The Best Time To Buy a New Car

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Buying a car

When is the best time to buy a new car? Getting a straight answer can be trickier than you think. The market for cars is—like the market for every other commodity—not an exact science. Knowing when to buy depends on who you ask. Here’s a breakdown from experts in the field:

Buy now

According to a recent New York Times article, some experts believe that the supply shortage caused by Japan’s March 11 earthquake makes now an ideal time to buy a car. “I cannot imagine a scenario where there will be more cars to choose from or lower prices months from now than what we have now,” said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive of Edmunds.com. “If the supply of cars is disrupted, dealer pricing would firm up, incentives would go down, and you will have more limited options, such as not being able to get the color you want.”

Buy later

The recent supply shortage from Japan has others advising against a car purchase. Juan Flores, director of vehicle valuation for Kelley Blue Book, believes prospective buyers should wait for gas prices to come down and the fallout from Japan to stabilize (Toyota’s goal is to resume full production in November, while Honda has said that production won’t be back to normal levels until the end of 2011). The reasoning: fewer cars to sell and high consumer demand for fuel-efficient cars will force car companies to use higher prices to manage their inventories.

Buy this fall

Flores believes that Labor Day is traditionally the best time to buy a new car, since this is the time when manufacturers are likely to offer generous incentives on 2011 models to clear out lot space for the next model year. U.S. News & World Report Rankings & Reviews agrees that it’s smarter to wait until the fall to buy. If waiting isn’t an option, look for no-interest financing and limited cash-back offers. You might also snag a better deal by staying flexible about the kind of car you want. For example, while fuel-efficient cars may be in short supply, large trucks and SUVs are being offered with cash-back incentives (keep in mind, though, that you’ll pay more at the pump). Another strategy is to buy the car no one else wants while its inventory is piling up. “The way to get ahead is to do the unpopular thing,” says Steven Lang, who runs a dealership and an auto auction in the Atlanta area and writes for TheTruthAboutCars.com.

Buy at the end of the month

“There’s some truth to the idea that new-car dealers may make better deals at the end of the month,” says Phil Reed of Edmunds.com. “But people shouldn’t think that a little tip like that alone will get them a great deal.” Most car dealerships operate on a quota system, where they receive an incremental bonus for hitting their monthly numbers. If a dealer is coming up short at the end of the month, he may be more motivated to knock down the price of a car.

So let’s review: With all the difference of opinion, the smartest advice is to buy a new car only when you really need it—and only after you’ve done your homework. Stay on top of the market, look for big money incentives on manufacturers’ websites and consider less popular vehicles at bargain prices. The more you know, the sooner you’ll be able to enjoy that new car smell as you drive your newly purchased car off the lot.

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Brendan

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