Ultimate Guide on the Best Time to Buy a New Car

When my car runs out of gas, I buy a new one. I don't want to ride around in a quitter.

Stephen Colbert

Nothing feels more liberating than getting behind the wheel of a new car, but nothing kills that buzz like a too-high monthly car payment or realizing you overpaid. Knowing the best time of the year, month, or even day of the week to buy a car can help you save big.

Knowing when is the best time to buy a car can mean you pay 25% less for a car, according to Consumer Reports. That means a $30,000 car would only run you $22,500 – that's $7,500 less.

That's extra cash that can go towards getting an even sweeter ride, or pay for a cross-country road trip so you can spend some bonding time with your freshly purchased vehicle.

Read this guide to learn:

  • The best – and worst – times for buying a car from a dealership or private seller
  • Methods for planning out your search for even greater savings
  • The most useful tools for researching the perfect price and car for you

Here's a tip right up front that will help you remember when you should shop - Buy on a Monday at the start of the month in December. For the rest of the advice, keep on reading.

So, you want to buy a new car. Let's get you started.

The best time to save big is at the dealership

People borrowed record amounts of money to buy cars in 2016, with Experian reporting record-high average car loans of $30,032 for new vehicles and monthly payments of $503. In that type of environment, standing out from the pack saves you money on buying a car. The best way to do that is as simple as shopping at the times when prices drop.

A reason to love Mondays: cheaper cars

Even though nobody loves the start of the working week, shopping on a Monday can knock some dollars off of the price of a car.

That's the time of the week when prices drop the lowest, according to an analysis from price gurus over at TrueCar.

Hitting a dealership on that day means potentially getting a car for 8.1 percent off of the manufacturer's suggested retail price, or MSRP.

U.S. Light Vehicle Dealership Outlets from 2005-2017

That means if you walk in with a set limit of $25,000 to spend on a car, you could snag one worth $27,000 and still come in slightly under your budget(or only pay $22,975 for a car that costs $25,000 like you originally planned on buying).

Cars cost less on weekdays than weekends

While Mondays are the best days for savings, the report from TrueCar shows you can still get pretty comparable prices throughout the rest of the weekdays. For instance, shopping on a Thursday can net you an 8.08% discount on a car. No, that's not much of a difference from Monday's savings. But it's still a big enough discount that you could potentially buy a $32,000 vehicle on a $30,000 budget.

Here's how the different weekdays break down, savings-wise:

  • Monday: 8.1%
  • Tuesday: 8.05%
  • Wednesday: 8.07%
  • Thursday: 8.08%
  • Friday: 8.06%

Sure, there's not much variation between the different days of the week. Though, when buying something as expensive as a vehicle, pinching every penny pays off in the end.

Shop at the start of a month for better deals

Popular wisdom says going car shopping in the last few days of the month means getting a better deal on a car. After all, since a car dealership's sales team gets rewarded for moving a target number of vehicles per month, they make more deals in the final days if they haven't hit their goal.

In this case, the auto experts over at iSeeCars say this belief is dead wrong. Using data from over 40 million car sales between 2013 and 2015, they found that 8.5% more deals occurred on the first day of the month as opposed to 5.6% on the last day.

While these statistics don't say how much you can save at the start of a month, it does mean that getting a good deal seems more likely at that time.

Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars, explains why you'll probably get a better price on the first of the month:

The best holidays for car shopping

As if you need another reason for celebrating, holidays are some of the best times for buying a car. Dealerships roll out some of their best deals during these times, so make sure you take advantage of these opportunities and save. Some of the best holidays for buying a car include:

tips for when to buy 2

Black Friday: Going car shopping before fully digesting Thanksgiving turkey may not seem like anyone's idea of a good time, but these discounts can make it worth trekking into a dealership.

Car and Driver rounded up some of the best Black Friday deals of 2016, with savings between 7%-20% on many models – some lucky buyers snagged a 2016 Jeep

Cherokee for $31,512, or $7,878 off its usual listed price of $39,390.

