Best Times of The Year To Buy Used Cars

Best Times of The Year To Buy Used Cars

Timing is everything, or so the saying goes. And such is the case whenever making a major purchase, such as finding the best price on a used vehicle.

Based on the countless commercials and click-bait ads slathered all over the internet, one would assume major summertime holidays such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day would be when to score major deals.

But that's entirely untrue. Not only is summertime not the ideal time of year to save on purchasing a car – be it used or new – it's actually the worst. 

In this article, we discuss the best and the worst times of year to buy a used car, truck, or SUV, as well as the best time to buy a used vehicle during its lifespan.

But, before we proceed, a quick word:

The rules of the game of snagging a deal on a used car, which we're about to dissect here, apply to traditional car dealerships only. You know the sort of place; you've no doubt seen countless yourself. These are the sort of places with neon lettering slapped all over the windshields of every member of the inventory and massive letter posters wedged into a row of open hoods spelling out "S-A-L-E," an army of inflatable tube men flapping about maniacally in all corners of the sale lot.

The truth is, times have changed, and buying a used car has never been so easy. The same goes for getting a fair price without having to pull out your best poker face while haggling with some pushy salesperson.

When you buy a car from Shift, any day of the year is the best time to buy. That's because Shift uses powerful machine learning algorithms that scour the internet to find the most accurate price for each of the makes and models in its inventory. So every vehicle comes with a fair price 365 days of the year.

No items found.

How do I know if I'm getting a deal when buying a used car?

So as far as buying a used car goes, what exactly amount of savings officially constitutes a bargain? Most market experts set the bar for determining a good deal at a minimum of a 5 percent reduction in the manufacturer's suggested retail price – MSRP for short – of the vehicle. 

The MSRP is the monetary amount that automakers recommend to auto dealers as the preferred cost of the vehicle to offer a buyer. Car buying lingo, you'll hear the term MSRP used interchangeably as the car's "sticker price," as it refers to the price that's listed on its actual price tag or by way of those flashy neon number stickers we mentioned above.

In the traditional car buying-and-selling world, MSRP applies to new cars only. On the other hand, used car sellers price their stock based on its age, mileage, and condition.

It's important to know that the MSRP is not the vehicle's final price but rather the jumping-off point for negotiations between a traditional car dealer and a buyer. It's merely the starting line for all the haggling.

What's even more necessary to keep in mind is that Shift has omitted MSRP from its vocabulary altogether, which means you won't find the term anywhere among the hundreds of listings in the virtual showroom. That's because Shift utilizes advanced technology to scour the depths of the internet to search for – and later compile – the most accurate and current data for every make and model in their inventory.

When is the best time of year to buy a used car?

Common belief would lead one to believe three-day summer weekends that sandwich federal holidays are when it's most likely to find a bargain on a used vehicle. On the contrary, it's actually during late autumn and winter months – January, February, and December, specifically – that car prices tend to drop. On average, studies show January brings a 28.6 percent increase in deals on car prices, compared to 22.1 percent in February and 13 percent in December. 

That's because most folks in the market for a new car tend to wait for the following year's model to roll out, which usually happens toward the end of the year. For example, 2021's models became available in the middle or end of 2020. Because summer tends to be slow for new car sales, dealerships have a lower inventory of trade-ins, too. It's simple economics, driven by the rules of supply and demand: A lower inventory of used cars means higher prices all around. 

Some holidays do tend to yield lower prices on vehicles, however. Studies show that cars often go for less on Veteran's Day, Black Friday, and Christmas Eve.

Unlike having to play the waiting game with old-school car dealerships, with Shift, you can buy your new used car any time of the year and know you're getting an honest price from the get-go. What's more, regardless of whether you decide to buy, you can sell your old car to Shift and know Shift will give you a fair offer on that, too.

When is the worst time of year to buy a used car?

Surprisingly, the typical annual hot sales that have traditionally sent consumers to car lots – federal holidays, Father's Day, and summertime in general – are the worst times of year to buy a used car from a traditional dealership. 

Studies show that 16.9 percent fewer deals happen in June, 16.2 percent in July, and 15 percent in September. 

No matter how mega-sized or mom-and-pop the dealership, it's wise to avoid these times of year if at all possible. 

Or, better yet, avoid the dealers altogether by shopping for a used car with Shift. That way, you'll enjoy the freedom of being able to buy your good-as-new used car at the best price whenever the time is right for you.

2019 Nissan Frontier SV (from $26,650)

2019 Nissan Frontier SV (from $26,650)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test DrivesButton Text
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used Nissan Frontier
2019 Nissan Frontier SV (from $26,650)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test Drives
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used Nissan Frontier

When is the best time to buy a car during its lifespan?

When purchasing a used car, it's important to take into consideration its age and its mileage. Also, it's wise to know as much about the vehicle's history as possible. On the surface, it may look perfect, but how do you know it hasn't suffered any accidents or weather-related damage such as a flood? Did the car happen to come from or spend a significant amount of time in a region that experiences heavy winters? Chances are it will be more prone to rust on its undercarriage because of the salt used to deice the roads.

These days, it's easy to know if a vehicle happens to have a sordid past thanks to vehicle history reports like Carfax. 

Shift provides complete vehicle history reports on each of its vehicles at no additional charge, so you know all Shift cars come with a clean bill of health. 

Also, whenever an automaker redesigns a car or discontinues a particular model altogether, the last editions to come beforehand usually bring an opportunity for significant savings. Keep an eye on car blogs and magazines to stay up to date on all new generations of specific models, which, depending on a car's popularity, can happen every five years or so, and if any models happen to be on the chopping block, too.

2019 BMW X3 xDrive30i (from $38,500)

 2019 BMW X3 xDrive30i (from $38,500)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test Drives
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used BMW X3
 2019 BMW X3 xDrive30i (from $38,500)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test Drives
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used BMW X3

You choose for you

Because Shift offers fair prices on all its vehicles regardless of the time of year, buyers have the freedom to choose exactly when is the right time for them to purchase their new, used car.

It's a fact of life that money comes and money goes, and it usually happens sporadically and without warning, too. So it's only fair that consumers should have the option to receive a reasonable price on a vehicle regardless of the day, month or season.

Shift offers best-in-class service contracts at a fair price without any sales pressure whenever the time is right for you. That means you get the great price and value of a used car with the bumper-to-bumper protection of a new car.

No items found.

No items found.

No items found.

No items found.

Author
Shift Editorial Team