Black Friday: Skip the Mall, Head to the Car Dealership?

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Some analysts say Black Friday will be the best time of the year to buy a car.

Everybody knows that Black Friday (or perhaps Black Thursday, since sales now start on Thanksgiving) has a reputation for terrific deals on electronics, clothing, and other holiday gifts. Is next Friday also the best day of the year to get a bargain on a new car?

The folks at TrueCar.com say that, indeed, Friday, Nov. 25, is the best day of 2011 to buy a new vehicle. Because of a range of deals and incentives being offered, car buyers can expect an average savings of 9.5% off MSRP and upwards of 23% off for certain models for purchases made on Black Friday. The overall average discount off MSRP in 2011 is 6%.

Now, does buying on Black Friday really give car buyers the best chances of landing a bargain? There’s reason for skepticism. With so many variables—the make and model of car, the size of incentives, whether the buyer’s paying cash, financing, or leasing, the ability of the buyer to negotiate, and the willingness of the sales staff to unload cars—it’s difficult for such a blanket claim to hold up under every scenario.

(MORE: Increasingly, Black Friday Is a Day to Stay Home, Not Hit the Mall)

Besides, TrueCar contradicts itself. Around this time last year, the online car-buying service said that Tuesday, November 30, 2010, was the best day of the year to buy a new car. Yet in the recent press release, TrueCar states:

Last year, the best day to buy a vehicle was on July 28th.

So which is it? The truth is that there’s no universal, no-exceptions rule for what day, or even what time of year, is best for scoring the car you want at the lowest price. There are those who claim that Labor Day weekend or the end of the calendar year are top times for bargain hunters. But, among other factors, deals are dependent on the state of the marketplace, and that changes from year to year. Labor Day, for instance, was actually a pretty underwhelming weekend for deals on cars in 2011.

(MORE: Most Car Shoppers Are Waiting for Year-End Sales Before Buying)

The reality is that there’s no guarantee Black Friday has the best prices no matter if we’re talking TVs, toys, or Toyotas.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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