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Buying a Car: What's the Worst Time to Buy a Car?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2015

If you're interested in buying a car, you're probably well aware that certain times -- such as the end of the month or the end of the model year -- are better than others if you're looking to get a great deal. But what's the worst time to buy a car? Is there a specific time you should always avoid at all costs or risk getting ripped off? We have a few suggestions.

Beginning of the Month

You shouldn't buy a car at the beginning of the month for the very same reason that you should buy a car at the end of the month: because dealers are rushing to hit sales targets at the end of the month, so they're a lot more willing to offer good deals as the month comes to a close than they are when it's just starting.

With that said, dealerships are always in the business of selling cars and making money -- so they'll usually provide relatively similar deals throughout the month, especially if you prove yourself to be a serious shopper interested in an immediate purchase. But you never know: If you find yourself standing in the dealership on the last day of the month and they're just one or two cars short of hitting their goal, you may get a better deal than you could at any other time of the month.

Beginning of the Model Year

Another bad time to buy a car: the beginning of the model year. An example: If it's August or September 2015 and the 2016 models are just making their way into dealerships, you're unlikely to get a good deal on a 2016 model. Even if very little has changed between 2015 models and 2016 models, dealers won't offer a huge discount on a car they've only had for a few days or weeks.

If it's the beginning of a new model year and you want a substantial discount, your best bet is to buy a leftover model from the previous model year. In that case, the dealer will likely offer a bigger discount in order to clear out inventory so they can make room for the newest models.

Right After a New Model Comes Out

Undoubtedly, the very worst time to buy a new car is right when it first comes out, as there's obviously a lot of demand for brand-new models and dealers are unlikely to offer even the slightest discounts on some of the most popular vehicles.

For instance, although it was easy to find a good deal on the outgoing 2015 Honda Pilot, that all changed when the fully redesigned 2016 model came out. Demand surged, and dealerships didn't have to offer discounts in order to sell the SUV -- so they didn't. Shoppers who wanted the new Pilot paid a premium to get the latest design when they could've gotten a great deal on the outgoing model if they had wanted to. Of course, this would've meant buying an older body style with fewer modern features.

Our Take

If you want the latest and greatest when you're buying a car, don't expect a big discount. The best offers and discounts are at the end of the month, at the end of the model year and when a design is about to be replaced. If you buy a car at the start of the model year or you just have to have the latest design, prepare to pay a premium for it.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: What's the Worst Time to Buy a Car? - Autotrader