Make sure you do your homework beforehand, picking out the make, model and year of whatever vehicle you plan on purchasing, as well as taking it for a test drive. Car dealerships get swamped on Black Friday, so going in prepared about what you want and what you can pay can keep your deals from getting lost in the crowd.

Memorial Day weekend: The summer months present some great auto-buying opportunities, especially Memorial Day weekend. As Financial Samurai tells it, during this time period dealerships try clearing older cars off their lots in advance of the new models coming out in the autumn months. That means car salesmen get motivated to hand out deep discounts.

Christmas through New Year's: As the year closes, so do dealership's books.

That, coupled with dealerships' desire to make their quota on sold cars for the year often makes the winter holidays a festive time for shopping.

These colder months often mean a great time for deals on convertibles, according to the Driving for Dollars columnist over at Bankrate. People typically shop for these open-top cars in the summer. If you hit the dealership when it's cold, the sales team will be more likely to make you a great offer as they're less likely to sell these cars.

There are considerations to take into account when bargain hunting towards the end of the year. For one, most dealers will have moved much of their inventory in the preceding eleven months. Make sure you check online whether a dealership has the specific model you're looking for.

When buying any car during the winter months, make sure you do your due diligence by checking the AC. Many buyers don't think about seeing whether the car's events can blow cold air when it's frosty outside, but if the AC doesn't work in the summer you'll regret skipping this step.

Also, if frigid conditions leave the car covered in snow, brush it all off and check the paint job. There may be scratches or other imperfections you may miss otherwise.

Get big deals by buying during the right time

Whether you're planning on getting a car this week or this year, shopping during the times with the biggest savings can help you get a great car at a great price. That may mean that you end up waiting a few days or a few months before buying the vehicle you've been waiting for. Still, hitting the dealership at the right time can mean potentially saving thousands of dollars.

Keep from overpaying by avoiding the worst times for buying a car at a dealership

Buying a car is expensive enough already. There's no need to spend more than necessary on a pricey purchase. By staying away from the times when prices rise or deals become scarce, you can find your next ride without breaking the bank.

Weekends: the worst time to buy a car

Remember that analysis from TrueCar in part one pointing out that cars cost a bit less on weekdays? Well, that means weekends aren't your friend when it comes to hunting for deals on autos. Cars on Saturday only go for 7.77% off MSRP, while Sundays turn out to be the worst days with savings only usually reaching 7.49%.

Sure, that's less than a 1% difference between Monday's 8.1% usual discount. This variance in the usual savings for each day means you might pay $183 more for a $30,000 car on a Sunday than on a Monday. That means staying away from shopping on weekends could save you the equivalent of a few tanks of gas for your newly purchased car.

Discounts wither in the summer

Car deals don't heat up during the summer months. August usually marks when new models in high demand roll into the dealership, and their popularity among buyers means their prices won't fall for a long time.

AutoTrader provides a great example of why the cost of cars and temperatures usually rise together at this time:

Basically, high demand takes the deals out of dealership when it comes to new cars. If you're dead set on owning the latest model, wait a few months until the original consumer rush dies down and you've got room to negotiate with the salespeople.

Wait enough time until a new car's been reviewed

This tip goes with the one mentioned above – aside from getting a bad price on a recently released new model, you may also leave the dealership with a lemon on your hands. Buying these cars before they've been reviewed and vetted can leave you with a case of buyer's remorse, according to GOBankingRates.

For instance, folks who bought a 2016 Acura ILX expressed the most regret over purchasing that vehicle than drivers of any other car, according to Consumer Reports.

If you're dead set on getting the newest cars on the market, giving these models some time before you buy can let you find out which ones are worth the extra cash.

Don't buy gas guzzlers when gas is cheap, or compact cars when gas prices go up.

