When’s the best time to buy a car?

  • New and used car buyers can save by waiting for the right moment
  • New registrations drive clusters of demand
  • Seasonal changes can make some cars harder to sell - and cheaper to buy

Buying a new or used car can be a significant decision that takes months of thought and research before committing to a purchase, particularly if you’re also financing your new vehicle. So it’s remarkable to find that British buyers still favour the March and September plate changes to take the plunge, when dealers know they’re going to get a rush of customers.

If you do want a brand new model on the day of a new registration, there’s nothing wrong with that – and you can often strike a bargain a month or so beforehand on specifications that take a little longer to arrive. By the time they’re registered, they’ll be on the latest plate.

The best deals, though, are found when that demand has calmed and dealers are looking to move stock and maintain turnover. Here’s how to make sure you’re getting the best value.

The best time of year to buy a new car

As so many buyers and fleets still hold on for that new-registration shine, February and August sales are generally focused on 1 March and 1 September deliveries. New cars can take three to six weeks to reach the dealer if not already in stock, so they’ll will be delighted to see you in the preceding month – but won’t necessarily be in the mood to strike a deal and lose profit unless it’s a model that isn’t reaching targets.

You’ll find plenty of manufacturer promotions around this time, though, and finance offers may provide a better route to saving – 0% and dealer deposit contribution can go a long way to saving money in the long-term, even if it feels like you didn’t get anything off the list price.

Adding options to your chosen specification adds to the wait time and reduces the chances that you’ll get a discount, too – so rather than adding spec to a lower-priced model, ask the dealer if there are higher specification models in stock already, particularly if you’ve seen that a facelifted model is due.

We would recommend shopping for a brand new car between May and early August, and in December to January. Pre-registration is less prevalent than it was a few years ago, but you’ll often find popular cars are available from stock. It’s worth looking at what car brokers are offering big discounts on, and approaching your local dealer to see how close they can get.

You might not have the pick of all the colours and trims, but you’re likely to get a very good deal if you can be flexible.

The best time of year to buy a used car

You’re most likely to get a good deal on a used car in June through August, and then in November through to January. Why?

Secondhand cars have more dealers, a wider range of prices and far more variation in buyer experience to take into account; different budgets and types of car may have very different pressures.

If you’re looking for a popular approved-used car such as a Vauxhall, Audi, Volvo or BMW, then the best times to buy from a main dealer is right before the new registration plates, in February and August. They’ll have the best stock, the most comprehensive used-car warranty, and the nicest places to check out your next car in comfort; they’ll also have an influx of PCP and new customer trade-ins that they’ll want to make space for.

Car dealer in November - frozen windscreens, but a warm welcome for buyers

This means that anything which has been sitting for a while will be fair game – and if your dealer is local to you, it’s worth watching your desired car on the forecourt to see how long it sits around before going in for a closer look.

The stock they don’t want goes through underwriters and auctions to smaller dealers – who are geared up to sell these desirable models in April, May, September and October. By June, July and August the summer holidays take the budgets – and time – of their customers elsewhere, and similarly in winter the bitter mornings and short days of November, December and January also have to compete with Christmas, New Year and higher household bills.

Car dealers are people too – and those smaller businesses face the same pressures you do, so while we advocate pushing for the best deals you can, be kind and it’ll go a lot further than being aggressive or confontational.

If you’re looking at an older, lower-cost used car, we’d recommend buying in summer purely because it’s much nicer to inspect the car when you don’t have to get down on cold, wet ground to do so. It’s tempting to rush checking a car over when it’s raining and cold – an you could miss wear or damage that costs you more in the long run.

Want a quick guide? Follow our top tips on when to buy your next car and you could save loads of cash: 

1) Buy a used convertible in winter

Convertibles are most expensive during the summer months – so shop around in the winter when demand is low and dealers will be quiet.

2) Buy a used off-roader in summer

Off-roaders are cheapest when the weather is good. This means it’s worth buying one during summer, when there will be plenty of deals around, before prices start to rise coming up to the winter.

Cold weather makes that 4x4 banner look tempting - no discount here!

3) Buy at the end of the quarter

If you are looking to buy during the year, buy at the end of each quarter. This allows you to put pressure on the dealer as they will be looking to complete sales and are more likely to make a deal.

4) Find discounts between Oct – Dec

If you want to buy a car later in the year, aim to buy between October and December. Many dealerships discount their cars strongly during these months in order to improve sales figures, and to clear the way for models arriving in the New Year.

5) Save £££ between Christmas & New Year

The weeks around Christmas and the New Year can deliver massive savings. This period is between new plate releases and the dealerships will be quiet, so heavy cuts will be offered in order to maintain sales. Don’t be put off by pre-registered cars – there are some great bargains to be had.

When's the best time to buy a car?

6) Buy on the last two days of the month

The best time of the month to buy in is the last day or two, as the dealership will do everything they can to complete a sale.

7) Buy a car on a Friday

Go into the showroom on a Friday. Dealerships are always quietest during the week – this means the staff will be more attentive and more likely to offer discounts in order to meet weekly targets.

8) Buy an old model when the new one launches

Buy the previous generation car at the launch of the new one. The older version will drop in price and many dealers will be offering good deals in order to make room for new cars.

9) Buy an old model when the new facelift launches

Buy at the release of facelifted models. Much like the release of a new car, the new facelifted models become the more desirable purchase and consequently dealers look to quickly sell on the pre-facelift cars in order to restock with new ones.

10) Buy a previous-plate car when the new number plates are released

Look to buy after the release of new plates. The previous-plate cars will be discounted with the arrival of the new ones, or there may be an excess of new stock, or a run-out model, that allows leverage for a good deal.

Lastly, remember to keep an eye on the market. If new or used car sales are struggling then that can give you even more leverage against a dealer, as they’ll be working harder to complete sales.

Parkers works in partnership with CarFinance 247, to find out more about getting a loan and an idea of what your monthly repayments could be, click here to head to our dedicated section.

Looking for a new or used car for sale?

You can use the Parkers New Cars for Sale to search your local area for cars, while our Used Cars for Sale section lets you browse used cars for sale in the UK. Our Car Valuation tool will show you what kind of price you should be able to negotiate on all models. 

If you’re considering buying your new car on finance, make sure you visit our finance section for a quote – we work with over 21 lenders to give our customers access to over 100 different lending options.

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