A car salesperson sitting at a desk, preparing a customer's receipt.

What's the best time of year to buy a car?

If you’re buying a car, there are a few things you need to know about getting the best deal.

One of the most important is timing. Dealerships tend to mark down their inventory or have sales during certain times of the year. Buying during those periods can often mean savings of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

So what are the times when you should be shopping?


When the new models arrive


Dealerships start getting new models during late summer and early fall. These are the periods when many dealerships risk having a glut of inventory if they’re not selling the previous year’s models quickly enough.

According to Edmund’s, an online automotive resource website, better discounts start arriving in May and continue into September as dealerships start clearing out room for the new model arrivals.

Of course, discounts during this period will only apply to older models. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get a significant discount off of any new models during this time. So, if you’re okay with buying the previous year’s model, you can score a nice deal. However, if you want the newest car with all the latest bells and whistles, expect to be paying full price.


End of year discounts


If you can wait a little while, Edmund’s identifies the end of the year as the best time to buy. The best deals start showing up from October and continue through to December.  This period is also when you can finally snatch a discount off of the current year models.

Black Friday and Boxing Day, in particular, are days when you should be on the lookout for great deals. These can include upfront discounts off the price — often hundreds or even of thousands of dollars off — or packaged deals where you can get a car with a free set of winter tires.

Either way, these three months are the best times to buy, with December singled out by Edmund’s as the time when you’re going to score an amazing discount.


When not to buy


If you can help it, Edmund’s suggests you avoid buying a car from January to April. This is a slow sales period and dealerships are less likely to offer discounts, especially since they have no need to clear room for new models.

Of course, if you need a car, you need a car and waiting isn’t an option. But if you can hold out and buy during the above-noted periods, you’ll receive a much better deal.