Like comedy, buying a new car is all about timing. Our handy tips will teach you when the best time to buy is and help you get the best deal on your car.
The key thing about a car purchase is to do it on your terms: you need to have the upper hand in any negotiation with a salesperson, so don’t be in a rush to buy. If you can’t get the deal you want, walk away and try again the next time the market is in your favour. Bide your time and you’ll cash in.
Pick your month carefully…
Knowing the best month to buy your car can help you save a packet. The new registration plates are launched in March and September, so those months are always peak times for new car sales. Manufacturers put pressure on their dealers to sell, sell, sell during those months, so they are more willing to negotiate.
In the months leading up to the plate changes, dealers will offer buyers who place advance orders extras such as 0% finance or free optional features.
April and October can also offer rich pickings to buyers who are happy to pick up a model that is perhaps less in-demand and is languishing in a showroom.
If you’re looking for a used car, April and October are also good months: think of all those trade-ins clogging up dealerships.
… and your quarter
Dealers also have important quarterly targets, so you want to catch them when they’re trying to hit them.
The last weeks of March, June, September and December are a particularly good time to look for a deal. Dealerships are especially quiet in December, as money is being spent on Christmas presents, not new cars.
Choosing the wrong time of year to buy a particular type of car can actually turn out to be right time of year.
Take convertibles. Everyone thinks about buying a soft-top car in spring and early summer, so you’re unlikely to get much of discount on a new model at this time, while used cars will be hundreds of pounds more expensive. Instead, buy in winter: which is when a lot of owners decide to sell, because it seems like a luxury that they don’t use.
The same goes for SUVs and 4x4s. When the snow and ice hit, many buyers suddenly think they need a four-wheel-drive car, so prices start to rise. The middle of summer? Not so much, so there are bargains to be had.
One of the best ways to save money on a new car is to buy a pre-registered car. You can usually spot these on a dealer’s forecourt because they’re marked as ‘new’, but they already have a number plate and are heavily discounted.
‘Pre-reg’ cars are bought by a dealership, who become the registered owner, this helps meet sales targets (they get a bonus for hitting the target, which often offsets the money they lose on a pre-reg car), so the dealership is the registered owner. Once it has had one owner, a car automatically loses value, so you can pick these up at a decent discount – anything from 20% to as much as 70% for a less popular model.
Negotiate hard, though: the car has already done its job for the dealer, they will want to recoup as much of its price as they can. Your advantage is in knowing they’ve written it off at a loss.
There are downsides. You can’t add any extra features; the warranty is already active, so you’ll lose a few months’ cover; there won’t be the same finance deals as a brand new car; and its resale value will be lower when you come to sell it, because it’s had two owners, not one.
Car manufacturers tend to introduce a new generation of a car every seven years or so, and they also tend to revise models after three or four years with minor tweaks to the design, or some new features. Just before these new versions are introduced, the last of the old stock, called run-out models, can often be bought at a discount.
You’ll need to bear in mind that the resale value could fall quickly after the revised/new car is introduced, though. Swings and roundabouts, etc.
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