The best time to buy a car

Buying a car at the end of the month or during specific months (May, October, November, and December) can help you save money on a new or used car.

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By

Rachael Brennan

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Published|6 min read

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Car pricing is tricky. The cost of a car can vary from one dealership to the next, and sometimes even the same make and model of car at the same dealership will have a different price week to week. 

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Because there is no hard-and-fast pricing in the automotive industry, choosing the right time to shop around and buy a new car can save you a significant amount of money.

Key takeaways

  • The last days of the month, national holidays, and anytime a dealership or manufacturer is offering a deal or a rebate are all good times to find a lower price on a new or used car.

  • May, October, November, and December are the best months to buy a car for a reasonable price.

  • Supply chain issues caused by the pandemic are having a serious impact on prices, making it more difficult to save money on a new or used car.

What is the best day to buy a car?

While there are plenty of people who will swear that you can save money by buying a new car on a specific day of the week, there is no real evidence that shopping for a car on Monday is cheaper than Wednesday or Saturday. 

However, buying a car at the end of the month or during a special holiday sale can actually help you save money on a new car.

On the 30th and the 31st of the month

In order to meet (or exceed) sales quotas, car salespeople are more likely to accept a lower offer at the end of the month. This is true every month, but it is especially likely at the end of the year, which means drivers who are able to wait until November 30th to buy a car may pay much less than someone buying the same car on September 1st. 

During a holiday car sale

There are a number of holidays that are often accompanied by discounts on new and used cars, including Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Black Friday, and New Year’s Eve. If you want to buy a car and there is a holiday approaching, it may be worth waiting for the holiday to take advantage of lower prices from car dealerships in your area.

What is the best month to buy a new car?

There are two times of year when drivers are most likely to find lower prices on a new car: late spring and late fall or winter. This means the best months to buy a car are:

1. May 

Auto show season usually lasts from the end of the year through early spring, which means the new vehicles being introduced by manufacturers at those auto shows will start appearing in dealerships across the country in late April and early May. Buying a car in May can help drivers score a deal on the previous year’s models.

2. October

While the general public follows an annual calendar that runs from January to December, the automotive industry does things a little differently. New and redesigned car models start appearing in showrooms in October, which means dealerships need to start getting rid of older models to make way for the new ones. Buying a car on Halloween is typically cheaper than buying a car on Valentine’s Day.

3. November

Dealerships are still dealing with the influx of new vehicles in November, and this paired with the Black Friday deals means drivers may find lower prices on new and used cars in November as well. 

4. December

Christmas brings with it the pressure of meeting end-of-year goals for most dealerships, so anything that hasn’t been sold on the lot by the end of the year will likely be discounted to make room for new vehicles in January.

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What is the best time of year to buy a new car?

Like many consumer goods, cars fluctuate in price over the course of the year. Prices typically go down when dealerships want to get rid of cars to make space for new vehicles, so drivers are more likely to get a good deal if they buy a car at the end of the year, right before the next year’s models are released. 

New Year's Eve and year-end sales events

December 31st is literally the last day of the year, which means dealers who want to make another sale before the new year starts will be more likely to accept a lower price for a car on New Year’s Eve (if you don’t mind spending the last day of the year at an auto dealership).

Many car dealerships have year-end sales events precisely for this reason. Getting rid of their older stock to make way for newer cars is a high priority at the end of the year, so drivers are more likely to save money on a new car if they buy in December. 

When there are incentives and rebates

No matter what time of year, if a dealership or a manufacturer wants to move cars off the lot they are likely to offer some type of deal, whether that is an up-front discount or a rebate after purchase.

When a car has been redesigned or discontinued

If there is a new model of the car you want to buy, the odds are good that last year’s model will be on sale to make room for the new version at your local dealership. The same is true of a car that has been discontinued — dealers want to get rid of discontinued models to make room for newer cars.

