6 best times to buy a car

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6 best times to buy a car

Sale signs lie on vehicles at a General Motors Chevrolet dealership in Ferndale, Michigan.
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Everybody knows you shouldn't pay sticker for a new car. You can get a vehicle between 7.5 percent and 8 percent below MSRP, depending on the year and the type of car. If you're looking to maximize those discounts, when is the best time to find the best deal?

Deals vary throughout the year as cold weather keeps buyers at home, car dealers work to clear inventory off their lots in preparation for new models, and sales staff work to maximize their monthly, quarterly, and annual bonus incentives.

To find out when incentives are highest, we checked with TrueCar.com, which monitors millions of sales from thousands of car dealerships all over the country. TrueCar tracks sales incentives by the day, week, and month, and publishes the average discount for each. It also tracks the best times to buy certain types of cars, such as SUVs, pickups, and sedans. This slideshow is based off of TrueCar's analysis of the 2015 vehicle market.

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When those discounts peak is sometimes surprising. The best times are usually not on the big holiday weekends when dealers run the biggest ad campaigns trumpeting their discounts. Presidents' Day weekend and the Fourth of July are particularly bad times to buy a new car, if you want to get a good deal.

Here are six of the best times, in no particular order:

  • Mondays

    Most people buy cars on a weekend. Fewer carve time out of their workdays to trudge down to the dealership to test drive and negotiate, probably anticipating that the process can take hours. But the fewest buyers of all make the trek at the beginning of the workweek, on Mondays.

    Average Monday discounts reach 8.1 percent, according to TrueCar.com, compared to just 7.49 percent the day before and 7.77 percent on Saturdays. On Tuesdays, discounts surge again to an average of 8.05 percent, and fluctuate near that level for the rest of the week. Thursday is the second-best day of the week to buy a car, with average discounts of 8.08 percent off MSRP.

    A salesman (left) assists a customer at the Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco car dealership.
    David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • May

    Even with its Memorial Day sales events, May proved to be one of the best months to get a great deal on a car, according to TrueCar data, especially if you're looking for a family-oriented midsized SUV. That may have more do to with new models for the following year beginning to trickle out in June, and dealers needing to clear out old inventory, rather than big sales blowouts.

    2017 Honda Pilot
    Source: Honda Motors
  • October

    If you're looking for a big pickup, October may represent your best chance for getting a great deal. Discounts averaged about 7 percent. That's nothing to write home about, but the highest of those discounts in October centered on full-size pickup trucks, which tend to linger on sales lots a little longer than other types of cars. Perhaps that's because automakers build so many, or because they build such a variety that it's hard for consumers to find the perfect configuration. Either way, the leftover models begin to sell at big discounts by Halloween. In TrueCar's study, the biggest discounts came on October 30, a Friday, and just in time for end-of-the-month sales incentives.

    A customer looks at a Ford F-150 pickup truck in Brandywine, Maryland.
    Hasan Sarbakhshian | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • November

    If sedans are more your speed than SUVs or pickups, November proved to be the best time to get discounts in TrueCar's sample. Both compact cars and midsized cars saw the steepest discounts in November.

    For the month, discounts squeaked over 7 percent, and they centered on mainstream cars that people need to commute. Perhaps nobody wants to trust their old beater to get them to work through one more winter.

    Source: Toyota Motors
  • December

    Most SUVs see their biggest discounts in December. These include the most popular types of SUVs: midsize SUVs and luxury midsize SUVs.

    December is a logical time to look for discounts on popular models, because automaker and dealer sales incentives converge for the quarter and the year. If a dealership is on the cusp of getting a big annual sales bonus on top of a big quarterly bonus, it's in their interest to move the last several cars before they reach that goal at rock-bottom prices. Popular midsize and luxury midsize SUVs benefit from that trend.

    Getty Images
  • Specifically, New Year's Eve

    New Year's Eve has long been the most likely target to get a great deal on a new car. Monthly, quarterly, and annual sales goals all converge, giving dealerships and their sales people the biggest financial bonuses for selling more vehicles. The more they sell, the more they make, and those bonuses can more than offset any discount they give you on a single car.

    These monthly, quarterly, and annual sales goals can add up to big savings of 8.3 percent off the price of an average new vehicle. Even December 29th and 30th offered huge average discounts of 7.8 and 7.9 percent, respectively.

    Need more evidence? The next biggest discounts of the year came at the end of July (8.1 percent, on July 31st), August (7.9 percent on the 31st), September (7.9 percent on the 30th) and October (8.0 percent on the 30th, and 7.9 percent again on the 31st). Those are the months when automakers change the bulk of their models over from one model-year designation to the next. However, there was one day in 2015 that beat all these dates.

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