That's one of the takeaways in this piece from Edmunds. When gas prices go up, prices for fuel-efficient hybrids or compact cars skyrocket due to increased demand. That's because consumers feel the pinch in their pocketbooks every time they're at the pump, and want vehicles that will burn less fuel. Similarly, when gas goes down, you'll see price hikes on SUVs and other large vehicles since car buyers don't mind the low mileage they get per tank of gas.

Let the wrong time pass you by before buying

Timing matters when you're buying a car. Waiting out these time periods can help you avoid paying too much for a car, or walking away with a vehicle you hate driving. Plan out your purchase carefully and you'll leave the dealership in a sweet ride and with money left in your pocket.

The Leading U.S. Car Dealerships

Pay the least by purchasing a car from a private seller at strategic moments

Buying a car from a private seller instead of a dealership can save you big bucks. The average Joe doesn't pay for reconditioning, advertising, or hiring a salesperson when selling their car – usually passing the savings on to you, according to J.D. Power. If you wait for the best time before buying a car from a private seller, you can get a much lower price than by going through a dealership.

Know why people sell their cars to understand the best time to buy

Deals on cars from private sellers don't follow the same schedule as dealerships. People sell cars based on personal events happening in their life. They may move into a city with better public transportation and no longer need their vehicle or need extra money for purchasing a new house.

The specialists in private car sales over at Instamotors compiled a comprehensive list of why people sell their cars.

Here's a rundown of what motivates folks to put their vehicle on the market, and how you can take advantage and save big.

As kids come in, cars go out

20.3% of sellers get rid of their cars due to the needs of their growing families. That may mean ditching their Dodge Charger for a car with safety features that could better protect a new addition to a family, or swapping out an otherwise sensible sedan for an SUV with more seating. If you're not in the market for a vehicle that can haul kids around, searching out cars sold by new parents can net you a great deal.

When you should shop: The number crunchers par excellence of Statistic Brain found that most babies were born in August. Try looking around that month in search of deals from growing families.

Listing an old vehicle after buying a new one

People listing their cars for sale after buying a new one make up 14.7% of the private seller market. If you're not hunting for the newest models available, these previously owned cars can be found at a nice price.

When you should shop: Remember, the great times to buy a car are holidays like Black Friday, Memorial Day and the end of the year. Folks who purchase their new automobiles then will be looking to move their old ones. Check around a few weeks after these times of dealership discounts and find a good price on a car listed for sale by its owner.

Moving out, and moving on from their ride

13.8% of sellers start taking offers because they plan on moving. Maybe they plan on using public transportation in a new city or just won't have enough garage space for their car. Either way, this presents a great chance for you to relocate their old automobile into your driveway.

When you should shop: My Moving Reviews analyzed industry trends and found that more people move during June, July, and August than any other time.

Look for cars listed by people about to pack up their houses – they'll be motivated to get rid of their cars before getting on the road.

Selling cars out of a need for cash

Sometimes life throws a curveball, and folks need money right at that moment. 11.8% of people put their cars up for sale when they can't afford payments or insurance, want more money in savings, or require cash for large purchases like buying a house. 5.5% of sellers state reasons including a divorce or death in the family make them sell their cars.

When you should shop: This isn't so much a question of when you should shop as much as how you should shop. AutoTempest recommends going online to find these kinds of motivated sellers, and searching Craigslist, Cars.com and other websites for keywords indicating these situations like:

  • Divorce
  • Pay rent
  • Mortgage
  • Must sell
  • Afford

Granted, this tip might leave you feeling like a car-buying vulture, profiting off of someone else's pain. If you make the seller a fair offer though, you can pay them the necessary cash for getting through their sticky situation, and you can get a new car at an affordable price.

Don't end up with a lemon by avoiding the worst times for buying a car from private sellers

Just like the best times for buying a car from a private seller can be unpredictable, so can the worst times. That can add an extra degree of difficulty when shopping for a good deal outside of the dealership. By knowing these times when you're at greater risk of paying more or ending up with a lemon on your hands, you can make sure your car shopping ends in success. Alternatively, you can also make these awful times for buying a car awesome by knowing a few tips and tricks.

