen again in 2024.

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The dos and don’ts for purchasing a car

If you want to maximize your savings even more, there are a number of things that you should do (and a whole lot you should avoid) when it comes to purchasing a car.

DO buy a good car that’ll last you at least 10 years

Many people — especially you younger folks reading this — are going to want to prioritize the way a car looks over anything else. Instead, you should be focusing on getting a good car that you will be able to drive for a while (preferably around 10 years).

Cars are long-term investments. This isn’t like a pair of shoes where you’re just going to wear them for a year or two before getting a new pair. And like a pair of shoes, a car only gets worse and less valuable over time. Here’s a complicated graph explaining this.

chart of benefit from buying a car over time

So look for a good reliable car and definitely don’t do what this reader tried doing.

DO investigate recent graduate incentives

A lot of car dealerships and automakers have fantastic programs for first-time car buyers fresh out of college. These incentives often come in the form of great rebates or special financing for new grads with good credit.

Two ways to find these deals:

  1. Google it. This should really be the first step to anything. Do a simple Google search for a recent-graduate car incentive program. Actually, I’ll just do it for you.
  2. Ask the dealer. When you’re negotiating with your dealership, be sure to ask them what they offer in the way of new graduate car incentives.

DON’T assume you have to buy a used car

Buying used isn’t the only way to save money on a car. Over the long term, a new car might actually end up saving you money if you:

  1. Pick the right new car
  2. Negotiate a low price
  3. Drive it for a long time

I’d rather you get a new car that’s reliable than purchasing a used car that’ll break down sooner. (Check out my article on whether you should buy new or used here.

DON’T stretch your budget for a car

Set a realistic goal budget for your car and don’t go over it. Other expenses will come up — maybe car related, maybe not. You don’t want to end up struggling because you can’t afford your monthly car payment.

You don’t have to worry about stretching, though, if you have one thing in place: A Conscious Spending Plan.

Bonus: Struggling to stick to your budget? It’s no surprise, as most budgets are useless. Check out my Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance to find out what to do instead, and how to drastically improve your finances without having to give up all of your spending.

Buy the car of your dreams with conscious spending

Though heading to the dealership during the best time of year to buy a car is a great way to save money, you can make sure you have even more money to get the car of your dreams by implementing a Conscious Spending Plan.

The typical way people look at saving money for a big purchase like a car typically goes like this:

  • Step 1: Cut out things like lattes and buying lunch every day in the hopes of saving enough money.
  • Step 2: Occasionally put a few dollars into your savings account.
  • Step 3: Cave and go back to buying lunch and lattes every day.
  • Step 4: Stop saving money for a car at all, feel bad for yourself, and go back to step 1.

What if I told you there was a system that allows you to know EXACTLY how much you can spend each month, helps automate your savings so you don’t have to do it, and allows you to keep buying your favorite latte every day?

That’s what the Conscious Spending Plan is. This is the exact same system my friend has used to spend five grand a year on shoes.

I can feel your eye-rolling judgment through the computer screen now. How can anyone in their right mind spend so much on shoes each year?

Well consider this:

  1. She makes a healthy salary.
  2. She doesn’t spend much on other things.
  3. She has a system in place that allows her to know exactly how much she can spend each month.

But most importantly: She just freaking loves shoes.

And her system allows her to buy 10 – 15 pairs of shoes each month — with each of them costing around $300 – $500 a pair.

After investing in her 401k and paying off her fixed monthly payments like rent and utilities, why wouldn’t she use her money to buy the things she loves?

You can use the same system to buy a car. Imagine being able to walk into the dealer and driving off the lot in the car of your dreams, resting easy in the fact that you were able to pay for it.

That’s why I want to offer you a free chapter of my New York Times best-selling book I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

In it, you’ll find the exact system you can use that’ll help you both earn more money and start saving for an awesome car.

Enter your information below and get the chapter for free today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it a good time to buy a car right now in 2020?

Yes! With many dealers and manufacturers lowering prices and waiving interest fees due to Coronavirus, now is a great time to buy a car. Plus, you can save even more by using these negotiating tactics.

What’s the slowest month for care sales?

January and February are the slowest months for car sales, since consumer spending usually drops off after the Christmas holidays.

What are the best holidays to buy a car on?

President’s Day is one of the best holidays to buy a car, because sales are typically slow during that season. Most other holidays, like Labor Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving also offer great deals for a new car.

What is the best month to buy a used car?

Just like buying a new car, it’s best to buy a new car at the end of December.

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3 Comments

 
  1. avatar
    Mark

    Thanks for sharing! I am also thinking to buy a car this year. And this helps me a lot to take a better buying decision.

  2. avatar
    Richard L Parez

    You share awesome tips and tricks and this is really very helpful to me. Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. avatar
    Razel

    Wow! that's a lot to take note of.. but because of this pandemic it really change the game when it comes to getting a car.