The best time to buy a car

Give yourself the biggest chance of a discount with our guide to the best time to buy a car

BuyaCar team
Apr 23, 2021

No-one wants buy something at full price only to see that it's been put in a cut-price sale a week later, nor is it much fun to pay full price for something you'd seen reduced a month earlier. When the thing you're buying is a car, discounts and incentives can amount to several thousands of pounds, so you really do want to buy at the right time.

Unfortunately it's not as easy as suggesting that you buy on Black Friday (although some car manufacturers do take part in the November promotion, as do we here at BuyaCar). The price of cars depends on dozens of different market conditions: manufacturers offering dealers extra money to clear unsold stocks; bonuses awarded to salespeople if they can hit the next target; or a sudden change in consumer behaviour - due to looming diesel charges, for example.

It can seem utterly confusing but there are a few simple tips to follow that can increase the likelihood of getting the best discounts. A lot of discounting is very carefully planned and they tend to change as regular as the seasons. Take advantage at the right moment and you could bag yourself a great deal.

As a rule of thumb, you'll get the best discounts on new cars during, and just before, the two months each year when 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.

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 March 2021 carry 21-plates. From September, new reg cars will hit the road with 71-plates.

These are the two months of the year when two-fifths of all cars are sold, so 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, 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 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.

 

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