When is the Best Time to Buy a New Car?
Posted by: Lydia on 10/04/2019
Buying a car is always a bit of a journey. You may quickly decide on the type of car you want, but actually obtaining it requires some research, patience, and searching. These three pillars can yield a decent outcome; but in order to get a great outcome, a strategy is required.
Part of that strategy includes buying at the right time of the month – and year. By being strategic about when you buy your car, you can potentially get it for a great price. Since there are so many variables in the car market, navigating it successfully is definitely a question of timing. Here's a look at the best times to buy a new car.
Understand how dealerships work
In order to identify the best time to buy a new auto, it's important to have a sense of how car dealerships work. While each dealership varies, they usually have a lot in common in the way they approach car sales over the calendar year.
Dealers understand market demand can be cyclical, and it’s something they factor into their operations. Typically, they'll have a sales target for the start of the month. It will often vary from month to month, with certain times of year bringing higher sales, and quieter periods adjusted for fewer customers coming through the door – but the target is the target.
So if you’re visiting at the start of the month and want to drive a hard bargain, you’re unlikely to find the sales staff ready to budge. But if you’re there at the end of the month and they haven’t hit their sales target yet, they'll be much more likely to entertain your offer.
You'll also see variations from year to year. For example, while recent years saw strong sales in the luxury car sector, 2019 began with sales dropping a massive 14.1% compared to sales at the end of 2016. That means anyone strolling into a dealership today with their heart set on a luxury vehicle starts with a bargaining advantage compared to years prior.
The seasons of car buying
In addition to the monthly calendar car dealerships go by, there is also the seasonal factor that affects how many car buyers are typically in the market at a given time. Here's what to consider about each season:
In the cold days of winter, fewer Aussies are likely to be combing the car yard at a dealership, especially if the weather has been terrible for multiple days in a row. This can give you an advantage if you're car shopping in winter, but keep in mind that most dealerships have likely adjusted for lower sales.
So not offering on a car you like the first time, and instead returning in a couple of weeks can be a wise move. You can then use your previous visit as leverage, saying something like "Well, the car has been sitting with you for two weeks now and hasn't sold – how about I take it today for $X?"
Spring can be the least favourable of the seasons to get a new car at a bargain price. Many people have their tax returns in hand ready to spend, are happy to get outdoors after the winter, and dealerships know they’ve got a whole financial year ahead to plan their sales from month to month.
Yet, while the weather may not be as cold as winter, October can record days with the highest rainfall of the whole year. The weather may be miserable, but if you make your way to a dealership on a gloomy day, you may come away smiling because you took the time to visit and haggle.
Summer is the season where timing really matters a lot. If you go car shopping on a warm (but not too hot) summer’s day without a cloud in the sky, you’re sure to have a dealer ready to play hardball given that they have a lot of other foot traffic coming through.
On the other hand, while car shopping on a day when the temperature is north of 35 degrees may be no fun for you, you’re likely to benefit from the fact that other Aussies will be more likely to stay home or go to the beach. If you do this at the tail end of the month near Christmas, Australia Day, or the end of summer in February, odds are good you can snap up a ‘heatwave bargain’.
The advantage of car shopping in autumn is that it runs in the lead-up to winter. Any car seller nervous about not selling their quota of cars in Q4 will be more willing to bargain with you.
The way in which you use your car on a daily basis is also something you can use tactically. For example, say something like, "Oh yes, I’d be interested in buying a new car given I’d be using it daily for work and the tax deduction is attractive. But there are a lot of dealerships out there, so what’s the best price you can do for me today?" This is a great way to make an open offer that also applies an element of time pressure.
Remember there’s value year-round
You can definitely use the calendar to your advantage when buying a new car. But it’s also important to recognise there are many techniques you can use to maximise leverage whatever time of year you’re looking to buy.
Even if you come across your dream car at a great price, don’t be too enthusiastic when you go to inspect it, but do be sure to demonstrate some solid knowledge about the car and its background. Also check out the car model for users’ experiences online before you go inspect it. Take it for a test drive – more than one if you can – to show the dealer you’re putting the car through its paces. Finally, don’t be afraid to pull out your phone and show the competitive price another dealership is offering elsewhere.
Ultimately, the more you know about the car industry, the greater the advantage you’ll have when negotiating. Knowing the best time to buy maximises your chances of getting a great car at a great price.
When have you had the best luck buying a new car? Let us know in the comments below: