When’s the best time to buy a new car?

Two toy cars in a hand

We spoke to Andrew Hooks, Chief Operating Officer of carwow, to find out when’s the best time to buy a new car.

By Remy Maisel

If you can wait, there’s such a thing as the right time to shop for a new car – or at least a better time to shop for a new car.

1. Annual sales

“The car industry is doing all it can right now to tempt people into new cars, so the sales that are taking place have some genuinely amazing deals and savings of thousands of pounds on popular models,” Andrew says. Look out for sales on bank holiday weekends, Boxing Day, and other times of year that normal high street retailers usually have them. Some car dealers even have Black Friday sales in late November – which are becoming increasingly popular in the UK 1

Buying in December or January can also work to your advantage, as despite being busy for other retailers, they’re often not as busy for car sales 2.  And according to Andrew, “January typically has a lot of deals because the ‘new year, new car’ customer is keen to spend.” 

2. Number plate changes

Annual sales events often come with big fanfare and crowds. But you might want to visit the dealer during their lulls, such as in February and August. It tends to be quieter in these months, as many people are holding out for new number plates in March and September 3.

“Manufacturers and dealerships want to sell their stock before a plate change (which happens in March and September), so there will always be offers in these months,” says Andrew.

However, having old number plates does have a disadvantage – it makes your car seem older than it is, making it depreciate faster. “Buying in these months means your brand new car will be replaced on the road by even newer plate inside a month.”

3. Off-season

Thinking about a nice soft-top on a beautiful summer day? So is everyone else. Same goes for that sensible four-wheel drive in the middle of winter. If you want to buy a convertible, you’ll get a better deal in the winter, when putting the top down is at the back of your mind 4. “Dealerships are like any retail business and don’t like sitting on stock for too long…It’s a simple case of supply and demand, so being patient can definitely pay off if you can resist the urge to buy a soft top during the summer. The savings could be worth waiting a few months for.”

How not to get a deal

Be warned that some of the advice you can find online might not be accurate. For example, it was once true that you could get better deals on Fridays and at the end of the month, as Fridays tended to be quiet and there was pressure to hit monthly sales targets. Although these targets still exist, the sales cycle of dealerships have changed because the way we buy cars has changed – online research means people make up their minds before they leave the house 5.

Before you make any final decisions about what car you’ll buy, it’s always a good idea to calculate the running costs, including how much your car insurance could cost – especially if you’re buying a different type of car than what you currently own.

“Use your phone or computer to do as much research as possible before you set foot in a dealership. And once there, if what is in front of you isn’t 100% right, walk away and have another look.”

A note on car tax

Another thing to consider is that if you buy a second-hand car that had a list price of £40,000 or higher, you’ll get stuck with a higher car tax bill. You’ll pay an additional £325 in car tax for five years from the second time the car is taxed (unless you have a zero-emission vehicle). After the five-year period ends, you pay the standard rate as listed in the table above.

For example, if you bought a petrol car originally worth £75,000 that had a tax rate of £110, you’d pay £110 the first year and then £435 (£110 + £325) for the next five years.

This applies to second-hand cars as well as new cars where discounts have been applied – so be sure you know how much the car you’re buying originally cost or you could get caught out.

Read more about car tax here.

In our full interview with Andrew Hooks, you’ll find out what his dream car is and why he got into his current role as COO of carwow.

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