When Should I Buy a Car…in December or in January?

Photo: John Goldsmith

A lot of our readers have been wondering:  is it better to buy a car in December or January? Well, the answer is:  it depends. Depends on what, you ask? It depends on the weather, inventory levels, manufacturer incentives, and more.


The most important variable between buying in December or January is weather and, along with that, your location. During those months, sales are slow because of the holidays, but they are even slower in areas where is snows heavily. The more snow, the slower sales are, and slower sales mean better deals. If it doesn’t snow in your area, the weather will not affect the price of cars nearly as much. Cold weather tends to affect the price of convertibles and sports cars more than any other type of vehicle.


Inventory levels dictate quite a bit since cars sales is a supply and demand business. If the dealership has dozens of cars that have been on the lot for more than 30 days, the sales staff is going to deal vigorously. If people are walking the lot daily and money is flowing, dealerships are going to stick really close the the sticker price on every vehicle. Having said that, December is the month when most dealerships are facing the valuation of their inventory for tax purposes. Lowering their inventory to avoid excessive taxes can often help you get a better deal.

Current Incentives

Another item to consider is what manufacturer incentives are being offered in your area. This only applies to new car sales; however, you can frequently find vehicles from the previous model year that have never been sold. These vehicles will carry several layers of manufacturer and dealership incentives. Some of these vehicles may have been sitting on a lot for several months, spurring dealerships to find you even more savings.

Buying from a Private Party

Even if you are looking for a used car and/or looking to buy from a private seller the same rules should apply. Few people want to venture out in the cold to buy a car. The few that do only look for cars that they will be able to drive immediately. That means that drop-tops and muscle cars will sell slower, no matter who you are buying from. After taking the long way around, you can see that the answer to when the best time to buy a car is actually a combination of factors and truly depends on what is going on in your area at the time.