Car Buying Tip: The Best Time to Buy a New Car
For most people, buying a vehicle is an almost monumental event. It is a long, taxing, and often painful process that sometimes culminates in feelings of regret. When a buyer has these nagging feelings of regret, they usually stem from a hunch that she overpaid for her new vehicle.
The savvier car buyer does everything she can to get the most value for her business. Weighing critical factors such as her own vehicle needs and competing dealers' offers the buyer might think she has he bases covered. But one often overlooked factor in getting the best possible deal is timing.
So when is the best time to buy a car?
There are several broad and overlapping factors that you should look at when considering the best time to buy a car. Understanding how these factors compliment and interact with each other will arm you with the information you need to figure out the best time to buy.
Let's go through these one at a time:
The Buying Environment: There are external conditions like the Tsunami in Japan, gas prices, and the general economic mood that have a profound impact on the auto market. I call these "external conditions" because no individual or company can do much to change them or their impact on the auto market.
But understanding these external conditions and the effect they have on the auto market will empower you to get the best deal possible. For example, you are a subcontractor and need a pickup truck to haul your tools and equipment from site to site. The past couple of years have shown us that it is a reasonable expectation that gas prices will rise in the spring through the summer months. Rising fuel prices create greater demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles, which reduces demand for pickup trucks. The lower the demand is for a vehicle, the more likely you are to get a better deal.
Manufacturer incentives: Manufacturers (Toyota, Honda, Ford, etc.) provide incentives at various points throughout the year to keep inventory moving. Manufacturers offer essentially two different kinds of incentives: 1) buyer incentives, such as rebates and discounted financing terms; and 2) dealership incentives, which essentially reduce the dealerships' cost of buying the vehicle from the manufacturer.
Although you can't find out when manufacturers will offer incentives in the future, you can figure out which incentives manufacturers are offering right now. Buyers get the best deals when manufacturers are offering both buyer and dealership incentives.
End of the Month: The end of the month is often a great time to buy a vehicle because both dealerships and individual salespeople have incentives (such as cash bonuses) to meet quotas. These quotas almost always run on a calendar month schedule, which means that as the end of the month approaches both dealerships and individual salespeople are willing to lower prices and offer better incentives to move inventory.
End of the Model Year: The end of the model year is one of the best times to buy a new car because many of the above factors converge at the same time. As the model year comes to a close, manufacturers and dealerships must clear out their old inventory to make room for new vehicles. This often means that manufacturers are providing both buyers and dealers with incentives. At the end of the model year manufacturers also often provide bonuses to dealerships that meet certain quotas, which means that salespeople are often rewarded for moving inventory quickly. All of this can amount to great deals for the buyer.
End of the Car's Design Cycle: Manufacturers revamp their models' designs every couple of years. Perhaps the only time sweeter to buy a new vehicle than at the end of the model year is the end of the model year when the manufacturer is rolling out a new design. All of the above applies, just in more aggressive form.
In the end, the best time to buy a new vehicle is when some of these factors align with your needs. It is unrealistic to think that the next time you need to purchase a vehicle all of these factors will serendipitously come together. But at the same time most people are in the auto market for about a month or longer, so most people do have some discretion over when they buy.
Michael Buonocore is the cofounder of AutoRef.com ( http://autoref.com ).