Over the last decade, Black Friday weekend became a bona-fide sales event in the car business. In 2015, for example, it accounted for more than 18 percent of all car deals made that month.
But Black Friday isn’t the sales juggernaut it once was.
Just as other retailers now push “Early Black Friday” sales right after Halloween and online brands hype their Cyber Monday specials, carmakers have morphed Black Friday into Black November — and beyond. In 2017, Black Friday weekend represented less than 14 percent of the month’s sales. Edmunds analysts expect this downward trend to continue this year.
For car shoppers, the trend translates to greater flexibility and less stress. Here’s what you need to know about getting a great deal.
THE LEFTOVER EFFECT
The sales season is extending partly because carmakers are more willing to let outgoing models linger at dealership lots.
The trend showed up in earnest early this year. In March 2018, roughly 28 percent of new vehicles sold were brand-new 2017 models. Compare that with the previous five years, where leftover inventory made up just 12 percent of March sales on average.
Edmunds analysts predict that at least 20 percent of new vehicles for sale early next year will be 2018 models. Based on inventory levels of new 2018 models currently on dealer lots, expect to see a good supply of new 2018 midsize sedans, midsize SUVs and compact SUVs as late as March 2019, along with specials to move them out.
If you’re a bargain hunter, that’s good news. Instead of having to shop on just one weekend, you have more time to snag a great deal.
SHOULD I BUY NOW?
Start price-shopping immediately if you know the make and model you want. Once you’ve got a good feel for how much the car will cost now, you may want to pull the trigger if you fall into any of these categories:
— You’re planning to lease your next vehicle: Because of the way leases are calculated, waiting isn’t likely to help you.
— Your local dealership is running an aggressive promotion: It’s possible that a dealership selling the brand you’re after might have a unique sales goal to hit. It could offer Black Friday incentives to get you to buy now. Free iPads, televisions or in-house zero percent interest loans are some of the perks dealerships have used to entice shoppers in years past.
— You’re looking for something specific: The longer you wait, the less selection you’ll have. While prices on 2018 models may continue their slide through the first quarter of 2019, a low price on the wrong vehicle is a bad compromise.
— The vehicle you’re eyeing has a special low-interest rate offer: Interest rates are rising, and that trend is expected to continue. If you’ve found an attractive price on the right car, and the interest rate is a good one (given the times), you might want to make a deal. If you wait for a lower selling price but get saddled with a higher interest rate, you haven’t done yourself any favors.
SHOULD I WAIT?
You may want to consider holding off on your purchase if you fall into any of these categories:
— You plan to purchase with cash: As cars languish on dealer lots, chances are that good prices will go even lower. If you’re paying cash and aren’t concerned with rising interest rates, waiting may save you money.
— Your vehicle needs are flexible: Most of the hot products are going to be sold first. If you don’t mind selecting from what’s left in exchange for a lower selling price, it may make sense to wait.
— Your credit is iffy: Maybe you can’t get a low interest rate now because of your credit profile, but you still want to get a heavily discounted clearance vehicle. Use this time to improve your credit standing so you’ll be able to take advantage of clearance pricing and a low interest rate in early 2019.
EDMUNDS SAYS: Black Friday is still an excellent time to buy a car. But unlike the doorbuster deals at your local big-box retailer, the Black Friday specials at a car dealership are likely to be around well after the holiday weekend.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Matt Jones is a senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds. Twitter: @supermattjones.