Car shopping after a flood can leave you underwater

Suppose a flood hit your neighborhood a month before you start looking for a new vehicle. Searching online, you see cars listed for astonishingly low rates. Unfortunately, these cars may be flood damaged – an almost certain deal breaker in most situations.

As explained by an in-depth article from Autotrader, flooding can damage wiring or make the car's systems seize up. The true harm on the car caused by the rising waters might not rear its head until months after your purchase. Worse than that, buyers who end up accidentally purchasing a flood-damaged car may not have guaranteed legal recourse.

Luckily, taking a few steps can keep you from ending up with a waterlogged lemon on your hands:

Check the title. Cars repaired after flood damage have the word "salvage" on the title, as told by the all-knowing engineering publication Popular Mechanics. While scammers won't list this, honest sellers will.

Give it the sniff test. Give carpeted areas of the vehicle a smell. If your nose detects mildew, that's a big sign of flood damage.

Get dirty. Look at the hard-to-clean areas of a car like a trunk, under the hood, the underside of panels or brackets. If you see mud or other nastiness in these places, this car may have seen a flood.

Call in the experts. When in doubt, let a mechanic check it out. Paying for a mechanic to inspect a suspicious-looking vehicle may cost you a few bucks up front, but can help you afford big expenses down the road.

If you happen upon your dream car and its owner tells you up front the car went through a flood, don't lose hope yet. CarBuyingTips.com offers some great advice on pricing a flooded car by using this formula: Market Value – 25% Flood Deprecation - $2,000 Future Repairs = Right Price.

The site explains its reasoning behind the formula below.

"Suppose a used Lexus you want to buy is worth $15,000 a flooded one should be 25% less, then another $2,000 lower to allow for repairs. That flooded Lexus should sell for $15,000 - $3,750 -$2,000 = $9,250."

In other words, if your mechanic says a flooded car is in decent shape, you would save around 38% on the sticker price of that $15,000 car described in the example above. Even after factoring in the $2,000 in potential repairs for the water-damaged ride, paying $11,250 over time still, comes out to a hefty 25% discount.

Watch out for recalled cars

Sometimes, cars get recalled by the manufacturers when they discover a major flaw that puts drivers at risk, like the tens of millions of cars recalled for dangerous faulty airbag inflators. National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations rules state that owners of recalled cars can take their vehicles into a dealership to get them fixed free of charge within ten years of when the first owner purchased the car.

That means if a private seller bought the car 11 years ago and sells it to you un-repaired, you can't get it fixed for free. Also, car dealerships can't legally sell recalled cars without fixing their issues first, as the Consumer Action Law Group explains.

Private sellers don't face this same requirement and can sell their recalled cars without making these necessary repairs. That means you could end up with a vehicle that stalls out on you or may actually put your life at risk if it's a major safety issue. Luckily, About Autos offers some fantastic tips on how you can check whether a car you're interested in buying is under a recall and whether you should walk away or use this fact to negotiate a lower price.

Run a background check. Use tools like CarFax.com, Safercar.gov and IIHS.org when seeing whether the car you're looking at is facing a recall.

The six-month rule. Car owners who don't take their car in for repairs for more than six months after an issued recall probably aren't the most responsible folks, and that vehicle may face way more problems due to a lack of maintenance. In these situations, you may as well walk away lest you get stuck with a lemon. If it's less than six months, you can probably cut the driver some slack – after all, everyone gets busy sometimes.

Make the recall work for you. Recalls prevent powerful negotiating opportunities. After all, other buyers may be nervous about purchasing a car that's recently recalled, giving you more leverage in the deal. About Autos recommends asking for 5% off the sticker price. That means if you're looking at a $15,000 car, you could get a $750 off.

