The Best Months to Buy a New or Pre-Owned Vehicle

Nov 12, 2021
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Among the multitude of variables at play when it comes to getting the best deal on a vehicle, many people are disinclined to give too much thought to the month in which they make their purchase. This makes sense, given that most of us use our vehicles year-round and it’s not always practical to wait several months to replace our current car. But if you have some flexibility regarding when you buy your next vehicle, you may be able to realize appreciable savings by staying alert to cyclical market trends in the auto trade. Even in a global pandemic which has impacted inventory levels and prices, these factors are still largely relevant. To maximize your potential savings on your next car, we’ve uncovered industry insights on favorable months for getting your best bargain on a new or pre-owned vehicle:

August and September: A good time for deals on new cars from an outgoing-model year

Automakers used to roll out new model-year cars in an annual fall tradition around Oct. 1. However, these days, there is no one time of year when the new models are introduced. As the online auto resource Edmunds explains, new models for the upcoming year may show up as early as March of the current calendar year, or they may debut many months later. But despite this fact, data from Edmunds still indicate that late summer remains a popular time for manufacturers to launch their new models. During this time, dealerships are more apt to increase incentives on current-year models to clear out space for cars from the upcoming year. Accordingly, this makes August and September advantageous months for consumers to benefit from special offerings like cash rebates and low-interest loans on vehicles from the outgoing model year. In addition, buyers are likely to have a wider selection of vehicles to choose from during this transition, as compared with the late fall and early winter, when discounts can get larger, but there will likely be fewer of these current-year models from which to choose. A few words of caution that Edmunds points out: buying a car in its last year before it is discontinued will mean the vehicle will depreciate sharply (this is less of an issue the longer you plan to keep it). And if a car is at the end of its lifecycle, it’s a good idea to find out why the manufacturer is stopping production.

May: Shop around Memorial Day for substantial savings

The Memorial Day weekend in May kicks off the summer buying season and is an opportune time for solid savings with major sales events taking place throughout the country. According to CU Insight, data from TrueCar shows that Memorial Day weekend is a particularly good time to buy a mid-size SUV. And as the publication points out, Memorial Day sales generally last longer than the three-day weekend. People often assume that doorbuster sales on holiday weekends are simply used to lure you into the dealership for a bait and switch scheme using promos like zero APR financing and cash back rebates. But as long as you know the potential pitfalls, you can actually walk away with a great deal during this tie. Be aware that zero-interest loans come with significant limitations, and the majority of buyers do not have the super-prime FICO score and long credit history required to qualify. Also, interest-free loans often must be repaid over a shorter period of time, which can make all the difference when it comes to monthly payments and affordability. In most cases, people save more money and better safeguard their financial security by opting for the cash rebate over dealer-arranged zero percent financing.

October, November and December: Take advantage the biggest discounts of the year on both new and used vehicles

If your number one priority is to get a rock-bottom price on a vehicle, you’d be well-advised to shop during the mid-fall to early winter timeframe, all else being equal. The months of October, November and December comprise the height of the buying season, when more trade-ins have become available as a result of the introduction of new cars, leading to lower prices on used cars. Beginning in October, dealerships start offering greater discounts on outgoing-year models to move unsold inventory that is costing them more money in interest fees each additional day that the vehicle takes up valuable space on the lot.

During fall and early winter, dealerships may also price vehicles more aggressively to reach end-of-year sales forecasts, and sales managers and sales reps become more focused on end-of-year goals to make their bonus. According to CU Insight, data from TrueCar suggests that November is an opportune time to buy a midsize or compact car, but you may find that the high demand for SUVs and crossovers during this month gives you less wiggle room to negotiate on these vehicles. According to multiple sources, December is the month which you will generally find the lowest average prices on vehicles, but the selection is also likely to be slimmer. In particular, U.S. News and World Reports cites the week between Christmas and New Year’s as having the lowest transaction prices. This stretch of time checks all of the following boxes: it takes place during the last week of the month, the last week of the quarter and the last week of the year. Furthermore, there is likely to be reduced demand during the holiday season because people are engaged with family commitments and are not as cash flush due to overspending. As CU Insight notes, the stakes get even higher for dealerships on January 2, when the car dealer year actually ends.

All things considered, most people will shop for a car when they need one and are prepared to buy, not necessarily during the precise month when analysts indicate they’ll have access to the lowest possible prices or widest selection. However, some working knowledge of when dealerships adjust their inventory and prices, and why, may help you make better buying decisions, and negotiate from a stronger position. But in the final analysis, you’re more likely to get the best price on the right car for you by doing plenty of research online before visiting a dealership, learning the market value of any vehicle car you’re considering buying from a source like Edmunds, TrueCar or Kelley Blue Book, and by making sure you’ve properly the vehicle before you buy.

Not interested in haggling over prices but want the assurance that you’re getting an excellent deal on a late model, pre-owned vehicle that has been inspected, refurbished and certified? Be sure to get out to The Police Credit Union’s Used Car Sale from Friday, November 12, 2021 through Sunday, November 21, 2021. Visit any California Enterprise Car Sale location during this time, and when you finance your new ride with The Police Credit Union, you’ll receive a 1.00% APR discount!* As a bonus, if you finance an Enterprise vehicle at the sale, you’ll get a $100 gift card!**  Our auto loans feature rates as low as 0.79% APR*, 90 days of no payments and flexible and convenient payment options. What’s more, we offer used auto loan rates that are every bit as competitive as those we provide for our new vehicle loans. Find details and restrictions here.

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Example rate of 0.79% APR with 36 monthly payments = $28.12 per $1,000 borrowed, assumes .25% discount for enrollment in automatic payments, 1.00% off current The Police Credit Union rate with a max loan term of 60 months, and <=75% Loan-to-Value (LTV), (fully indexed rate of 2.29%). APR is based on evaluation of credit history, so your rate may differ. Rates, fees and terms are subject to change at any time, visit our website for current rates at www.thepolicecu.org. Used vehicles were previously part of the Enterprise rental fleet &/or an affiliated company’s lease fleet or purchased by Enterprise from sources including auto auctions, customer trade-ins or from other sources, with a possible previous use including rental, lease, transportation net-work company or other use. All vehicle inventory is available by visiting enterprise-carsales.com or a dealership where a Sales Consultant can help you find vehicles available in our nationwide inventory. Delivery of vehicles outside local area may require transfer fee.

**$100 Gift card will be emailed to members who finance a vehicle with The Police Credit Union through Enterprise Car Sales on November 12-November 21, 2021 two weeks after the car sale has ended.

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APR = "Annual Percentage Rate". Actual APR is based on your credit profile and may be higher than the lowest rate available. Posted rates may include promotional discounts and other terms and conditions. APY = "Annual Percentage Yield". Rates are subject to change without notice.

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