Black Friday car for sale on dealership's lot.

Black Friday Car Buying Tips & Advice

Is Black Friday a good day to go car shopping? It really depends on how you decide to go about it.

We’re a nation of bargain hunters. That’s why Black Friday has become so big. In 2016, some 154 million of us hit the stores, both physical and online, the day after Thanksgiving, spending an average of almost $300 each. (Those National Retail Federation figures were quoted in a CNN news story from November 27th, 2017.)

But the thing about averages is, some people will have spent much more. Quite a few will have gone Black Friday car shopping and some will have returned home with a great car or truck bought at a knock-down price. Others however will have spent needlessly more than they wanted or needed to.

Black Friday can be a great day to buy that vehicle you’ve been dreaming of. Dive in unprepared though and you risk some serious buyer’s remorse by the time Cyber Monday rolls around. Here’s some background on those Black Friday car sales and some car buying tips for getting the best deal.

November: Not A Good Month For Car Dealers

The days are getting shorter, the weather cooler, and people are thinking about turkey and the Holidays. They’re not thinking about buying a new car. That’s why November is usually a lean time for car sales people and the dealers they work for.

When Thanksgiving grows near people start thinking about looking for bargains on the bigger purchases they’ve been delaying for the past few months. TV’s, laptops and yes, cars, are on that shopping list, and the dealerships know. That’s why they put out the balloons and banners. And spend thousands of advertising dollars buying spots on the Internet, newspaper, local radio and TV channels: dealers are hungry and they want your business.

Now will show you how you turn their bad situation into your advantage with some Black Friday car shopping tips.

Understand Why Some Cars Have Great Incentives

A Black Friday sales event is how retailers shift the inventory they’re struggling to move. Car dealers are no different. If you see a car advertised at thousands off of the list price there’s a reason. Rebates and “incentives” are other words used but they amount to the same thing: money off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (M.S.R.P.).

The number one reason for steeply discounting a car is that it’s last year’s model and it’s costing the dealer every minute it doesn’t sell. The factories have been building the 2020’s since midsummer, making 2019 model year cars hard to move. That’s especially true when there’s been a big model change, like a facelift, additional options, technology or new engines. The only way of persuading buyers to pick the old model over the new is with a substantial discount.

Use this handy Car Payment Estimator to calculate the payment on any vehicle.

The other reason is that the dealer is finding it hard to move a particular vehicle. Midsize sedans are a good example. Right now SUV’s are selling fast but few buyers are lusting after cars with trunks. As a result you may well see good deals on them, (but not on SUVs.)

Always Find and Read the Fine Print on Dealer Ads

The terrific deals you see advertised in the run up to Black Friday usually have some conditions attached. They might apply only to specific trims, engines or just the vehicles they have on their lot. Sometimes the deals are only for select groups – auto company employees or veterans perhaps – or related to specific financing terms like a minimum credit score.

The same applies to perks dealers advertise. They might be offering a “free” iPad or TV with every truck, but make sure you know the qualifying criteria. You don’t want to be demanding an advertised deal or “freebie” only to be told you’re not eligible. That can lead to an uncomfortably red face, so read the ads carefully and always read the “fine print.”

Brace For Crowds of People at Dealerships

Recognize that every showroom will be full of people chasing a Black Friday car sale bargain. Everyone – well most everyone – is off work and they have plenty of time on their hands. Plus, they’ve watched endless car commercials during the football games on television the day before and in a mood to buy. In other words, don’t walk in expecting the salesman’s undivided attention or the opportunity to test drive a few vehicles.

Do Your Homework Before Black Friday

Know what you want to buy, and how much you’re willing to pay for it. We’ve covered this before but it bears repeating: all the information you want about every car and truck ever built is online. Let Google do the work for you. You can also email dealers and ask for internet quotes ahead of time. That way you’ll know how special the deal you’re offered really is.

If you plan on test driving a couple of candidate vehicles, and you should, try to do this about a week before Black Friday. Be careful, don’t get talked into buying while your there – stick to your plan. That way you’re not going to waste time waiting for the vehicle you want to become available. If Black Friday is your only free day, go prepared with license and insurance information in hand.

Another good tip is to check the inventory at the dealerships you plan on visiting. Many have this on their websites so you can search for the exact combination of trim and color that will make your life complete. Again, before you visit! Dealerships will trade vehicles between themselves to get a buyer the model they want, but it takes a few days, and when they’re busy they may not want to spend time doing this. Driving a few extra miles could be a better use of your time.

Figure Out Your Auto Financing – Before You Go!

You can usually get pre-approved for a loan, which speeds up the buying process. Alternatively, if you plan on leasing you should also do some research on what deals are out there. Be aware though that some dealerships may be able to offer financing on better terms than you can get from the bank.

You might also want to check your credit score before venturing onto the car lot as this affects the terms you will be offered. November is a bit late to start trying to boost your number for Black Friday car shopping though, although there’s never a bad time to work on your credit.

Don’t Expect To Spend Hours Haggling Over Price

The dealership will be busy, (See “Brace for crowds” above) so they’ll quickly offer the best deal they can. Sitting at the table another hour is unlikely to see them go any lower because they’ll already be at their limit.

Be Prepared if You Want to Score a Black Friday Car Bargain

Everyone loves a sale, and car dealerships have been eager to pile onto the Black Friday shopping mania. They’ll be running ads on local TV and radio for days before Thanksgiving, hoping to whip up some excitement about the models they particularly want to shift. And that’s the key to successful Black Friday car shopping: remember that if a model is selling well there won’t be much in the way of extra incentives. You might get a free tablet or TV thrown in to close the deal, but you’re still paying for it one way or another.

If however, you’re happy to be driving last years model – it will still be new, just not the latest styling or engine, Black Friday can be a great time to buy a car. This is especially true if you keep your vehicles a long time. The same applies if you’re not a follower of automotive fashion. Right now it seems everyone wants an SUV but if you prefer the sedan experience you could be in line for a terrific deal.

Regardless of the time of year though, it also pays to be a smart shopper. Make sure you understand the car buying process before hitting the streets.

Be a Smart Black Friday Car Shopper

The number one tip for saving the most money when shopping for a new or used car is to always, “DO YOUR CAR BUYING HOMEWORK FIRST!” For more hints and tips on navigating the new and used car buying process, spend a little time upfront before beginning your car shopping journey by browsing through my 100% free online car buying guide –

As always, I recommend using an online referral service such as Ryde Shopper, Motor Trend and Cars Direct before visiting a car dealership. Their free online price quotes will automatically include any discounts or cash-back incentives currently available in the marketplace.

Leading up to Black Friday weekend, learn how to find & research new cars online before ever stepping foot inside a dealership.