Best holidays to buy a car

Three-day weekends

It’s hard to miss the inflatable eagles, gorillas and wacky waving tube men that dot car lots, to say nothing of ads that promise “rock-bottom” prices. Does a “Star-Spangled Sale-a-Bration” mean savings for you? It can, but be prepared for a busier-than-normal showroom. Ideally, you want to do your research and test-drive before the holiday and close the deal on the weekend. Or, better yet, sew up the deal on the first weekday after the weekend. Here’s a deeper dive into shopping on a holiday weekend. And the following is a list of the three-day holiday weekends, along with a brief rating of each:

  • Presidents Day: February is the month with the smallest discounts off MSRP, so this is unlikely to be the best month to buy.

  • Memorial Day: This holiday kicks off the summer buying season and is a solid time to get a deal. It’s also when you will have the largest selection of outgoing models to choose from. Shop around this time if you’re particular about a certain color or option package.

  • Fourth of July: There should be a greater mix of incoming and current-year vehicles around the Fourth. It’s worth taking a look at what’s on the lot if you’re unsure whether you want the car from the outgoing or the incoming year.

  • Labor Day: This holiday is the sweet spot in terms of selection and competitive pricing. It’s not the very best of the year in terms of savings, but you’ll have more vehicles to choose from than if you waited for the year-end deals.

Black Friday

It’s the biggest retail shopping day in the U.S. And people have been known to camp out for hours for deals on big-screen TVs and other electronics. The same shopping fervor happens on car lots after Thanksgiving. In recent years, automakers and dealers have been offering more incentives, discounts and “doorbusters” as a means of capturing some of that retail excitement. Black Friday also signals the end of the model year, so you’ll see greater discounts on outgoing models.

If you want to shop on Black Friday, you’ll need to do some pre-Thanksgiving planning, such as obtaining a value on your trade-in, getting preapproved for an auto loan from your bank or credit union, and taking some test drives. Also, make sure you read the fine print on any Black Friday deal ads that seem too good to be true. If you’re willing to brave the crowds, here are more tips for car shopping on Black Friday.

What time of the year do new car models come out?

These days, new vehicles are launched throughout the year, though we tend to see clusters of new models in the spring and fall.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency actually has rules on how a vehicle is assigned a given model year: “For engines/equipment subject to emission standards based on model years, the first day of the annual production period can be no earlier than January 2 of the calendar year preceding the year for which the model year is named, or the earliest date of manufacture for any engine/equipment in the engine family, whichever is later. The last day of the annual production period can be no later than December 31 of the calendar year for which the model year is named or the latest date of manufacture for any engine/equipment in the engine family, whichever is sooner.”

In other words, a 2024 model year vehicle can be released anytime on or after January 2, 2023. Similarly, a new model can be labeled as a 2024 all the way until December 31, 2024.

Best time to buy a used car

October through December is a good time to buy a used car. These months coincide with the peak new-car buying season at the dealership, which means more trade-ins are entering the used car inventory. More trade-ins translate to a better selection of used cars — and better prices, especially if the dealership is trying to hit its end-of-year quota. And if you’re truly looking to get the best price on a used car, you’ll want to shop in December.

That said, Edmunds analysts are predicting that used vehicle prices are likely to stay elevated through 2023 and perhaps into the new year unless new vehicle sales take a turn.

“If new car sales stall out, automakers and dealers could leverage heavier incentives to entice consumers into new purchases, which would in turn place downward pressure on used car values,” said Drury. “But since most automakers have been deliberate in aligning vehicle production and demand to avoid the inventory glut issues they faced prior to the pandemic, consumers probably shouldn’t count on any major bargains or discounts through the rest of the year.”

Final thoughts on when to buy a car

As we’ve noted, you’ll find many opportunities throughout the year to get a great deal on a new car. Ultimately, the best time to get a new car is when you need one and only after you have completed your research.

Figure out the market value of the car using Edmunds tools, and factor in any incentives and rebates. Take a look at our new car pricing or used cars for sale where we rate a number of the vehicle prices to assist with negotiation and provide perspective on whether you have a fair offer. Watch for unexpected add-ons. Then make your deal. In the long run, this approach makes more sense than trying to predict the effects of weather, holidays, and the seasonality of your car purchase.

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