For most drivers, finding the right price is just a matter of waiting for the right time to start the hunt for your new vehicle. Luckily, winter is upon us, bringing discounted used car prices to buyers everywhere.
To understand the best time to buy a used car, you need to think like a seller. So, imagine: As temperatures drop, the weather becomes more unruly. Cold rain, hail, and snow become driving hazards in most areas. Compound that with the hectic holiday season, and you find most people would rather just stay home. With more people selling and fewer folks out to buy, lots begin to fill up fast.
For those willing to brave the elements, winter is the best time to buy a used car. As people sell their current vehicles to make way for new car purchases of their own, lots everywhere can become crowded. And because demand is down during this time, buyers have a better chance of negotiating larger discounts off the car they have their eye on.
According to U.S. News & World Report, November, December, and early January are the best months to buy a used car. That's a result of two changes: adjustments in the supply chain and the arrival of the holiday season.
As the end-of-year fiscal quarter draws the curtains and Q1 steps on stage, new car models begin hitting dealerships nationwide. That large influx of vehicles incentivizes dealers to start moving some of their used cars at a discounted rate to make room for the new ones.
Plus, the end of Q4 and the start of Q1 are essential times for the dealers themselves – most salespeople have quotas they need to meet and are willing to part with vehicles at lower prices to help them achieve higher sales numbers and make that big commission bonus.
Combine that with a collection of national holidays that spark the rise of dealership sales events, and you have the perfect storm for used car buyers to find a great deal on the make and model they love.
Nearly all the best holidays to buy a used car come during the winter months: Black Friday, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President's Day, and Valentine's Day. And because many of these holidays incorporate some form of gift-giving, it's the perfect time for dealerships to offer discounts on vehicles that might otherwise have a firm price. If you're a buyer, these holidays are your best friends while searching for that new ride.
One of the worst times to buy a used car is when summer rolls around – specifically in May, June, and July. And if you want to know why, look yet again at the supply chain.
Since most new vehicle models come out toward the end of the year, most drivers hold off on selling their cars until late fall and early winter. Without these drivers trading in their used cars, inventory is scarce, making good deals more challenging to find and putting used car buyers at the mercy of a dealer's starting price point.
The worst thing you can do is wait until you need a new vehicle to start looking for one. Not only does it leave you high and dry without a car during that time, but it also puts you in a rough spot when negotiating. Rather than waiting to find the right deal, you might find yourself forcing a deal to happen so you can get back on the road as soon as possible.
Like most industries, vehicle sales reach their peak in the warmer months. And if you go back to our earlier conversation (thinking like a seller), it's easy to see why – demand increases during that time. This change is likely a result of two things.
On one hand, the winter weather can often raise questions for a driver about the reliability of their vehicle. But without fail, buyers come out in droves once the sun comes out and the weather breaks, and they’re usually ready for a deal.
Second, late spring and early summer are times when high school and college students begin searching for a used car to get them to and from their friends during summer break. You'll often find young adults (sometimes accompanied by their parents) in dealership lobbies during this time, hoping to make a quick deal and pull off the lot in their new ride.
It may be tempting to hold off until the weather gets warmer to start looking for your new vehicle, but if you want to find the best deal on a used car, you’ll want to look when the weather is turning colder. Not only are you more likely to find a discount on the car you’re looking at – you’re also more likely to walk out of the dealership with a price you’ll be happy about for years to come.