The best time of the year (and month) to buy a used car

A new study from Woburn-based iSeeCars reveals the best holidays, months, and days of the week to shop for a used car.
A new study from Woburn-based iSeeCars reveals the best holidays, months, and days of the week to shop for a used car. –REUTERS

It turns out shopping for a used car is a lot like comedy. It pays to have a sense of timing.

A new study from Woburn-based used car search company iSeeCars indicates there are certain holidays when consumers will be more likely to find a deal on a used vehicle.

The company analyzed 40 million used car sales from 2013 to 2015 to determine which times of the year – including holidays, months, and even days of the week – consumers are most likely to find significant deals.

iSeeCars defines a deal as savings of 5 percent or greater off the usual price of the car.

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“It’s always nice to save money, and when you are buying something as expensive as a car, saving even five percent of your purchase, or $952 off the average price of $19,040, can really add up,’’ said Phong Ly, iSeeCars.com CEO in a statement. “But it’s hard to get the savings if you can’t find the car you want, so we assessed which times of the year had the greatest number of deals.’’

Holidays

iSeeCars found consumers are more likely to land deals on certain federal and retail holidays, especially towards the end of the calendar year. According to the company’s study, the following are the best holidays to buy a used car. The percentages indicate how much more likely consumers are to find a deal, of any size, than on the average day, not how much they are likely to save on the list price.

Best holidays:

Black Friday: 33.1% more deals than average

Veterans Day: 32.5% more deals than average

Thanksgiving Day: 30.6% more deals than average

Columbus Day: 30.5% more deals than average

Martin Luther King Day: 29.4% more deals than average

Christmas Eve: 28.7% more deals than average

Christmas Day: 21.4% more deals than average

New Year’s Eve: 21.3% more deals than average

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Halloween: 18.8% more deals than average

New Year’s Day: 15.8% more deals than average

Some of these holidays, like Veterans Day, Columbus Day and MLK Day aren’t considered major shopping days, but they fall in months when dealers are offering more deals.

Plus, Columbus Day and MLK Day are always on Mondays, which offer shoppers a long weekend to find a car.

Meanwhile the worst holidays far car shopping are:

4th of July: 28% fewer deals than average

Mother’s Day: 27.5% fewer deals than average

Easter: 22.2% fewer deals than average

Good Friday: 21.6% fewer deals than average

Memorial Day: 18.3% fewer deals than average

Father’s Day: 18.3% fewer deals than average

Ly says deals dry up during spring and summer months because dealerships see a greater volume of shoppers when the weather gets warmer. As a result there is less incentive to offer savings.

Months

With the top three holidays to buy a new car falling in November, December and January, these fall and winter calendar months are the best times to find a used car deal.

“Between year-end promotions and dealers scrambling to take advantage of the last few months of the year to meet their sales quotas…the conventional wisdom of shopping for a car at the end of the year holds true, though there are some holidays that are better times,’’ said Ly.

Here are the best months to buy a used car:

November: 26.9% more deals than average

December: 23.5% more deals than average

January: 16.4% more deals than average

October: 12.8% more deals than average

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February: 6% more deals than average

September: 3.8% more deals than average

But fewer deals are available during the five-month period between April and August.

April: 27% fewer deals than average

May: 26% fewer deals than average

June: 23.6% fewer deals than average

July: 11.5% fewer deals than average

August: 10.2% fewer deals than average

March: 9.2% fewer deals than averages

Days

Ly says consumers are more likely to find a deal on a used car at the start of the month because of how many dealerships structure their sales periods. Because a dealership’s sales month typically ends earlier in a calendar month, that’s when they are more motivated to move cars and offer a deal to consumers.

Because of this scheduling, iSeeCars found the first day of the calendar month is the best day for a deal while the fifth day, when the new sales cycle begins, is the worst.

iSeeCars also found weekdays (Monday through Thursday) are typically better days to find discounts than weekend days (Friday through Sunday).

But weekdays are only slightly better than weekends for car shopping according to the study. iSeeCars found consumers can find 1.2 percent more deals on average on weekdays, while weekends offer 1.6 percent fewer deals.

Ly says he expects consumers will have plenty of chances to save on used car deals.

“With over three million cars expected to come off-lease this year, the used car inventory will grow, making it ripe for dealers anxious to move the cars off their lots,’’ said Ly.

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