When buying cars, don't lean on me

It's a classic story: Boy buys a car. The boy takes out a loan and uses his car as collateral – basically personal property the creditor can collect if boy refuses to pay his loan. The boy stops paying the loan, resulting in the creditor putting a lien, or a right to another's property until a debt is repaid, on the title of boy's car. This gives the creditor the right to repossess said car if payments don't come right soon from the boy. The boy sells the car to the unprepared buyer. The car gets repossessed by the lender, leaving the buyer stranded without a vehicle for not checking whether the car had a lien on it. Boy rejoices in having ripped off some unsuspecting sap.

U.S. New Car Sales from 2010-2017

If this sounds like a frightening situation, that's because it can be. Luckily, the auto know-it-alls at Your Mechanic put together a nice breakdown of how liens can affect purchasing a vehicle from a private seller.

In most cases, a lien on the title prevents the owner from transferring ownership of the car, registering or insuring it, or obtaining any further loans on the car. As mentioned above, it also means that liens allow whoever owns the lien on the car can repossess the vehicle. That means if you buy a car with a lien on it through a handshake deal, some repo man might come and snatch your new wheels away.

Here's how you can avoid purchasing a car with a lien, or get the lien discharged if it's a vehicle you can't live without:

Look for the lien

Luckily, most of the time liens are easy to spot and avoid – they're listed right on the car's title after all. Some sellers may try hiding any existing liens on a car in an attempt to dupe you out of your money. That's why you should always ask to see the original title for the car and not settle for a photocopy. Also, use services like CarFax or the free lien search tool offered by your state's DMV.

Have the seller remove the lien

You can go about this one of two ways. If the seller has cash on hand to pay off the lien, don't buy the car until they've paid it off. Alternatively, they can re-finance the lien into a personal loan, or onto a line of credit that doesn't include the vehicle as part of its collateral. That eliminates the chance the car will get repossessed out from under you. If the seller can present a clear title without a lien holder listed on it after these steps, you're in the clear.

Pay off the lien yourself

If you desperately want the vehicle offered by the seller, offer to pay off the lien yourself. Before doing so, make sure you draw up a legally binding agreement saying that once you've paid the creditor whatever the seller owes, the car becomes yours. Otherwise, you might pay off some schmuck's debt for nothing. This can be a great bargaining chip.

Say the seller has a car worth $20,000 with a $15,000 lien on it. You can offer $17,000 for the car - $15,000 for the lien, and $2,000 for the seller. If it's right before when the car is due for repossession, the seller would probably rather get the $2,000 you're offering rather than nothing when the lender takes it away.

If you do buy a car with a lien on it, make sure a mechanic inspects it first. Some buyers won't maintain their vehicle if they think a bank's about to get taken away by their creditors. Always ensure the car is in good working order before making a purchase.

Avoid the worst times to buy a car, or make the best of them

So floods, recalls, and liens can ruin your search for a new car if you're not careful. However, going in prepared lets you turn these situations into great opportunities for snagging a deep discount on a great car. By knowing when you should walk away or purchase a car at the worst of times, you can get a price that makes you feel like it's the best of times.

Find out in five questions if the best time for buying a car might be right now

So now you know all the best times for buying a new car – technically. However, if you're driving around in a jalopy that constantly needs expensive repairs, prevents you from making it into work, or causes other nasty situations, the best time for buying a car might be this very second. That means the best time for you to buy a car is determined by your specific situation, and that means knowing if you just want a new car, or can't afford to wait on replacing your current ride. Find that out by answering the following five questions.

1. Do you have new car envy?

Ever walk through a parking lot towards your car, the one with 50,000 miles on it, and see all those bright and shiny new cars? Ever feel a twinge of jealousy when comparing them with your scratched and dented vehicle?

Consumer Reports has some strong words for you in that case:

Get over it.

The consumer advocate states that most cars built in the past ten years are incredibly reliable, taking you over 200,000 miles as long as they're well maintained. Also, say you did buy a brand new ride – cars lose an average of 46% of their value within three years.

