The last time I made a care payment was sometime in 2014. I remember when my wife and I made the final payment on our Chevy Cobalt. We took the payment book out on the front porch and lit it on fire. There was something therapeutic about watching the pages of that statement book burn off one at a time. I could physically feel my debt shedding away.
We made a decision that day that we would not take on any more car debt. If we didn’t have the cash to pay for it, we would wait until we did. God willing, we will never have to go back on that agreement. In the meantime, we have purchased three other vehicles. All have been paid for with cash and we have paid less than $10,000 for all three of them combined.
The positives of this are obvious. We have no debt in those regards. I don’t have to set aside a portion of my paycheck to pay for the depreciation of a vehicle. By choosing this route, we are allowing someone else to pay for that depreciation instead.
The downside is found in the gamble. How long will the car stay on the road? We have criteria for our purchases. The car must have over 100,000 miles but less than 175K. It could not have been driven by a smoker. It could never have been in any major kind of accident. And, it must get at least 25 miles to the gallon in fuel. We have been fairly patient to find the three cars that we drive and have done well to buy cars that have stayed on the road fairly well.
However, not all of you will take the same path that I have when it comes to automobile purchases. Some of you would prefer the security found in a new vehicle, and that is fine. Ramit Sethi, of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, recently posted content on when is the best time to do your car shopping if you are intent on going to a dealership.
Last week, I gave you the exact systems to help you negotiate lower car insurance rates. Now, I want to talk about another aspect of buying a car that many don’t consider: the best time of year to buy a car.
- The best time of year to buy a car (aka the thing salespeople don’t want to tell you)
- What if I can’t wait that long?
- Are Labor Day/Memorial Day/4th of July/Hanukkah blowout sales a scam?
- The best day of the week to buy a car
- More ways to save money on buying a car
- How to buy the car of your dreams with conscious spending
So what is the best time of year to buy a car? The answer is surprisingly simple as long as you understand car salespeople.
The best time of year to buy a car (aka the number one thing salespeople don’t want to tell you)
For starters, the absolute best month is December.
To understand why December is the absolute best time to buy a car, you need to first understand the process and mentality of the humble car salesmen.
Like any other salespeople, they have quotas. A LOT of quotas. They often come in the shape of monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals for the number of cars they have to hit.
This means that your car purchase could determine the difference between their dealership hitting their sales goal and the salesperson receiving a nice annual bonus or…well, not doing those things.
That’s why December (more specifically, the last week of the month) is the best time of year to buy a car. To take it a step further, you should see if you can negotiate a car deal on December 31st, New Year’s Eve.
According to TrueCar, you can actually end up saving up to 8.3% off the price of a new car if you visit the dealership on New Year’s Eve instead of any other day. This is because this is the last day a dealer has in order to make both their quarterly AND yearly goals. As such, they have a fat bonus on the line so they want to get the cars out the door as soon as possible.
Let’s say you were looking at a nice used car going for about $20,000. If you went in on New Year’s Eve, you stand to slash $1,660 just because you went in on that day alone. Imagine what you could earn if you compounded it with great negotiation tactics.
Bonus: Want more advice on how to improve your finances? Check out my Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance.
What if I can’t wait for December to buy a car?
Sometimes, you just need the car sooner rather than later. If this is the case, you can still get a great deal by buying on the last day of another quota.
The next best thing to the end of the year is the end of the quarter. For those of you who don’t think in financial quarters, this basically means:
- March 31st (last day of Q1)
- June 30th (last day of Q2)
- September 30th (last day of Q3)
- And of course, December 31st (last day of the year, and Q4)
You’ll get a good deal anytime during the last week of a quarter, but it’s best if you can go on the exact last day.
If that’s still too long to wait, then the next best thing is to go on the last day of the month.
“When a vehicle needs help selling, the end of the month is a good time to buy if negotiating the vehicle yourself,” he says. “Because sales managers at dealerships have a monthly quota to hit and get compensated on whether they hit it or not.”
If you can’t wait until the end of the month … then you need to take a hard look at your life! Going on the last day of any given week isn’t going to be much more beneficial than normal, if at all. In fact, Sunday is one of the worst days for savings (more on the best day of the week below).
My local dealership is having a Labor Day/Memorial Day/4th of July/Hanukkah blowout sale. Is this a scam?
