Best Time to Buy a Used Car

By Thomas Lee

Best Time to Buy a Car by Holiday, Month, and Day of the Week

When is the best time to buy a car? A study by car search engine iSeeCars.com  reveals that the top 10 best and worst times to find a car deal are dominated by holidays. When it comes to car buying, months toward the end of the year such as November and December, often touted as a great time to get a car deal, do not provide as much savings as many holidays.

Analyzing over 40 million used car sales, iSeeCars.com compared specific times of the year such as holidays and months of the year, as well as days of the month and week, to calculate whether consumers would be able to find more or fewer deals at the car dealership than average – a deal being defined as savings of five percent or more. or more.

Best Time of Year to Buy a Car: Black Friday Car Deals

When is the best time to buy a used car? According to iSeeCars, the best time to buy a used car is to shop Black Friday and other late-year holiday sales.

Here are the best times of the year to buy a used car:

  1. Black Friday, 33.1 percent more deals 
  2. Veterans Day, 32.5 percent more deals
  3. Columbus Day, 30.5 percent more deals
  4. Martin Luther King Day, 29.4 percent more deals
  5. Christmas Eve, 28.7 percent more deals
  6. Month of November, 26.9 percent more deals
  7. Month of December, 23.5 percent more deals
"The best days to buy a car fall at the end of the year after new models have been introduced by automakers," said Ly. This is a popular time for new vehicle buyers who want to take advantage of generous incentives and rebates on outgoing model-year vehicles, and as a result, there's a high supply of used cars that dealers need to get rid of." 

Worst Time to Buy a Car

When is the worst time to buy a car? iSeeCars found that the Fourth of July is the day with the least amount of car deals. Here are the worst times to buy a car based on the number of available car deals: 
Top 10 Worst Times to Buy a Used Car
Rank Time of Year % More Deals than Average
1 Fourth of July 28.0% fewer deals
2 Mother’s Day 27.5%
3 Month of April 27.0%
4 Month of May 26.0%
5 Month of June 23.6%
6 Easter 22.2%
7 Good Friday 21.6%
8 Memorial Day 18.3%
9 Father’s Day 18.3%
10 Month of July 11.5%
"It's always nice to save money, and when you are buying something as expensive as a car, saving even five percent of your purchase, or $952 off the average price of $19,040, can really add up," said Phong Ly, iSeeCars.com CEO. "But it's hard to get the savings if you can't find the car you want, so we assessed which times of the year had the greatest number of deals."

Best Holiday to Buy a Car 

The best holiday to buy a car is Black Friday, a major shopping holiday, which took the top ranking as the best holiday to get a deal. But unexpectedly some holidays that aren't considered major shopping holidays like Veteran's Day, Columbus Day and Martin Luther King Day, all ranked in the top five nationwide. 

 

Best Holidays to Buy a Used Car
Rank Time of Year % More Deals than Average
1 Black Friday 33.1% More Deals
2 Veterans Day 32.5%
3 Columbus Day 30.5%
4 Martin Luther King Day 29.4%
5 Christmas Eve 28.7%
6 New Year’s Eve 21.3%
7 Halloween 18.8%
8 New Year’s Day 15.8%
Overall, the best holidays to buy a used car are those surrounding federal and retail holidays, all clustered in the late fall after Labor Day and in the winter months. Many of these holidays offered substantially more deals than average.  

"While these holidays aren't typically thought of as major retail days, dealers tend to make a big push to boost sales in the late fall and early winter by offering bigger deals and these holidays are a great reason for them to pump up their promotions — especially as two of the three are always observed on a Monday, which means shoppers have a long holiday weekend to find the car they want to purchase," said Ly.

Worst Holiday to Buy a Car

The holiday that provides the least amount of car deals is the Fourth of July, which offers 28.0 percent less deals than the average day. 
Top 10 Worst Holidays to Buy a Used Car
Rank Time of Year % More Deals than Average
1 4th of July 28.0% fewer deals
2 Mother’s Day 27.5%
3 Easter 22.2%
4 Good Friday 21.6%
5 Memorial Day 18.3%
5 Father’s Day 18.3%
 

The holiday that is in closest proximity to the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, is also one of the worst holidays make a used car purchase. These holidays occur in the late spring and summer months which proved to be among the worst times to find a deal. Ly explained, "This is the typical time of the year when dealers see higher demand, and therefore less of a need to drive sales through lower pricing. After the current new car model year comes to a close around August, car buyers start trading in their used cars in higher quantities, thereby increasing the number of used cars available after the summer and driving dealers to make better deals."

