Should You Buy a Car Around Presidents Day?

–GLOBE

Plenty of local car dealers will say Presidents Day auto offers are the best, but is the holiday weekend actually a good time to buy?

Howie Reske, general manager of Herb Chambers Toyota in Boston, said Presidents Day “kicks off’’ his team’s selling season: the dealership has new inventory, customer incentives, and extended hours.

“It’s become a New England tradition,’’ Reske said, recalling the heyday of Boston’s “Automobile Row,’’ when a line of over 100 auto dealerships stretched across Commonwealth Avenue in the early and mid 20th century.

Ray Zhou, senior analyst for car shopping website Edmunds.com, said the Presidents Day sales techniques work.

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“Typically, there is around 25 percent lift during Presidents Day weekend [Saturday to Monday], when compared to the sales of a typical mid-of-month weekend,’’ Zhou said.

But Jon Paul from AAA said that despite the Presidents Day festoonery, “anytime is a good time to buy a car.’’

In fact, going into a car dealership on a non-holiday when it’s a little quieter than usual might just be the best option for a customer to get a top deal.

“When they’re slow, it’s a good time to go and negotiate,’’ Paul said. “When everybody’s going, it’s not a good time to negotiate.’’

Paul said that car dealerships market holiday sales when business is “sorta slow’’ to generate interest and advertising. In winter, cold temperatures and bad weather can hurt sales, so holiday sales become even more attractive to dealerships.

What’s best for the dealership isn’t always what’s best for the customer. According to Cars.com, customer incentives are “easy’’ to understand. The deals may involve cash-back rebates or low-interest financing offers. Dealer incentives don’t work in the same way, but they can sometimes lower a car’s negotiated purchase price.

Dealer incentives are factory-to-dealer incentives that “reduce the dealer’s true cost to buy the vehicle from the factory.’’ Manufacturers offer these incentives on a regional basis to generate sales on specific models. Paul suggests consumers go online and find current incentive tables and the national or regional incentives available to dealers so that they are empowered come negotiation time.

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“The dealership can’t offer straight incentive, but they might be more willing to cut into their profit a little bit through negotiations with the consumer,’’ Paul said.

The dealership pays the same amount of money for a car year round, Paul explained. When it comes to holiday sales, “It depends on how much they want to sell cars and support their business,’’ he said. “It’s really all about moving inventory off show room floor and keeping you from going somewhere else.’’

Jeff Ostroff, editor-in-chief of CarBuyingTips.com, said he wouldn’t advise customers to buy into the holiday sales hype, either.

“A lot of [manufacturers] like to advertise Presidents Day this, Fourth of July that, but I’ve always been skeptical,’’ Ostroff said. “They have a product to sell, they need to make money.’’

Ostroff added that he doesn’t think there is much of a price difference on Presidents Day compared to other days. “They may show you a ridiculously low price, but it might be the only one at the lot at that price,’’ Ostroff said. “And that car might not be there when you get there.’’

If customers really have their hearts set on finding a deal, Ostroff said the end of December is usually the largest car sales time of the year because dealerships are trying to unload their 2014 inventories.

According to Zhou, Presidents Day is the only ‘big’ shopping holiday from late December to Memorial Day, so the auto industry likes to capitalize on it — especially after competing with all other retail industries for consumer attention and dollars around Christmas.

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Dealers advertise very heavily in anticipation of Presidents Day because the holiday gives them a seasonal ‘hook’ that car shoppers have come to expect, Zhou said.

“The additional advertising and the hint of deals has proven successful in motivating car shoppers,’’ Zhous said. “And so the tradition continues.’’ Whether consumers buy into the Presidents Day hype or not, car dealerships will likely be gunning for them to come in and take a look around – whether its with promises of low interest rates and rebates, or maybe just with one of those inflatable dancing man balloons.

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