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While we don't believe in timing the stock market, timing your big purchases in life can save you hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. That's especially true if you're in the market to buy a new car. If you're patient, you can score a great deal on a new car.
Buy at the end of the year
Every dealer has annual quotas and there are bonuses for salespeople who meet certain annual figures. Take advantage of this. If you can wait, buy your new car in the last two weeks of December, when dealers are dying to beat their quotas. Annual sales bonuses are sometimes incentive enough for dealers to knock off up to $3,000 from the price.
Dealers have the added incentive of clearing last year's models to make way for the new year models. If you don't need the latest and greatest, you can find a great deal on a car that's only a few months old. Unless there's a major redesign on the model you want, the small difference between this year's and last year's model isn't as significant as the price difference.
If you can't wait until the end of the year
Some buyers can't wait until the end of the year. Don't worry. There are opportune buying times year-round.
End of the quarter/month: Just like at the end of the year, dealers get bonuses for reaching sales quotas each month and quarter. If you can find a dealer who's just short of his goal, you're bound to get a good deal if you negotiate. Start searching in the last week of the month.
End of the model year: As I mentioned previously, dealers want to clear lot space for the new model year. New cars usually start shipping around late summer or early fall, but some models start their new year as early as spring. Do your research and find out when the new model is released.
When no one else is shopping: You want to avoid going to dealers when they've got lots of buyers. Try not to go in the spring when the weather is starting to warm up and people just received their tax refunds. Avoid the weekends, too. Figure out what you want before, and go to the dealer on a rainy or snowy day. These days are typically slow for car dealers, and they'll be more willing to work with you on price.
Don't buy before you know what you want
Knowing exactly what you want, and more importantly what you won't pay extra for, will help you when you're sitting down to negotiate price with the salesman. If you saw a model on the lot that has everything you need and nothing you don't, ask about it. If it's unavailable, ask if there's a similar model on the lot.
Don't pay extra for something you don't want. If they don't have a model that fits your bill, ask the salesperson if he can special order it for you. Be sure to ask how long it will take before you can see it. Chances are the salesperson will throw in the extras you don't want for free just to make the sale that day.
Hit the road
The best time to buy a new car is when the dealer is willing to negotiate and you've got more leverage. But you have to be a good negotiator. Don't be afraid to hit the road without a new car if the salesperson isn't giving you the price you want. There are other dealers in town, and be sure to remind him of that fact. If you can get two dealers bidding against one another, they'll negotiate for you.
There's always a car buyers' market around the corner. Use that to your advantage to save thousands of dollars.