Do any of these "best time to buy a car" theories sound familiar? Go to the dealership on a cold, rainy day or early in the morning, when it's not crowded; the end of the month, when the dealer needs to make a quota; or in the spring, before tax refunds are issued. We can wish, but according to veteran car dealer Mylas Copeland -- general manager of Green Toyota -- there isn't a best time of year to buy. He does recommend sound buying strategies regardless of the season.
"I don't think you can pick a best time. It depends on a person's individual buying needs, the specifics of what you're looking for. The market is controlled by buyer demand," says Copeland. When demand is higher than inventories for a certain type of vehicle, the price will go higher.
For example, in warm weather, people tend to shop for convertibles and rear-wheel-drive sports cars, he explains. By the first snowfall, there is a mental shift toward four-wheel- and all-wheel-drive vehicles. So, he says, "the best time to shop depends on what you're looking for and the market availability of that vehicle."
"Once we start hitting model year change-outs," says Copeland, "you're going to see heavy incentives. We don't want the old model year car sitting here next to the new model year." This is often in the fall, he says, but manufacturers are rolling out the new models earlier and earlier to gain more market share.
This applies to pre-owned vehicles, as well. "When a used car becomes another year older, its age affects what the bank will do." The difference between having to take a four-year note rather than a five-year note, says Copeland, will make a substantial difference when it comes to people's monthly budgets.
Also, rather than gauging dealership profitability quarterly or annually, "each month has to stand on its own," Copeland says. Some people do believe the best deals are in the beginning of the month, so the dealership can make its sales goals early and breathe easier the rest of the month.
Financing offers play a big part in making a good deal, whatever time of the year. "Zero percent manufacturer financing, or any 'subvented' program -- that is, a much lower rate than is typically available -- is an incentive. We have seen that move the (sale) needle." Not only do customers enjoy a lower monthly payment but also there can be significant savings in finance charges over the life of the loan.
Try to buy something in the dealer's inventory. "Dealers will always rather sell you something they have on hand versus making a dealer trade for a car or ordering a car."
Shopping online can give you considerable comparison information and provide good information about various manufacturer incentives, Copeland says, but the best way to close the deal is to go to the dealership in person. "Establish a personal relationship where you're buying a car. Our reports show that 71 percent of the people buy from you because they like you. They have to like you before they'll listen to you, then believe you, and only then trust you enough to do business with you." With so much Internet activity these days, you showing up at the dealership motivates the sales staff to close the deal, which is a win-win for everyone, he says. You each get the fair deal you're looking for, you'll leave happy, want to trade there again and send referral business the dealer's way.
Finally, Copeland says, "Shop for value, not just price. A good buy will include good care from the dealer after the sale."
In the end, he says, "Anytime you are ready to buy is the best time. The dealer wants to get the car down the road and will try to find a way to do business."