So Labor Day Is the Best Time of Year for Buying a New Car? I’m Skeptical

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The NY Times’ Bucks blog quotes a Kelley Blue Book expert saying, “If you just isolated this calendar year, Labor Day is the best time to buy.” Why don’t I believe this?

Because there are several “best” times of year to buy cars. In the same post this same source basically says that the end of any month is probably as good a time as any to get a deal on a car. Depending on the year, the current promotions, and the combo of desperation of an individual dealership and negotiating skills of an individual consumer, there’s an argument to be made that October is the best month to buy a new car, or, alternately, that December is the best month to buy (in all cases, always toward the end of the month, when dealers are trying to hit sales targets).

So which best time of year is the best-best?

Unfortunately, there are too many factors in play to really nail it down. Normally, I’d say the best time to make such a purchase is when it’s a necessity, but if you wait until you really need a car, you’ll be less likely to haggle and, if need be, walk away because you’ll feel more pressure to just close the deal and get your wheels. So I’d say that the smartest strategy is to shop for a car a) when you know you’ll need one in the near future; and b) on one of the big, incentive-filled holiday weekends or at the end of the month in fall or early winter—and only when you’re in the position and frame of mind to get what you’re after, at the price you’re after.

Mind you all of these “best” times of year concern new cars. If you’re out to get the most for your money, a good used car is the BEST value, when you consider resale value and the immediate depreciation that occurs after you drive a new car off the lot.

An writer, in fact, says there is a sweet spot for buying a (nearly) new car. The idea is to buy the vehicle one or two years old (so that the original owner, not you, takes a hit with the original depreciation), the drive the car for a few years and resell it—before serious maintenance issues become a problem, and at a price not much less than what you paid for it.

If you can work this system well, and if—here’s a big if—you’re capable of selling and buying directly (rather than allowing a middleman car dealer to take a cut of each transaction), you’re essentially able to drive a car for a few years for next to nothing.

Why Does Buying a New Car Still Have to Be So Painful?