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Motoring: When is the best time of year to buy a car?

The cost of a car is rarely final, and there are bargains to be had if you’re prepared to negotiate or wait for a deal. But when is the best time to shop for your next car?

By Phill Tromans

OK, you want to buy your next car. But when’s the best time to buy? Dealers are often open to negotiation when it comes to price, but they can be more open to a bargain at particular times.

At certain times of the year, dealers can find themselves with a lot of used cars they want to shift. This is usually in September and March, just after the new number plate formats are introduced, which is when lots of people tend to part exchange their old cars for new ones.

In the run up to the plate changes – in August and February – dealers often also clear out old stock in expectation of a forthcoming flood of cars. With limited space on the forecourt, they’ll often take a lower price to clear some real estate.

However, it can often pay to shop during the quieter periods, too, as dealers will be keen to take some money to hit their target. August and February is again a good time for this, as many people will be delaying their purchase to get a car with a new plate. As another example, not that many people are focused on buying new cars at Christmas, so trying to do a deal in December or January can be a smart move.

With most dealers trying to meet or beat targets, try to shop when they’re near the end of a period. Try a Friday (when they’re likely to be quiet, anyway), towards the end of a month, or near the end of a quarter.

Certain times of year favour certain types of car. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first signs of spring will add hundreds to the asking price of convertibles, so look to buy one in the winter. Likewise, trying to buy a 4x4 in the summer makes sense, as demand (and, perhaps more importantly, price) is at its highest in the winter.

It’s worth keeping an eye on the motoring press – such as the Autotrader website – and looking for news of forthcoming new models or updates for the new year. The arrival of a new style of car will often mean the outgoing model is available at a discounted rate.

There are certain times of the year where dealers will have proper sale events, with big discounts. These can include bank holidays, Boxing Day and, increasingly, the US-derived Black Friday sale at the end of November.

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