While those huge blowout sale days might seem more like slick advertising than anything else, they actually offer solid savings if you choose to buy then.
According to Autotrader.com, many car companies offer cash-back deals and good financing for holiday weekends — which allows the dealers to take advantage and try to lure you in to buy a car with sales.
So instead of heading to your buddy’s BBQ for Labor Day weekend, you might want to make a trip down to the car dealer to see what sweet deals you can snag. Then, of course, go to the BBQ after in your new ride.
The best day of the week to buy a car
If you want to further optimize your savings on a car purchase, buy your car on a Monday.
Most people do their car shopping on the weekend. Not many think about going to a car dealership in the middle of a Monday ready to negotiate.
On average, people save up to .61% more when buying a car on a Monday than Sunday (the worst day of the week to buy a car). This could be chalked up to the fact that EVERYONE goes to buy a car on Sunday.
Check out the chart below to see the average savings on the market price of a car by day.
If the stars align for the last day of the month to fall on a Monday, you can get even more leverage. In 2019, September 30th (the end of Q3) is a Monday!
The dos and don’ts for purchasing a car
If you want to maximize your savings even more, there are a number of things that you should do (and a whole lot you should avoid) when it comes to purchasing a car.
DO buy a good car that’ll last you at least 10 years
Many people — especially you younger folks reading this — are going to want to prioritize the way a car looks over anything else. Instead, you should be focusing on getting a good car that you will be able to drive for a while (preferably around 10 years).
Cars are long-term investments, people!! This isn’t like a pair of shoes where you’re just going to wear them for a year or two before getting a new pair. And like a pair of shoes, a car only gets worse and less valuable over time. Here’s a complicated graph explaining this.
So look for a good reliable car and definitely don’t do what this reader tried doing.
A lot of car dealerships and automakers have fantastic programs for first-time car buyers fresh out of college. These incentives often come in the form of great rebates or special financing for new grads with good credit.
Two ways to find these deals:
- Google it. This should really be the first step to anything. Do a simple Google search for recent-graduate car incentive program. Actually, I’ll just do it for you.
- Ask the dealer. When you’re negotiating with your dealership, be sure to ask them what they offer in the way of new graduate car incentives.
DON’T assume you have to buy a used car
Buying used isn’t the only way to save money on a car. Over the long term, a new car might actually end up saving you money if you:
- Pick the right new car
- Negotiate a low price
- Drive it for a long time
I’d rather you get a new car that’s reliable than purchasing a used car that’ll break down sooner.
DON’T stretch your budget for a car
Set a realistic goal budget for your car and don’t go over it. Other expenses will come up — maybe car related, maybe not. You don’t want to end up struggling because you can’t afford your monthly car payment.
You don’t have to worry about stretching, though, if you have one thing in place: A Conscious Spending Plan.
Buy the car of your dreams with conscious spending
Though heading to the dealership during the best time of year to buy a car is a great way to save money, you can make sure you have even more money to get the car of your dreams by implementing a Conscious Spending Plan.
The typical way people look at saving money for a big purchase like a car typically goes like this:
- Step 1: Cut out things like lattes and buying lunch every day in the hopes of saving enough money.
- Step 2: Occasionally put a few dollars into your savings account.
- Step 3: Cave and go back to buying lunch and lattes every day.
- Step 4: Stop saving money for a car at all, feel bad for yourself, and go back to step 1.
What if I told you there was a system that allows you to know EXACTLY how much you can spend each month, helps automate your savings so you don’t have to do it, and allows you to keep buying your favorite latte every day?
That’s what the Conscious Spending Plan is. This is the exact same system my friend has used to spend five grand a year on shoes.
I can feel your eye-rolling judgment through the computer screen now. How can anyone in their right mind spend so much on shoes each year?
Well consider this:
- She makes a healthy salary.
- She doesn’t spend much on other things.
- She has a system in place that allows her to know exactly how much she can spend each month.
But most importantly: She just freaking loves shoes.
And her system allows her to buy 10 – 15 pairs of shoes each month — with each of them costing around $300 – $500 a pair.
After investing in her 401k and paying off her fixed monthly payments like rent and utilities, why wouldn’t she use her money to buy the things she loves?
You can use the same system to buy a car. Imagine being able to walk into the dealer and driving off the lot in the car of your dreams, resting easy in the fact that you were able to pay for it.
Life is Strange. Live it Well.