Best Month to Buy a Car

November is the best month to buy a car with 26.9 percent more deals than average. 
Best Months to Buy a Used Car
Rank Time of Year % More Deals than Average
1 November 26.9% more deals
2 December 23.5%
3 January 21.4%
4 October 21.3%
5 February 6.0%
6 September 3.8%
 

With so many late fall and winter holidays offering the best chances for lower car prices, it's no surprise that those same months proved to be the best time of the year to get a deal on a used car. November ranked first overall with a 26.9 percent more deals than average, followed by December (23.5%), January (16.4%), October (12.8%) and February (6.0%). "Between year-end promotions and dealers' scrambling to take advantage of the last few months of the year to meet their sales quotas," Ly noted, "the conventional wisdom of shopping for a car at the end of the year holds true, though there are some holidays that are better times."

Worst Month to Buy a Car

The worst month for car buying is April, which provides 27.0 percent fewer deals than average. 
Worst Months to Buy a Used Car
Rank Time of Year % More Deals than Average
1 April 27.0% fewer deals
2 May 26.0%
3 June 23.6%
4 Month of July 11.5%
5 August 10.2%
6 March 9.3%
 

The five-month stretch from April through August was the worst for finding deals, with 27.0 percent to 10.2 percent fewer deals than average.

Beginning or End of the Month? The Best Days to Buy a Car

For shoppers who can't wait until the end of the year, the first day of the month and the end of the month are the best times to buy a car: the first day of the month is 8.5% better than average while the last day of the month is just slightly lower at 5.6% greater than average. This difference can be explained by how the sales period lines up with the calendar month. “The dealership's sales month usually ends a few days into the beginning of the next calendar month,” said Ly, “so sales made on the first of the month, for example, get tallied into the previous month's sales.” Consequently, the first day of the month was the best day for deals. “Much like with the end of the year, dealers are probably trying to make some last-minute sales to meet their monthly sales goals,” explained Ly. Similarly, the fifth day of the month was the worst day for deals, most likely because it is always at the beginning of the new sales period.

Best Day to Buy a Car: Weekday or Weekend?

What is the best day of the week to buy a car? Shopping for cars on weekdays is commonly thought to be better than weekends because foot traffic is lower on the weekdays, and therefore dealers discount more cars to drive demand.   While the iSeeCars.com study shows that weekdays are indeed better than weekends, they are not much better. Weekdays have only 1.2% more deals than average while weekends offer just 1.6% fewer deals.
Weekday Vs. Weekend
Weekday: Monday through Thursday 1.2% More Deals
Weekend: Friday through Sunday 1.6% Fewer Deals

Best Time to Buy a New Car

For shoppers interested in new cars, the end of the calendar year is the best time to make a new car purchase from the dealership. Similar to used cars, the months of October, November and December are the best time of the year to buy a car.  This coincides with when the new model year vehicles debut in showrooms, and there are likely to be generous car incentives on the new vehicles remaining from the outgoing model year.

Taking all these considerations into account, consumers who are planning on buying a used car later this year could be exceptionally well poised for saving money. Ly said, "With over three million cars expected to come off-lease this year, the used car inventory will grow, making it ripe for dealers anxious to offer the best prices to move the cars off their lots."

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 40 million used car sales. Deals were identified based on whether the car was listed at five percent or more below market value. The total number of listings and number of deals were aggregated nationally at several timescales: by month, day of the month, and day of the week. In addition, the data were also aggregated for specific holidays. At each aggregated timescale, the number of deals were divided by the number of cars sold, resulting in a probability of finding a deal. These resulting probabilities were expressed as a percentage difference from the overall probability of finding a deal on average day (19.5 percent). 

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is an automotive data and research company that helps consumers find the best car deals by providing key insights and guidance. It turns used and new car shopping on its head by applying Big Data analytics powered by over 25 billion (and growing) data points and using proprietary algorithms to objectively analyze, score, and rank millions of cars and tens of thousands of dealers. Based in the Boston area, iSeeCars.com was founded by former TripAdvisor and SAP developers and executives determined to improve the car shopping experience for consumers.