Tips, Tricks & Trends

Avoid Buying a Car at Christmas

Sometimes, you don’t get to choose when you buy a new car. Maybe you get a new job offer, and your current car isn’t up to the task. Sometimes you get rear-ended at a traffic light and end up with a totaled car. Heck, occasionally, your engine just decides to stop working anymore, and replacing it would be more expensive than buying something different. In situations like that, definitely don’t wait for some arbitrary holiday sale just because it could theoretically save you money.

But as long as you have the luxury of car buying on your own terms, holiday sales can be a great way to get a discount, even on a used car. The frequency of those sales doesn’t mean they’re all the same, though. And while Christmas certainly isn’t the worst time of year to buy a used car, it’s also far from the best.

Comparing holiday used car sales

2021 Audi RS Q8 | Audi

iSeeCars recently published a report that looked at several holidays that are popular for sales and compared the average discount offered on used cars. It found that on Christmas Eve, there were 18.1% more deals than normal. That’s also about the middle of the pack. As a whole, the month of December had 13.0% more deals than normal, making it a better time to buy than average but still not the best.

The report also found that New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day actually had more deals on used cars than Christmas Eve. Expect 20.5% more than normal. Compared to December, January and February also proved to be better months to buy, with 28.7% and 22.1% more deals respectively.

“While the end-of-year holidays are often touted as a great time for savings, the beginning of the year actually provides more opportunity for used car savings,” said executive analyst Karl Brauer in a statement. “This is likely because a glut of trade-ins don’t hit the marketplace until after the holiday season.”

The best holiday used car sale

A blue 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 Stingray races around a desert racetrack
2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 Stingray | Chevrolet

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So if Christmas (or rather, Christmas Eve doesn’t have the most deals on used cars, which one does? That would be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And it isn’t even close. The report found that MLK Day had 39.2% more deals than average. That’s also more than twice the number of Christmas deals you can expect. January’s still a strong month across the board, but MLK Day really stands out in an already solid month.

According to Brauer, “While Martin Luther King Day isn’t typically thought of as a major retail holiday, dealers tend to make a big push to boost sales in early winter by offering bigger deals and this holiday is a great reason for them to pump up their promotions — especially as it is observed on a Monday, which means shoppers have a long holiday weekend to find the car they want to purchase.”

So what’s the worst holiday?

2013 Nissan Versa Note
2013 Nissan Versa Note | Nissan

Doomsday sounds like it would be a pretty bad time to go car shopping, but sadly, that one didn’t make the list. The 4th of July did, though, and it beat out both Father’s Day and Memorial Day to take the spot as the worst holiday for used car deals. According to the report, there are actually 18.6% fewer deals than normal on the 4th of July.

And why is that? “These holidays occur in the late spring and summer months, which prove to be among the worst times to find a deal. This is the typical time of the year when dealers see higher demand as weather gets nicer, and there is less of a need to drive sales through lower pricing,” said Brauer.