The Best and Worst Time of the Year to Buy a Used Car

Row of used car with prices.

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Ready to buy a used car? While there’s never a bad time of year for car buyers to start their research to determine what model they’re looking for and prepare for a purchase, there are certain times of the year when it pays — not pays — to buy. a used vehicle.

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Add these dates to your calendar to make sure you buy a used car during the best times of the year and avoid the worst times.

Is there predictable seasonality for used cars?

Before we get into the best and worst times of the year to buy a used car, it’s a good idea to establish if there is any predictable seasonality in the market.

Ian Lang, senior editor of automotive advice at Bumper, said the only predictable seasonality in the used car market is new model releases. The following year’s models usually hit the market in late summer or early fall; for example, Lang said, we will see 2023 car models for sale from September 2022.

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The introduction of new car models impacts the used car market in a number of ways. Lang said the first way is for dealers to discount current annual stock to make room for new models. This is good news for buyers interested in new cars, but it reduces the demand for used cars and puts pressure on dealers to lower prices to move inventory.

The other effect is a larger stock. Many buyers will trade in their current vehicles. “Discounts on current year vehicles lead to more trade-ins, increasing inventory,” Lang said. “Higher supply with lower demand is a recipe for lower prices.”

Best times to buy a used car

The last four months of the year

David Undercoffler, editor-in-chief of automatic list, recommends used-car buyers buy during the last four months of the year. As next year’s models hit dealers in late summer or early fall, buyers will be increasingly interested in trading in used cars.

Additionally, automakers and dealers want to make sure they meet their annual sales targets for both new and used cars during these months. Undercoffler said this is why you always see heavy car marketing during the holidays.

Joe Neiman, Chief Customer Success Officer at ACV, said buying used cars at the end of the year could allow consumers to buy at lower prices. This not only saves consumers money, but also helps dealers sell their inventory faster, which can be especially helpful for dealers in areas where the winter months mean colder weather and slower foot traffic to their businesses.

Worst Times to Buy a Used Car

May to August

Some of the worst months for buying used cars are late spring and early summer. Lang said May through August is notably one of the worst months for used car buyers looking for deals.

“It’s likely that consumers will wait for the next model year, which will come out in late summer or early fall,” Lang said. “Lower demand for new cars leads to fewer trade-ins, so less supply and higher prices.”

President’s Day to Memorial Day

If you’re planning to buy a used car, Undercoffler recommends not buying between President’s Day and Memorial Day.

“This is when tax refunds flow back into consumers’ bank accounts and they want to spend it on expensive items like cars,” Undercoffler said. “Automakers know this, so they’re less likely to offer deals or incentives during this time because they know they’re going to be selling cars anyway.”

Best/worst tossup months: January and February

Is the very beginning of the year still a good time to buy a used car? Experts are divided into a 2022 landscape.

Neiman said one of the best times to buy is at the beginning of the year. In January and February, dealers try to make room for newer inventory, and consumers often want to buy the next model year vehicle.

Joe Shaker, owner of Shaker Auto Group, said January and February were the best time to buy a used car, especially in the Northeast. Now the time of year doesn’t matter.

“Over the next 18 months, new car supply will dictate the price of a used vehicle and the best time to buy,” said Shaker. “As the supply of new cars for specific brands increases, used cars will start to move into those brands.”

While certain factors, such as supply chain issues and rising interest rates, affect the used car market and are beyond the buyer’s control, Shaker has said the new car offerings have created a unique opportunity for those who own a car. want to trade or sell. The best time to do that, Shaker said, is now.

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About the author

Heather Taylor is a senior financial writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the lead writer and branded mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to branded mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global and more media.