The ‘best time to buy a new car’ no longer exists

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Take a look at today’s auto market. New car inventory is still lowY customers paying more than MSRP has become the norm. Buyers are looking for any tricks they can use to get a competitive price. Between classic tips floating around it’s the idea that there’s a certain time on the calendar when car dealers will be itching to deal. Unfortunately, that advice is totally outdated and irrelevant in today’s market. In 2022, the “best” time to buy a new car has less to do with the calendar and more to do with your own time and flexibility.

East US News 2020 item has been doing the rounds, promising to alert buyers to the best time to bid on various types of vehicles throughout the year. The article makes four key claims:

  1. Avoid buying cars in the spring, that’s when most people want a new car for the summer.
  2. August is the best time to buy a “leftover” model that is not deluxe.
  3. December is the time to buy a luxury vehicle.
  1. The week between Christmas and New Years is the time for great deals.

In 2020, when inventory was plentiful and dealers were more likely to compete with each other for a sale, those tips came in handy. But in today’s market, the assumptions behind some of these “gimmicks” no longer hold up. Let’s explain why, one by one.

Outdated Tip #1: Avoid Buying Cars in the Spring

The recurring theme connecting these tips has to do with supply and demand, and how those forces worked in an earlier, more normal version of the new-car market. The reasoning behind suggestion #1 is the idea that, in the spring, sales are high and dealers are less “desperate” to move inventory, and therefore prices are not likely to change.

In The thousands of deals I’ve madeI have not found shopping in the spring to be noticeably more expensive.

That said, almost everything is more expensive in this market. But that doesn’t mean shoppers can expect to save money by shopping late in the summer or in the dead of winter.

Old Fashioned Tip #2: Buy a “Spare” Model in August

The classic argument for late-summer/early-fall shopping was about getting a deal on a “surplus” model. In 2020 and before, dealerships often had a healthy stock of current model year cars on the lot as new model year inventory began to arrive. A smart dealer would want to liquidate old stock to make room for new stock.

as you can imagine, this advice does not apply in 2022. Today, dealers they struggle to get their usual stock numbers, and a car is often sold before it even hits the lot. There are no “leftovers” to clean up.

Outdated Tip #3: Shop in December for a luxury deal / Outdated Tip #4: Shop during the winter holidays

The advice to find “deals” at the end of the month/quarter/year is based on how distributors are rewarded for reaching sales goals. Before the COVID pandemic disrupted the auto market, new car dealers were expected to hit certain sales targets set by manufacturers. Stores that met or exceeded these goals were rewarded.

Before the inventory disaster, if you were shopping for a particular car in December and a dealer was close to meeting their goal for the month and/or year, the sales staff might be willing to take a loss on the individual transaction in order to get the automaker’s year-end bonus. Yes, the bonuses can be that big.

You see the problem today. the factories are send fewer cars to dealersand, in many cases, automakers have not adjusted their bonus targets to reflect this. If a dealer needs to sell 100 cars a month to get the automaker’s bonus money, but the factory is only shipping them 40 cars a month right now, the showroom has no way to get that bonus.

So it doesn’t matter if you find them on the last day of the month, quarter or year. The store needs to rely on the profit of each individual unit; they are not likely to take a loss on your transaction. Also, if that dealership only gets 40 cars this month, but still has almost 100 customers hungry to buythere are there is not much motivation to make you a deal.

final thoughts

Buyers need to rethink this idea of ​​”scheduling” a car purchase. In today’s new car market, finding a fair price is less about timing and more about planning ahead. Like I said before, the best time to buy is when you’re ready, but you can wait if you need to. If you’re considering an upgrade, but your current car still runs fine, continue to service your current vehicle; you probably won’t be able to. replace your trip with the snap of your fingers if it fails you

I have come across several dealerships willing to sell cars at competitive prices, but in most cases, it is a process that requires a lot of patience: you could wait months before the car you want is available. This whole concept of getting to the dealer at the “right time” isn’t really applicable today, when dealers have little motivation to negotiate and the likelihood of them having the car you really want might be low.


Tom McParland is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and directs AutomatchConsulting.com. He takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. Do you have a question about buying a car? Send it to Tom@AutomatchConsulting.com

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