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
Feb 28, 2019

No-one wants to splash out on an item to find that it's on sale a week later, or to delay their purchase too long and miss a big discount. And when it comes to buying a car, when discounts and incentives can run to several thousands of pounds, 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 to take part in the November promotion). 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 buying 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, better still, as regular as the seasons. Take advantage at the right moment and you could get the deal of your life.

Here’s how to tell the time.

 

Best time to buy a New car / Used car

 

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 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 68. From March, new reg cars will hit the road with the number 19.

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.   

   
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 the arrival of an all-new model to consider. Check the list of cars that are being launched later this year. Many buyers will naturally want to wait for the latest model, while the outgoing car continues to be produced. 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

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.

“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.”

   

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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