Ultimate Guide for New Vehicle Shoppers
by Car Guide Editor and Benjamin Yong
When is the best time to buy a new car? What are some buying tips to remember before negotiating with auto dealers? Our buyer's guide answers these questions, helping new vehicle shoppers research with confidence before starting the new car search.
Whether you’re a first-time new vehicle shopper or even a seasoned pro, some simple advice – or just a refresher – on how to buy a new car never hurts. Is there an ideal time to go shopping for those auto deals and better service? How about a simple 5-point checklist to keep in mind? We help break it down so you can go into this car buying journey with confidence.
Shopping pre-owned instead? Check out our guide on how to buy a used car.
When is the Best Time to Buy a New Car?
Purchasing a new vehicle is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make. For first-time car buyers, the idea of negotiating with a salesperson can be rather intimidating.
Add to that: for those beginning their car buying journey online – which is basically all of us – there are potentially 900+ digital interactions to contend with, according to this one buyer's path outlined in this ThinkWithGoogle piece, where 71% of her digital interactions all occurred on the good old mobile.
But, like many other products on the market, getting the best price on a new car is all about timing. Going car shopping when the season is just right can even the playing field for buyers who know how to negotiate with a salesman and for the first time buyers too.
For example, those in the market for a new lawn mower will find purchasing one during the height of the spring/summer cutting season can mean paying a lot more. Smart shoppers know their wallets would benefit greatly by waiting a season or two. The same can be said for car shopping. Riley Chevrolet – a dealership in the US – provides the following insights.
Which months offer the best new car deals?
Throughout the year, some car dealerships bombard television, radio, and the internet with numerous ads hoping to grab consumer interest. This ramps up during tax return season. Some discounts can be expected during both spring and summer, but the best time for car shopping is when the leaves start to drop.
Car manufacturers roll out new model vehicles on a yearly basis. Because of this, auto dealers can be anxious to offload the inventory they couldn’t move during the hot summer months to make room for shiny new ones. This makes the months of September and October two of the best times of the year for car shoppers.
But the best deals may still be just around the corner. By the time November and December roll around, some car dealers will be in a mad rush to empty their lots. Not only are dealers in a scramble to get rid of the prior year’s models, salesmen are also eager to earn some financial bonuses by doing so.
With the approach of Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, potential car buyers willing to brave the cold winter weather would be hard-pressed to find a better time to take advantage of some impressive discounts.
Data from 2011 – 2016 car sales (courtesy of Edmunds)
Buying a New Car on a Holiday
While cashing in on discount during (or even days before) New Year’s Eve has always been a no-brainer for car buyers, dealers offer decent discounts during almost every holiday period.
Car dealerships offer some of the best deals during holiday weekends, like Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and (although not an official holiday) Black Friday.
The beginning of the New Year, January 1st, is also a good day to be in the market for a new vehicle.
The Best Day of the Week to Buy a New Car
For consumers, picking the right day to buy a new car is just as important as the month. While it’s easy to walk into a dealership anytime and drive out with a new vehicle, smart shoppers know that’s it’s better to wait until either the first or last of the month.
There tends to be a much smaller crowd at the start of a new month which means the salespersons can be anxious to serve the first person that walks in. Those same salespeople will also be eager to achieve their monthly quota because of the potential for a bonus. Putting off a purchase until the last day or two of the month can give the customer the advantage when it comes down to negotiating with a salesman who has incentives on his/her mind.
Avoid the weekend, as most foot traffic is on Saturdays and Sundays. Scheduling to buy a new car on a slow Monday or Tuesday morning (if at all possible) would be a better strategy. According to TrueCar.com, discounts on Mondays and Tuesdays usually average around 8%. Thursdays are equally good as well. Compare that to Saturdays and Sundays which, on average, only see a 7.77% and 7.49% discount respectively.
When looking to buy, Millennials consider slightly more vehicles on average than Baby Boomers. Millennials also usually take longer to decide what car to buy than Baby Boomers, an average of 16.9 vs 15.7 weeks. Millennials invest more time in the actual buying process as well, almost four and a half hours more on average. (Autoguide)
What Car to Buy and When
Seeing a convertible cruise down the hot asphalt is a common sight in the summer. But for those in the market to buy one, the right time to do so is when the temperature starts cooling.
During the fall and winter, both convertibles and sports cars are out of season and demand for them is much lower than in warmer months. With less demand for such vehicles, dealers are more than eager to sell them for lower prices.
On the flip side, sales of all-wheel drive automobiles tend to heat up during colder weather. Customers in the market for a new pickup truck or sedan with four-wheel drive would be wise to shop during the summer.
One of the most important pieces of advice every car buyer needs to know is to do your homework before shopping. Thanks to the internet, consumers can research the cars in the area and find the best prices for the vehicle they’re looking for before heading to the dealership. Knowing what you want beforehand and how much you should be expected to pay will make the task of buying a new car a lot less daunting.
5 Simple Tips for Buying a New Car
by Benjamin Yong
Just like the first time you kissed someone special or landed that first job you really wanted, there are few things as memorable as buying your first brand new vehicle. Part of that experience used to be walking into a dealership having no idea what to expect, but fortunately with modern technology there more tools than ever to make sure you’re prepared when the time comes. Here are some tips we recommend following before you whip out the chequeboo
1. Do your research
All major manufacturers nowadays have websites detailing all the current models they offer, complete with specifications and regional pricing information. If you haven’t nailed down a brand you want yet, try visiting a dealer group website that represents several different nameplates to see what’s out there.
2. Make a list
Do you want front-wheel drive practicality, rear-wheel drive performance or do-it-all all-wheel drive? Automatic, manual or continuously variable transmission? Think of the must-haves first, then jot down things that would be nice to have, but aren't deal-breakers without.
According to Autotrader, car buyers spend 59% of their time online researching
3. Narrow Down the Candidates
Once you have a shortlist of potentials, check out resources like newspapers, magazines and websites for the latest unbiased news and reviews on models that interest you. Depending on the type of vehicle you're interested in, pay particular attention to discussion around fuel economy, safety features, engine output, ride comfort, and information/entertainment technology.
4. Up close and personal
Go pay that car you're thinking of a visit. There are a few ways you can go about this: either make a trip to the lot and have a look yourself first before finding a salesman to assist you further. Or, many retail stores now allow you to book a test drive online in advance so you can just pop in during your scheduled slot and evaluate the car. Allow for some wiggle room so you can take your time when you get there. This is one of life's biggest purchases, so don't be shy. Ensure that you get an opportunity to drive on both straight and twisty roads, as well as on the highway if possible, and remember to ask plenty of questions.
…and third-party sites are the most used sites for car shopping, used by 78% of shoppers.
5. Buy vs. lease
If you like what you see, now's comes the decision of whether to lease the vehicle (return it after a predetermined period) or finance/purchase outright. Many people wanting to drive something new every few years often opt for leasing, although be wary that there are distance limits. The latter is a good option for those wanting to keep and/or modify the vehicle.
Here it all is in an infographic:
Shopping New? Check Out Our Buyer's Guides:
Also check out our Used Vehicle Buyer's Guide below, or our Auto Advice section for more motor tips, advice, and expert insights.