Best, Worst Months to Buy a Used Car

The winter and holiday season are the ideal times to score a great deal

Man's at car using remote control key
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If you're in the market for a used car, plan to make your purchase late in the winter or during the holiday season — specifically in November, December, and January — to secure the best deal, according to iSeeCars.com. The website analyzed 40 million used car sales from 2013 to 2015 to determine the best times of the year to purchase a vehicle.

But, while the car-buying and car-selling website's study is probably the definitive one, there is some disagreement among sources as to when you can expect to get the best deal on a used vehicle.

Read on to learn more about how timing your purchase correctly can save you money.

Slight Debate

As you might expect, expert sources diverge a bit in listing which exact months they think are best to buy a used car. As AutoCheatSheet.com notes:

"September, October, November, and December are the months manufacturers are trying to make room for their new models on dealer lots. They tend to provide consumers and dealers with the most and biggest factory incentives and customer rebates during these months. Of course, the later in the year you can wait, the better.​"

AutoCheatSheet explains that toward the end of the year, dealerships tend to offer greater discounts on used cars, but the website also cautions that "as a car dealer's 'older' inventory starts to thin out, so does your chance of getting the exact vehicle you want." So you might need to make a trade-off between price and selection.

The website says you should also try to come on the last day or two of the month as sales staff is scrambling to meet monthly goals. 

Avoid August

RealCarTips.com comes close to the previously discussed sources, saying that best time to buy a used car is between Thanksgiving and the first week of January.

The website explains: "Used car prices tend to go through a predictable cycle in which they peak during the summer months followed by a downward slope hitting rock bottom around January 10th." 

Used car prices then begin to rise in February and peak in late August. The difference in prices between August and January can be as much as 5 percent. The website looked at statistics compiled Kelly Blue Book and CarGurus.com, which included figures on more than 12 million used cars sold over a two-year period. The price difference was pretty startling: A used car that sold for $18,750 in early January rose by about $1,000 in price by mid-August. 

Spend the Holidays Shopping

While there is some debate as to which specific months are best to buy a used car, most experts agree that the last month of the year and the first are when these vehicles are at their lowest price. "December and January are quiet months for the used car trade," says the Money Advice Service. "Cars aren’t on people’s minds around Christmas and the New Year so dealers and private sellers are keen to make a deal."

So, spend your summers on the beach but take a day or two out of your holiday season to buy a used car if you're in the market for one — waiting until late December or early January to buy could save you hundreds of dollars.