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
Sep 20, 2017

There are few things worse than buying a car and then seeing one just like it, on sale for a lower price.

No matter how much you do your research, you can’t rule that situation out, but you can increase your chances of buying a car at just the right time to get the cheapest deal.

The price of cars depends on dozens of different market conditions: car makers offering dealers extra money to clear unsold stocks; bonuses awarded to salespeople if they can hit the next target; or a sudden change in buying behaviour - due to looming diesel charges, for example.

It can all seem quite random and out of your control but actually, a lot of discounting is very carefully planned and, better still, as regular as the seasons – often, quite literally. Understand what drives the thinking behind this kind of discounting, and you’re half way to getting the deal of your life.

Here’s how to tell the time.

The best time to buy a new car

The best time to buy a used car



Our graphic shows when you can expect cheaper prices than normal on a wide range of cars, but there are also circumstances when the vehicle you want will cost even less at a different time. See below for more details   

Search for new and used car deals

The best time to buy a new car

New reg discounts

The most obvious points on the motor trade clock are in March and September. This is when the numbers that appear on every registration plate change. At the moment, plates on all new cars carry 67. From March next year, new reg cars will hit the road with the number 18.

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. For example, in the run-up to March 2016’s registration changes, the VW Golf Match gained a sat nav as standard.

“March and September are very good times to go out and buy a new car,” says Philip Nothard of CAP Black Book, a vehicle data company. “There is pressure on the dealer network to get to the end of the month with a really good [sales] result.”

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.


See the current best deals on new cars

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

Away from the key sales periods, there’s also the arrival of an all-new model to consider. If a car is about to be replaced with a new version, buyers will naturally want to wait for the latest model. But dealers will still be under pressure to sell the older car until it stops being built - the result is that generous discounts are usually available on these older cars, known as run-out models. If you’re not worried about driving the latest car, then 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

There are lots of new cars sold in March and September, which means that there are lots of used cars that are being traded in. Towards the end of these months, they begin to go on sale, increasing the choice for used buyers. This increased competition among sellers usually reduces used car prices.

“Companies running fleets of cars tend to buy brand-new ones in March and September,” says Nothard, “So there’s more used stock to choose from at these times.”

See the best used car deals


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.



Read more about:

Latest car buying advice

  1. Should I buy a diesel car?

  2. How does BuyaCar work?

  3. Buying a car on finance

What our customers say