Are the Holidays Really the Best Time to Buy a Car?

Although car dealerships often advertise their lowest rates of the year during the holiday season, these deals may not be worth the rush.

Cars parked at car dealership at christmasAdobe Stock

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You've probably seen or heard advertisements boasting once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to save on car purchases during year-end holiday events. But not all of these offers truly live up to the hype.

Although car manufacturers may promote holiday deals as their best annual offers, there are many other year-round incentives that could be equally enticing — or even more favorable. Rather than feeling pressured to take advantage of these end-of-year deals, you might want to consider whether or not special holiday pricing will actually get you a better offer on the vehicle you've been eyeing.

Buying a Car Around the Holidays May Not Be Worth It

Between TV commercials featuring shiny cars with big red bows on Christmas morning and radio spots listing off Black Friday doorbusters, the allure and abundance of holiday car ads may make the end of the year seem like the best time to buy a new car. However, while these promotions can be tempting, they often benefit dealerships (which are trying to boost yearly sales numbers and clear out old inventory) more than they benefit buyers.

The reality is that many manufacturers run deals year-round, from summer sales events to rotating offers. If you're already looking for a vehicle, you could benefit from a holiday-season incentive, but rushing to take advantage of a discount may not be the best way to make a significant financial decision.

For example, during the 2022 holiday season, Chevrolet offered a 1.9% APR deal on the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, plus an additional $500 bonus cash. Then, during the "truck season" offer in September 2023, that deal became 0% APR and $750 bonus cash for the same truck a model year newer.

Some manufacturers' holiday deals are essentially the same as their year-round deals — they just get a seasonal marketing push. Last holiday season, Kia advertised a 2.9% APR financing offer for the 2022 Kia Soul and Forte models. That offer was still available as of this article's publication for the 2023 versions of the same models, with no special holiday incentive.

Select End-of-Year Deals Could Offer Some Benefits

Not all holiday deals are truly worthwhile, but there could be some opportunities for you to save, depending on your vehicle and manufacturer of choice. For example, last year Honda offered 1.9% APR financing for 48 months on the 2022 Pilot during the winter holidays. As of this article's publication, the 2023 Pilot is offered at a much higher 3.9% for the same lending period.

Toyota also offered holiday promotional APR as low as 3.49% for the 2022 Camry and Corolla models. Meanwhile, the same 2023 models are only incentivized at 3.99%, as of this article's publication. While this might not seem like a significant difference, a 0.5% lower rate could mean saving hundreds of dollars over the course of your auto loan.

When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

While year-end holiday sales could help you save money on a car purchase, December isn't the only time to potentially snag a deal. Dealerships may also offer promotions throughout the year during three-day weekends such as Presidents Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day.

If you have a particular vehicle in mind, the time to buy might be at the end of the model year, since the previous year's models often become discounted as new models arrive.

The showroom might even be less crowded if you stop by early in the week instead of on the weekend. This means salespeople could have more time to negotiate a better deal with you.

Regardless of when you decide to buy a car, it's important to research and evaluate whether or not a deal aligns with your current needs. Finding the perfect moment to buy your next vehicle will ultimately hinge on factors including your personal budget, financial circumstances, and vehicle preferences.

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Elliot Rieth
Elliot Rieth is a writer who was born and raised in Michigan, the center of the American automotive industry. With a background in the industry that spans from sales to digital marketing, Elliot has years of experience working directly with dealers and OEMs to create digital content and educate potential customers. When Elliot isn’t writing about horsepower or EVs, he can be found with his two greyhounds enjoying a new book or record.