Top Ten End of the Year Car Buying Tips
The end of the 2023 calendar year can be great for getting a deal on a new or used car. There’s more to it than just strolling into the dealership on New Year’s Eve. Getting the lowest possible price takes planning, preparation, and some inside information.
The key is understanding how car dealerships motivate their salespeople (and also how the manufacturers motivate the dealerships).
With that knowledge, you can time your visits and purchases to maximize the rebates, bonuses, and incentives.
That was one crucial point, but there are a few more to remember and practice. So here are my top 10 end-of-the-year car-buying tips from AutoCheatSheet.com.
Table of Contents
1) Understand the Dealership’s Motivation to Sell Cars
Good salespeople are naturally competitive and very motivated to hit their targets. That’s why car manufacturers give dealerships goals for monthly, quarterly, and annual sales. Plugging those numbers means bonuses and rewards for the top performers. You can use this information to your advantage as a knowledgeable car buyer.
If selling you the car you want will get them within reach or push them over those targets, they’ll be very motivated to deal. That’s why the last few days of any month are an excellent time to buy; the end of a quarter is better, and the end of the year is the best.
Of course, if they’ve already hit their targets when you walk in, they’ll be happy for you to return next month. That’s one reason for not waiting until the last day of the year.
2) Start the Car Shopping Process Early
Dealerships are traditionally slower the first few weeks before Christmas. They get busier than usual between Christmas and New Year’s because people are off work and have time to car shop. That leaves the salespeople less time to spend on you and may be too busy to arrange test drives.
Instead of expecting them to roll out the red carpet when you show up on December 31st, research and narrow your search for the perfect vehicle ahead of time. That includes taking any test drives.
3) Be Flexible in What You’re Looking for
You’ll never get a great deal on a popular car selling well with consumers. Even if you think it’s too expensive, another buyer willing to pay it is coming soon. But if you’re not picky about having the latest, most fashionable ride, there will be bargains at the year’s end.
Scoring the absolute lowest price usually takes the outgoing model year vehicle rather than the new model. (You may be driving away in a 2023 model year instead of a 2024 model the dealership began getting from the factory in August.)
It’s not a bad option if you plan on keeping the car for several years and aren’t concerned about having the newest styling or features. However, there is a bit of a depreciation “hit’ if you change it after just two or three years. You’ll probably also have a limited number of color and trim options.
Even if you want the new model, being flexible can pay off. The dealership may have cars with trim packages or color schemes that didn’t quite work. When the salesperson senses that you’re a “value” shopper, he may suggest you look at these. If you want a great deal, don’t be too quick to say no.
4) Do Your Car Shopping Online
These days, there’s no need to shuffle around dealerships hunting for that “perfect” car, and the end of the year is usually a rotten time to do that anyway. (It’s always a bad idea to look at vehicles under artificial lighting as that changes how colors appear.)
Instead, learn about your options from your home or office. See what’s available when you’ve narrowed it down to one or a few vehicles. Most dealerships even have their inventory online, so you can see if they have the car you want.
5) Get Quotes From a Few Local Dealerships
Dealerships love internet sales. It makes their life easier. Once you’ve figured out what car would suit you best and checked dealer inventories, it’s time to request a few online quotes. I recommend using a trusted online company such as Ryde Shopper, Edmunds, Motor Trend, or Cars Direct.
These companies will send you Internet price quotes that automatically include any current discounts or cash-back incentives.
Just select the vehicle you’re interested in and ask for a quote. If you’re looking for a new car, you may want to see if any new car rebates or incentives are available on the outgoing models. Some brands offer loyalty bonuses, while others have “conquest” incentives.
In most cases, what you get back will include all applicable rebates and bonuses, usually much less than what a salesperson would offer you on the showroom floor.
6) Check a Used Car’s History Report
This tip is aimed explicitly at used car buyers. While the five tips above apply to buying a new or a used car, used cars are more likely to have been in accidents and have hidden problems like flood damage. That’s why you should have any used car you want to buy inspected by an independent certified mechanic and run a history report on any vehicle you are interested in.
You can find several history services online. However, they are not all created equal. We strongly recommend using a company such as AutoCheck Vehicle History Reports for reviewing the used car history you’re interested in purchasing. Experian backs the data, which automotive industry specialists regularly utilize to gain the information they need to buy and sell the most reliable automobiles.
In my comprehensive guide to used car vehicle history reports, you can learn more about them, what they contain, and how much they cost.
7) Use Competition Between Dealerships to Get the Best Price
Get quotes from multiple dealerships. Some may have access to rebates and incentives that others can’t match. Alternatively, some may be willing to trim their commission, especially if it helps them hit those year-end targets.
Don’t be afraid to play one dealer’s price quote against another dealer’s offer. We’re talking about your hard-earned cash here!
Suppose you’d like more information on strategies and techniques to use the Internet to your advantage. Please read my article on how to use email to negotiate with dealers online. I even provided you with a few sample email templates for you to use.
8) Test Drive, Test Drive, Test Drive
Always test drive the vehicle or vehicles you’re interested in before making your final choice. You would try on a pair of shoes or pants before buying them.
