Take a look at the car market today. New car stock is still lowand customers who pay above the suggested retail price has become the norm. Buyers are looking for every trick they can use to score a competitive price. Below the classic tips floating around is the idea that there is a certain time in the calendar when car dealers will be hungry to negotiate. Unfortunately, That advice is totally outdated and not relevant in the current market.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 timing and flexibility.
This one American news article from 2020 has been making the rounds, promising to alert buyers throughout the year to the best time to bid on various types of vehicles. The article makes four main claims:
- Avoid buying cars in the spring – that’s when most people want a new car for the summer.
- August is the best time to buy a non-luxury “leftover” model.
- December is the time to buy a luxury vehicle.
- The week between Christmas and New Years is the time for great offers.
In 2020, when inventory was plentiful and dealers were more likely to compete with each other to earn a sale, those tips were helpful. But in today’s market, the assumptions behind some of these “hacks” no longer hold. Let’s explain why one by one.
Outdated Tip #1: Avoid Buying Cars in the Spring
The common thread 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 rationale behind Tip #1 is the idea that spring sales are high and dealers are less “desperate” to move their inventory, and therefore unlikely to yield to pricing.
In the thousands of deals I’ve done,,I have not found shopping in the spring noticeably more expensive.
That said, almost everything is more expensive in this market. But that doesn’t mean buyers can save money by shopping at the end of summer or in the middle of winter.
Outdated Tip #2: Buy a “leftover” model in August
The classic argument for late summer and early fall shopping had to do with closing a deal on a “leftover” model. In 2020 and before, dealers often had a healthy inventory of current model year cars on the lot when the new model year inventory arrived. A savvy dealer would want to clear out the old stock to make way for the new one.
As you can imagine, this advice does not apply in 2022. Today, dealers struggling to get their usual inventory numbers, and a car is often sold before it even lands on 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 Holiday
The advice for finding ‘deals’ at the end of the month/quarter/year is based on how dealers are rewarded for meeting sales targets. Before the COVID pandemic disrupted the auto market, new car dealers were expected to meet certain sales targets set by the manufacturers. Stores that met or exceeded these goals were rewarded.
If you were shopping for a particular car before the December inventory and a dealer was close to meeting their target for the month and/or year, the sales staff might be willing to take a loss on the individual transaction to receive the end-of-year bonus from the car manufacturer. Yes, the bonuses can be that big.
You see the problem today. The factories are send smaller numbers of cars to dealers, and in many cases the automakers have not adjusted their bonus targets to reflect this. If a dealer has to sell 100 cars a month to get the automaker’s bonus money, but the factory now only sends them 40 cars a month, the showroom can’t get that bonus.
So it doesn’t matter whether you get them on the last day of the month, quarter or year. The store must be able to rely on the profits of each individual unit; they probably won’t take a loss on your trade. Besides, if that dealer only gets 40 cars this month, but still has nearly 100 customers hungry to buythere is not much motivation for them to make you a deal.
Buyers need to reformulate this idea of ”timing” a car purchase. In today’s new car market, finding a fair price isn’t so much about the calendar as it is about planning ahead. As I’ve said before, the best time to buy is when you’re ready, but you can wait if you have to. If you’re considering upgrading, but your current car still drives fine, keep track of your current vehicle’s maintenance – you probably won’t be able to replace your ride with a snap if it destroys you.
I have come across a number of dealers who want 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 desired car becomes available. This whole concept of reaching the dealer at the ‘right time’ doesn’t really apply these days, with dealers having little motivation to negotiate and the odds of getting the car you really want are slim to none.
Tom McParland is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs 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 [email protected]