When is the best time to buy a car?

Give yourself the best odds of getting the biggest discounts with our guide to the best time to buy a car

By BuyaCar team

With so many special offers and sales, the thought of paying full price for something suddenly becomes rather off-putting. What’s worse is paying full price and then realising that it was on sale recently or is being reduced just weeks later. When you’re buying a car, the discounts and incentives can amount to several thousands of pounds, so buying at the right time makes a huge difference to your bank account.

There are a large number of factors that affect the price of cars both in general and between each dealership/seller. Market conditions such as manufacturers offering dealers extra money to clear unsold stock, bonuses for salespeople meeting targets, changes in consumer behaviour and even supply shortages are just some of the potential reasons for prices to either climb or plummet.

As a rule of thumb, some of the best and most predictable discounts on new cars happen during, and just before, the two months of each year when a new registration plate is launched. For used cars, the golden periods are in the following months. The end of the year is often a good time to make savings too, as dealers are trying to hit their annual targets. Some even sell at a loss to secure a bonus, so it's worth checking prices regularly for any reductions.

There are also circumstances when the vehicle you want will cost even less at a different time. See below for more details, or if you're keen to get started on your car buying journey, our BuyaCar deals of the week page showcases some of the very best deals currently available on our search page, meaning you could get a good deal on a used car today.

The best time to buy a new car

New reg discounts

The most important months in the year for the UK automotive industry are March and September. This is when the latest UK number plates are introduced, a moment in the year that has long been associated with a substantial jump in new car sales. At the moment, all new cars sold since September 2021 carry 71-plates. From March, new reg cars will hit the road with 22-plates.

These are the two months of the year when two-fifths of all cars are sold, and dealers save their best offers for these times, as there are so many orders to be won. These offers tend to start two months before the plate change, because you need to order several weeks in advance to get a brand new car during the first week of the plate change.

Buy during these periods and you’re likely to be offered extras such as free finance deposits, insurance and additional equipment, as well as a generous deposit contribution that reduces your finance payments.

Model updates are often linked to these periods as well, as manufacturers are aware that more sales are to be expected.

End of quarter target discounts

Deals are likely to be less plentiful outside of the new registration period, but dealers still have sales targets to fulfil. You might find that prices are lowered for a short time at the end of each quarter (the last weeks of March, June, September and December) - particularly at the end of the year in December.

Individual car discounts

If you’re flexible about the model that you want, then there are always great deals to be had throughout the year. If you're a more astute follower of car news and new car launches, you're likely to be aware of when to expect the launch of a new model you're interested in. If you’re not quite up to speed on the latest news, check here to see the best new cars expected in 2021.

You can either go all out and pay the higher price for this brand new model, or you can look to the older version that's being replaced and wait for prices on that to plummet.

It's very common for an outgoing car to be slathered in all kinds of discounts and incentives as sellers seek to shift whatever stock they can in the lead up to the arrival of a new car. This is a great way to go if you’re not worried about driving the latest car, and you can make substantial savings.

There are also one-off discounts available if a factory produces more cars than it can sell. You may be able to find discounts of a third or more for a limited time, as a manufacturer tries to shift its excess stock.

The best time to buy a used car

March and September aren't just big months for new car sales: most buyers are also trading in a vehicle, so used car stocks are swelled. Towards the end of these months, most are on sale, increasing the choice for second-hand buyers. This increased competition among sellers usually reduces used car prices.

Less picky buyers might want to wait until April or October when some of the less in-demand cars remain unsold. Sellers will be keen to move these on quickly, so you could benefit from further price reductions.