Contrary to popular belief. You can’t return a car just because you don’t like it, so a test drive helps avoid an expensive mistake. Be open to driving something else if the salesperson suggests it. It may be that they can offer a better deal on the alternative.
Call ahead and let them know you would like to come in and test drive a particular make and model of vehicle. Tell them you’ve narrowed down your search and you would like to drive the car to make a better decision on which one you’d like to own.
It would be best to let them know you will not buy a car and will not take up much of their time. The salesman will appreciate your honesty.
Remember that the car salesman will still take a run at you if they’re any good. And may even have a manager come out and talk to you. Don’t get upset. They’re just doing their job. Let them know your reasons, and stick to your guns. You have a plan, and you’re sticking to it.
9) Comparison Shop Auto Warranties Online
You will have the opportunity to purchase an extended auto warranty at some point in your car-buying process. This is not a wrong purchase decision as long as you don’t pay too much for the coverage. Again, you should compare prices and coverage beforehand.
Instead of paying too much at a dealer, I recommend contacting an online third-party extended warranty company like Complete Car Warranty or Endurance Auto Warranty. These online companies have been in business for a long time.
Either can provide you with an extended warranty, legally named extended service contracts, and equal or better coverage at a lower price than the dealer will charge you. Contact them for a free, no-obligation quote.
You can use their quotes as leverage to negotiate better prices with the dealer. Ensure you wait to bring them up until after the dealer has told you the ACTUAL cost of the coverage they are trying to sell you. You can read more about dealership-extended auto warranties here.
10) Get Pre-approved for Financing, (and Check Insurance Rates
Don’t try to arrange auto financing at the dealership. It takes time, and you may get a nasty shock if your credit is less than perfect. Instead, call your bank or credit union beforehand to determine how much money you may borrow and at what interest rate you’ll pay. A pre-approved auto loan will level the playing field when meeting the finance manager. If they want to earn your finance business, they either need to match your current interest rate or, better yet, beat it.
Suppose you don’t have time to check with your local lending institution. The Internet makes it easy to apply for an auto loan. Using online auto finance companies such as myAutoloan and Auto Credit Express is quick, easy, and free.
MyAutoloan allows you to apply for a pre-approved loan online, but they also provide up to four loan offers to compare and choose the best one.
If the dealership offers low-interest financing, you’ll know if it’s a good deal. And don’t forget that a piece of paper stating you’re suitable for a loan of a certain amount shows the salesperson that you’re a serious buyer. Read my chapter for everything you ever wanted to know about how a dealership’s auto finance process works.
It’s also prudent to determine what insurance will cost on the new car. Especially if you have teen drivers in the house, you may find it jumps up (or, less likely, comes down). The worst thing is that your monthly premium payment is more than your actual car payment after buying a vehicle.
You can visit well-known insurance companies online for free, no-obligation rate quotes. The company I recommend is Liberty Mutual. After receiving a quote from this company, you can make a comparison to guarantee you’re receiving the best coverage for your money.
BONUS TIP) Be Ready to Buy a Car
Believe it or not, some people visit dealerships for fun. They like looking at new cars and collecting brochures. The salespeople could do without these “lookers,” so don’t be one.
After researching and taking test drives, you should know what you want to buy and how much you’re willing to pay.
When you show up at the dealership, make it clear that you are eager to buy a car if the price is right.
That gets the salespeople’s attention and helps you get a great deal.
Save a Bundle By Car Shopping at Year’s End
There are fantastic deals on new and used cars during the last few days of December. The prospect of hitting annual targets makes the salespeople a little hungrier than at other times of the year, and they’re often willing to be flexible.
Getting the very best deal may take some flexibility, too. The very best prices will be on the outgoing model-year vehicles, although there may not be a lot of choices. You don’t have to settle for outdated styling and features, though: dealerships are also eager to move the new cars.
Follow my ten end-of-the-year car buying tips, and you could save a bundle. Maybe even enough to pay for all those gifts you bought earlier in the month!
End of the Year Car Buying FAQs
Should you buy a car at the end of the year?
Buying a car at the end of the year is one of the best times to buy a car.
Waiting until the end of the calendar year is even better because dealerships have particular monthly and yearly sales objectives, which means sellers are likely to be more eager to negotiate.
Is it better to buy a car at the beginning or end of the year?
The ideal time to buy a car is generally at the end of the year when dealerships and their salespeople rush to fulfill quotas and may offer significant discounts to move current year inventory.
You should, however, consider holidays and the start of the week.
How much can you save buying a car at the end of the year?
With considerable incentives, you should hunt for a vehicle from the previous model year. According to statistics from Edmunds, December had the most significant discount off MSRP — 6.1 percent on average — and the highest rebates/incentives. Manufacturers and dealerships want to end the year on a high note.
Will car dealers give better deals at the end of the year?
Dealers and manufacturers will typically offer special finance incentives and customer rebates to help close out the year strong.
Be a Smart End-of-the-Year 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 – AutoCheatSheet.com.
I recommend using an online referral service such as Ryde Shopper, Edmunds, or Cars Direct before visiting a car dealership. Their free online price quotes will automatically include any current discounts or cash-back incentives.
Leading up to the last day of the year, learn how to use free online new car price quotes to get an even better price by having dealerships compete online.