So if you trade in the reliable, safe car worth $20,000 that you've had for the past five years and get a $40,000 vehicle, chances are you'll be feeling the same pangs of envy in under five years without a more valuable car to show for it.

If you can afford to pay for a new car though, wait until Black Friday or another great time for deals before taking care of the old car blues.

Do you look longingly at heated seats, built-in navigation, and other fancy features?

Again, this comes from the great Consumer Reports article. If you want those luxury items that let you switch radio stations using voice commands or keyless ignition, that's still not a reason for breaking the bank getting a new car you can't afford.

However, Consumer Reports does suggest that upgrading your car can get you a taste of the luxury experience without buying a whole new vehicle.

For instance, cars over five years old won't come with stereos that let you jam out to your favorite Pandora station. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars getting a new car, just replace your current stereo with an aftermarket upgrade – the audiophiles at Crutchfield offer many of these for under $100 bucks. Compared with taking out a huge loan getting a whole new car for this feature, taking your sound system or other possible enhancements into your own hands can save you a bundle.

Do car repairs cost more than your car is currently worth?

That's the message Edmunds relays in this informative look into when you should buy a new car. He says, when trips to the auto shop start outweighing the value of your vehicle, it's time to trade up.

Why? Because switching out those payments for parts and labor for a monthly car payment can actually save you money.

As an example, pretend you bought a 2008 Ford Focus from a little old lady who only used the care to get to Sunday church.

It had 45,000 miles on it at the time and was in fair condition. But she didn't maintain it. At all.

Now you're reaching the 60,000-mile mark.

At this point, you know you may need a new timing belt soon. That costs between $350 and $460, as estimated by Tred, the fine purveyor of Seattle autos. Tires also enter the equation, along with brakes. Those additional expenses would probably put you at a grand and a half for repairs, if you're lucky.

Your AC isn't blowing as cold as it used to no matter how much Freon you dump into it, and you worry the compressor could blow any day now.

Fixing that might run you up to $748, as Repair Pal tells it.

This all could add up to approximately $2,250, while Kelley Blue Book estimates your car's trade-in value averages around $2,197.

That's $50 more bucks than your car is worth. Ugh.

If you traded out cars now, you could prevent paying more than the value of your car in repairs. Any other further fixes would put you deeper and deeper into the hole, so you most likely need to get rid of it now and get something more reliable.

Is your car constantly breaking down?

Every car breaks down once in a while. If it's constantly getting hauled into the shop, your car needs to be replaced ASAP. That's something Edmunds highlights in this nice comparison on when you should repair or replace your vehicle. This can cost you big time in the long term.

For example, say you had the awful combination of a constantly dying car, and a jerk boss at a job offering $40,000 a year in salary. Now say your supervisor gets mad and fires you for constantly coming in late to work due to your unreliable vehicle, and you spend three months job hunting before finding a similarly paying gig.

After a while, you save up enough for a down payment on a $20,000 car. However, that car really costs you $30,000 - $20,000 in its initial price, and $10,000 in lost wages for waiting too long before getting a new set of wheels.

Does your car have reliable safety features?

As we mentioned earlier, and as Experian reports, car loans cost $30,032 on average.

Now think about how the Center for Disease Control estimates that the average cost for car crash-related emergency room visits comes out to $57,000 over a person's lifetime.

If you drive a car without the latest safety features that can help prevent a trip to the emergency room, you run the risk of spending $26,968 ($57,000 - $30,032) more than if you had just taken out the average car loan and bought a vehicle with those life-saving capabilities.

Getting life-saving gear on your vehicle comes straight from Consumer Reports.

They recommend getting a new car if your current one doesn't have the following four safety features:

Backup camera. Knowing what's happening around you at all times is a key part of being a safe driver. Backup cameras let you monitor the front and back of the vehicle in a relatively seamless fashion.

