August 2013 Looks to Be the Biggest Month Ever for New-Car Sales

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Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg / Getty Images

“It’s a good time to be in the car business,” says one car dealership owner in Wisconsin. This isn’t just part of some sales spiel either.

“People just seem ready to do something,” Wally Sommer, whose family owns Buick-GMC and Subaru dealerships in Mequon, Wisc., explained to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently. What he’s talking about is ending the looky-loo stage, getting off the fence, and actually buying a new car. “We’re seeing it from a lot of different types of customers. It’s a good time to be in the car business.”

Sommer says his GM sales are up 40% over last year, and Subaru sales have increased 20%. His dealerships are hardly the only ones thriving this summer—and this month in particular.

J.D. Power has estimated that based on the pace set in early August, new car sales will hit 1.27 million units by the end of the month—a 12% increase over August 2012, and the highest tally since the onset of the Great Recession. What’s more, because the average price paid for new cars has risen over the years, and “consumers are spending more on new vehicles than in any month on record,” J.D. Power “anticipates that consumer spending on new vehicles in August will be close to $36 billion, which would be the highest level on record.”

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The average price for a new car was $30,500 in 2012, which was then an all-time high. The average jumped to over $31,000 for March 2013, and has remained at over $31,000 through the summer months.

It appears as if August 2013 will get some unusual help in reaching new sales highs due to a “calendar quirk,” as an Automotive News writer put it, which includes five weekends—all of Labor Day weekend included—in the numbers for August.

Month after month of strong sales in 2013 appear to have come as a result of ordinary consumers feeling confident enough in the economy and their financial well-being to take the plunge and buy new vehicles. (It probably also helps the cause that the average car on the road was recently estimated to be 11.4 years old, an all-time high.) According to data rounded up by, new cars have accounted for around 29% of all car sales lately, up from 27.6% last year. Leasing has also been on the rise: About 25% of new cars sold this year have been leased, up from 22% in 2012.

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Sales may not keep soaring as the summer comes to a close, however. The same calendar quirk that’ll help August’s sales total will take away sales from September, which is usually a slower month at dealerships anyway. As the Auto News story notes, “August’s gain will be September’s loss.” But because Labor Day is considered a decent time to buy a car, and because dealerships are especially motivated to boost August sales to new heights, buyers should have a better than average chance of negotiating their way to a solid deal this weekend. A roundup of new-car deals by should get you started.