When’s the Best Time to Buy a Used Car?

Whether you have a new need for a vehicle or you’re just looking to upgrade your current vehicle, you’ll be in the market for a used car. And if you have some flexibility, you’ll be able to time your purchase so it’s most advantageous for you.

So when is the best time to buy a used car? And is there really a bad time to do it?

Key Strategies to Maximize Flexibility

First, it’s vital to recognize the importance of maximizing your flexibility. If you don’t have any flexibility for when you buy a used car, the timing bears no consideration whatsoever; you’ll simply buy a used car the moment you need one.

Instead, it’s better to set yourself up for a situation where you’re in control of when you finalize the purchase. These are just a few ways that you can do it:

Assess your vehicle needs proactively. Take good care of your existing vehicle and assess your vehicle needs proactively. When you take your vehicle in for regular maintenance and inspection, are your mechanics concerned about various issues? Do you get the sense that this vehicle is no longer going to be able to serve your needs next year? What about next month? Do you predict having different vehicle needs in the next few months or years? The more forward you’re able to think, the more effectively you’ll be able to plan.

Start researching early. Researching used vehicles is easier than ever, thanks to the abundance of online information available to the public. That’s why it’s so important to start researching used vehicles for sale, even before you need one. You’ll get a good sense for inventory levels, prices, and what types of models are on the market, even if those specific models are no longer available in a few months when you’re ready to finalize a purchase. This is an opportunity to figure out what you’re looking for and plan financially.

Save some extra money. Speaking of financial planning, set aside some extra money. The more money you have to spend on a used vehicle, the more options you’ll have to choose from. Additionally, if you have enough money set aside for the purchase of a used vehicle, you’ll be able to pounce when the time is right.

Great Opportunities to Buy a Used Car

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect day or time for buying a used vehicle. However, there is some seasonality to the used vehicle market, and there are some interesting opportunities worth considering when shopping for a used car.

Holidays. Certain holidays, like Black Friday, Memorial Day, and Labor Day, are frequently associated with car sales. These could be excellent buying opportunities if you’re buying from a dealership or if you’re shopping on an online platform. However, be aware that certain holidays tend to be bad times to shop for a used car, as people are usually busy traveling, reducing inventory numbers; major holidays like Easter and Christmas should generally be avoided.

At the end of a significant term. Salespeople at dealerships and private car sellers are usually more motivated to close deals at the end of a significant term, like at the end of a month, a quarter, or a year. Try to time your purchase accordingly so you can take advantage of this.

In the vehicle’s off season. Certain cars have a unique seasonality to them. For example, people love shopping for convertibles in the summer and typically buy mid-sized SUVs more frequently in the fall. If you avoid these peak times, you may be able to find a better deal; you can shop for a convertible in winter or a mid-sized SUV in spring.

Winter. Winter does have some advantages; people are less likely to go out and test drive vehicles during these cold months, so you’ll have less competition to contend with. Also, the people motivated to sell in winter are usually interested in closing the deal as quickly as possible; otherwise, why not wait until spring? That said, winter also offers some disadvantages. It may be harder to practically test and evaluate the used vehicle, and low inventory levels can drive prices up in some cases.

Additional Tips for Better Used Car Timing

These additional tips can improve your used car purchase timing even further:

Do your homework. It’s extremely important to be prepared when buying a used car. You need to do your homework and properly understand your needs, the vehicles currently for sale, pricing trends, and purchasing options. The sooner and more thoroughly you do this research, the better.

Check the car in good lighting/weather. Before finalizing the purchase, check the car in good lighting and good weather, or make sure the photos you’re reviewing are thorough and well-lit enough to give you confidence in the purchase.

Pay attention to the details. Thoroughly consider the details of each vehicle you discover, as some vehicles may help you make a smarter decision. For example, used cars that have been “on the lot” for a long time could give you more negotiating leverage or entitle you to a lower price.

There is no single best time to buy a used car because they come in so many different varieties and people have so many unique, varying needs. Still, if you’re able to work proactively and strategize for your used car purchase, you’ll likely end up with a much better deal.