Curtain airbags. Regular airbags deploy out of the steering wheel, keeping you safe in a head-on collision. Curtain airbags activate in case you're ever hit from the side, gaining their name from how they pop out from above your side windows sort of like curtains.

Electronic stability control. This uses a computer that can detect when your vehicle goes into a skid, and automatically help you regain control of the car.

Forward-collision warning. This monitors when a collision is in danger of occurring, and either warns the driver or automatically brakes or steers away in certain conditions.

Know when you should buy and when you should wait

If you're just hankering for a new car and can buy it without going broke, you definitely should – just wait until the best times covered in sections one and three before doing so and save your cash. However, if you absolutely need a car right now, make sure you don't put off that purchase. Waiting can cost you way more money over time than if you shelled out the cash as soon as possible.

The real best time to buy a car is when you've planned your purchase

Even if you shop at the best times for buying a car, everything can go awry if you don't properly prepare for your purchase. Not planning on heading into a dealership or meeting with a private seller can leave you spending money you don't have on a car that doesn't meet your needs. By plotting out every step of your purchase, you can save time and money on getting your next car.

Purchase Criteria When Buying A Car

Make a budget

The first step in preparing to buy a car is figuring out how much you can afford to spend. That goes beyond just the sticker price you'll see at the dealership or on websites like Craigslist where private sellers list their cars. You need to factor in maintenance, gas, and other expenses. WiseBread recommends designing a budget along the 20/4/10 rule. That means you plan for:

  • Paying 20% of the total price as a down payment
  • Finance the vehicle for no more than four years
  • Keep total monthly vehicle expenses, such as payments and insurance, under 10% of your gross income

So say you made $60,000 per year. If you wanted a $30,000 car, that means you should put down $6,000 as a down payment, pay off the remaining $24,000 over the next four years, and keep the cost of your payments and insurance below 10% of your gross income at less than $500 per month.

Know the value of your trade-in

This tip comes from the adequately named blog Adequate Man, recommending that you check out how much the car you'll be replacing is worth. Here are some pointers on how much you'll get by selling or trading in your vehicle:

  • Use websites like NADA or Edmunds to get some estimates on how much someone might give you for your car. Remember though, these prices may be higher or lower than the actual value of your car.
  • Custom paint jobs, flashy rims, or other after-market modifications make your car harder to sell. If possible, get your car as close to its original state as possible.
  • Every crash your vehicle ever got in will show up on a CarFax report, so keep track. Whether you get in a minor accident or a major head-on collision, a wreck will knock a few digits off your car's value.

Pick the car that's right for you

Knowing your needs for your future car keeps you from getting roped into buying the wrong vehicle on impulse. After all, you wouldn't want to walk into a dealership looking for an eco-friendly hybrid and walk out with a gas-guzzling SUV all because of some slick-tongued salesperson. Car and Driver offers some excellent advice for deciding on what type of car you should buy, with tips like:

Before deciding on a specific model...Pick out what style of car you want. A number of cars out there can seem overwhelming. Narrowing your choices down to only sedans or convertibles can help your decision seem more manageable pack out what size of car you need. Do you want something small and fuel efficient, or something large enough for hauling around the whole family?Decide whether you need all-wheel drive. Typically only folks who drive in harsh winters will want this, but this comes with tradeoffs such as burning more gas.Be careful when selecting how much horsepower you want. Yes, it's always impressive driving a vehicle capable of going 0-60 in under six seconds. However, most people will never speed down the highway at 100 miles per hour. To quote the Cars and Driver article, spending more money on unnecessary horsepower "is like building a four-story house but leaving the top two floors vacant."

Do your research and shop around

A study out of the Riverside's School of Business Administration at the University of California found that drivers could save $230 on buying a car by doing two things:

  1. Learn how much a dealer pays for a car
  2. Visiting two dealerships

That's some serious cash just for looking around. That same study showed that buyers who bargained and did a price comparison before purchasing a vehicle saved $800. That shows just how far a little research and shopping around go in helping you save.

