Best Times to Get a Car Loan

If you know the best time to buy a car, you also know the best time for attractive financing. Those times may include:

In a Down Market

When car sales are down overall, as they are currently, one would expect generous finance and cash-back offers. Though the perception is that there isn't much credit available, many automakers have continued to offer financing, and their attractive rates — including zero percent — have come back, too.

When a Type of Car or a Model is Out of Favor

The entire market needn't be down; spikes in gas prices and changes in seasons can make particular types of cars unpopular. When gas prices soared in 2008, you couldn't give away SUVs and pickups, which led to bloated inventory of those, which in turn led to excellent deals and incentives. Hybrids went the other way, with the Prius selling for much more than its sticker price. Likewise, most people aren't thinking about convertibles in winter. Dealers in the Snow Belt tend to not stock many when fall comes, but there may still be deals on the ones you can find.

At the End of the Model Year
The end of the model year can be a good time to get a bargain on an outgoing model.

The end of the model year can be a good time to get a bargain on an outgoing model.

In decades past, new cars came out at roughly the same time of year (typically the fall), which made things simpler. When dealerships are clearing their lots of the previous year's models, it's usually a good time to get a bargain, though your choices will be limited to what's on the lot. Nowadays, most cars begin to change model years around September or October, but all-new and completely redesigned models can come any time of year. That is all the more reason to educate yourself on products before shopping, to know when a redesign might happen. You might be able to grab a deal on the outgoing model.

When Incentives Are Offered

Cars.com publishes consumer and dealer incentives so you know when special deals are available for the model you want. Though salespeople don't need to pass dealer incentives on to consumers, knowing that they're available can help you negotiate a lower price.

At the End of the Month

Unlike dealer "sales," manufacturer incentives truly end when they end, which is almost always at the end of the month. Salespeople are inspired to offer you a price that benefits both of you before the deal ends: Sales managers foster competition among the sales force, and bonuses, or "spiffs," are tied to a salesperson's sales numbers. A few hundred bucks' discount for you could represent a sale and a higher spiff for the salesperson — a win-win situation.

During the Holiday Season

December isn't a good month for car sales, as consumers' money and thoughts are on smaller gifts and responsibilities. But dealers still want to sell, so if you can break away from the holiday cheer, you might find the right price on a gift for yourself.

During Foul Weather

Car shopping isn't fun when it's rainy, snowy or otherwise uncomfortable, and it might not be the best time to take a test drive. If you've already educated yourself on a car or tested it under better circumstances, it's the same story as always: Salespeople want to sell, and if there are few walk-ins, they might be more motivated to cut you a deal. Things like incentives are far more important, but if you know you want to buy a car within, say, the next week, don't let a little rain hold you back.

When a Particular Car Has Gone Stale

If you've been eyeing a new car that's been sitting on a lot for more than a couple of months, a dealer might be more willing to unload it, as fresh inventory is important. Also, some automakers traditionally cover new arrivals' finance costs for the first month or two (dealers buy the cars on their lots before reselling them to the consumer, but they don't pay cash). After the initial period ends, the car starts costing the dealer money just sitting there, as it would if you bought it.

Once You're Well-Informed

The costs of the car, the insurance and the financing are all interconnected, so the only way to get the best car, coverage, rate and deal is to inform yourself on all aspects before you enter the dealership. Everything you need is at your fingertips here at Cars.com.

© Cars.com 7/12/10
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