Before you need one

Saving money on a car takes a lot of work. You need to research what makes and models work best for your needs, how much the car is supposed to cost, what rates you should expect to pay for financing, and more. If you have to buy a new car right away, you don’t have time to do the necessary research to get a good deal.

Researching cars takes time, but it can save a lot of money. For example, the cost of car insurance varies by make and model, sometimes significantly. The chart below shows the average annual insurance rate for some of the most popular vehicles on the market:

VehicleAverage annual premium
Honda CR-V$1,673
Toyota Tacoma$1,714
Subaru Outback$1,744
Chevrolet Equinox$1,755
Ford Explorer$1,822
Honda Civic$1,925
Toyota Corolla$1,945
Ram 1500$1,947
Tesla Model 3$2,855
Tesla Model Y$2,884

A Honda CR-V costs an average of $1,673 per year to insure, while a Tesla Model 3 costs $2,855 per year, an increase of $1,182. Including insurance costs in your research can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your vehicle. 

→ Learn more about how much car insurance costs

Why are cars so expensive right now?

There are a number of reasons buying a car got so much more expensive between 2019 and 2022, but the biggest contributor was supply chain issues. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the factories that make car parts, microchips, and other things necessary for manufacturing cars shut down. Because of this, the number of cars available on the market dropped sharply, driving the cost of the cars already for sale up significantly.

Other factors have also contributed to higher car prices, including inflation and the increased demand for vehicles as more people need to be back in the office.

How to save money on a new car

Shopping around for a new or used car can be a stressful experience (that’s why some people choose to do the whole thing online). 

But there are several tried-and-true ways to save money on a new car (or at least stick to your budget) including:

  • Know how much you can afford to spend

  • Check your credit score and, if necessary, take steps to improve it

  • Do your research to find the best vehicle for your needs

  • Get pre-approved for a car loan

  • Focus on total cost, not your monthly payment

  • Don’t fall for high pressure sales tactics

The easiest and most effective way to save money on car insurance is to have as much information as possible before you walk into a dealership. 

Knowing what your car should cost, how much you can afford to spend, and what type of reputation the car dealership has can go a long way toward saving you money on a new or used car.

Frequently asked questions

What should you not say to a car salesman?

Never say anything to a car salesperson that gives them leverage over you. Telling them how much you love the car you are looking at, how desperately you need a new car, or how much you want to pay is a good way to give them more power over the transaction, which is not in your best interest.

Is it a good time to buy a car or wait?

It depends. Can you wait for several months or a year (or longer) before buying a car? If so, the higher car prices in 2022 mean waiting to buy a car is probably a good idea.

Are used car prices still rising?

According to Kelley Blue Book, the average used car sold for $28,365 in April 2022, which is more than $1,100 over prices in March 2022. As long as global supply chain issues continue to be a problem, drivers should expect car prices to keep increasing.

What is MSRP for a new car?

MSRP stands for manufacturer’s suggested retail price, which is the amount car manufacturers suggest dealerships charge for their vehicles. But the MSRP can be negotiated, and dealerships have room to raise (or lower) prices depending on other factors.

Methodology

Policygenius has analyzed car insurance rates provided by Quadrant Information Services for every ZIP code in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. 

For full coverage policies, the following coverage limits were used:

  • Bodily injury liability: 50/100

  • Property damage liability: $50,000

  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: 50/100

  • Comprehensive: $500 deductible

  • Collision: $500 deductible

In some cases, additional coverages were added where required by the state or insurer.

Rates for overall average rate, rates by ZIP code, and cheapest companies determined using averages for single drivers age 30, 35, and 45. Our sample vehicle was a 2017 Toyota Camry LE driven 10,000 miles per year.

Rates for driving violations and “poor” credit were determined using average rates for a single male 30-year-old driver with a credit score under 578.

Some carriers may be represented by affiliates or subsidiaries. Rates provided are a sample of insurance costs. Your actual quotes may differ.