This tip also goes for financing your vehicle. You probably won't get those 0% interest rates that car dealerships advertise without a credit score over 800.

Having the right budget and research makes it the best time for buying a car

Not spending too much on a car that's right for you may seem like a simple task, but it does take a lot of research. However, make sure you plan out your purchase goes a long way towards walking away from a dealership with a smile on your face. Combining these strategies for savings anytime with the time-sensitive deals like certain weekdays and holidays means you'll be in a great position for buying a vehicle.

Prepare for the best time to buy a car with these useful tools and resources

Getting ready to buy a car can seem like a daunting task. You need to pore over auto reviews, get multiple price quotes, research a specific car's history, and much more. Make that task a little bit easier by using this comprehensive list of tools and resources for plotting out your purchase.

Budgeting tools

Edmunds Affordability Calculator: This helps you decide what vehicle you should buy based on your target monthly payment, loan term, and interest rate. It also factors in the value of your trade-in, and a potential down payment. Plug in these numbers, and

How Much Can You Afford?" from Practical Money Skills: This calculator works similarly to the one from Edmunds. However, it also lets you factor in the sales tax for your specific county, as well as any potential rebates the manufacturer may offer.

Best resources for car reviews

Car and Driver: One of the foremost authorities on cars, this publication traces its humble beginnings as a magazine back to 1955. It features an exhaustive list of reviews for newer cars on the market. If you're interested in finding ratings for a vehicle that came out in the last five years, this should be a helpful stop.

Consumer Reports: While lacking the style of Car and Driver, Consumer Reports features no-nonsense car reviews on almost every make, model, and year imaginable. If you're trying to find out what lemons you should avoid, Consumer Reports should be your go-to destination.

J.D. Power: A mainstay for car rankings and reviews, J.D. Power offers an industry-expert view of the different cars available for purchase. They also feature articles full of helpful advice on most topics related to buying a car.

Shopping for new or used cars

TrueCar: TrueCar certified dealers lists the average price consumers pay for their cars, the price that the manufacturer sold it to the dealer for, as well as its MSRP. That price transparency makes TrueCar a great place for finding your next car.

iSeeCars: Featuring a selection of new and used cars, iSeeCars.com also offers multiple tools for buyers to analyze their potential purchases. For instance, it lets you see how many positive reviews a particular car has received, and with used cars, what particular issues may be going on under that hood that doesn't jump out from looking at a picture on a listing.

Autotrader: Another website with a wide selection of cars and useful tools. For instance, Autotrader's auto comparison tool lets you pick two cars you're interested in, and then highlights the differences between the models.

Researching a specific car

CarFax: If you're shopping for used cars, CarFax lets you plug in the VIN number and find out everything that particular car has gone through. This includes whether it's been in an accident, whether it sustained flood damage at some point and other useful information.

NADA: NADA Guides, or the National Automobile Dealers Association, also provides VIN lookups that provide the history of a specific car. It also offers quotes on cars from dealers in your area and other helpful tools.

Safecar.gov: A government-operated website, Safecar lets you look up every recall out there for vehicles. Make sure you check it before purchasing a used car. You can also find crash ratings for new and used cars, making it a good resource for safety-minded buyers.

When shopping for cars, use every tool at your disposable

There's no such thing as too much information when you're buying a car. By carefully researching your potential purchase using the resources listed above, you can make sure that you're buying the best vehicle for you at the lowest price when the right time rolls around.

A newly purchased vehicle and its accompanying car payment will be with you for years – make sure you're happy with both them. By buying a car that meets your needs when it's the time when prices fall (seriously fall, as in down 20% off MSRP), you can make sure you don't leave a car lot regretting your purchase. All it takes is some planning, research, and a bit of legwork to track down your perfect vehicle at a low cost.

Since you're interested in buying a new car, you may be interested in checking out these helpful articles:

How sweet of a deal did you get on your car? What was the secret? We'd love to know. Tell us in the comments below.