When is the best time to buy a used car?

August 19, 2022 by

Knowing the right time to buy a used car can be a great way to score a good deal. Read on to find out the best time of year to buy a used car in the UK.

Buying a car is expensive business, and used car prices fluctuate throughout the year, so knowing when is the best time to enter the market could help you get a great deal. Read on to find out how careful timing could help you find the best possible price.

Is there a ‘good’ time and a ‘bad’ time to buy a used car?

There are numerous factors that dictate the prices of used cars, but one consistent theme across all makes, models and body styles is that there are some great deals to be had around the March and September number plate changes.

This relates to the new car market, which sees the next number plate introduced twice a year. For example, in March this year we got the ‘22’ plate, and this will be replaced with the ‘72’ plate in September.

More new car sales go through at these times of year because many buyers hold off their purchase to get the ‘new’ plate. With a lot of these purchases, buyers will part exchange their old model, leaving dealers with a lot of used stock they need to shift.

This tends to lead to some great deals being offered, or dealers more willing to knock some money off.

Do major public holidays make a difference when buying a used car?

When it comes to public holidays, you might notice dealers running promotional campaigns, particularly for their new stock. Again, by selling more new cars at times when many people may have some time off work, they will be bringing in more part exchange models, which can result in some great deals for used buyers.

These campaigns might also run for used cars, such as deals on finance or servicing packages, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for these too.

Does the launch of a new model make a difference when it comes to buying a used car?

The launch of a new generation of a popular model can lead to a big influx of older examples on the used market as buyers upgrade to the latest version. Again, dealers might need to clear stock and be more likely to drop the price of a car to move it on quickly.

The effect of a new model is particularly strong around the number plate change dates in its first year on sale, as these two factors can have a cumulative effect.

It’s not always positive, though. When a new model is introduced it can increase demand for the old one as buyers look for a deal. Similarly, there have been times when a new model is not as well received as the car it replaces, which can also push prices for older models up.

Is there a seasonality for some used models?

There are a few types of car that will see prices fluctuate because of the weather.

For example, if you want a good price on a convertible you will want to buy it in winter. That’s because not many people are dreaming of a cold winter breeze through their hair, so demand is lower. In summer, people flock to drop tops, driving up prices.

Similarly, you might find rugged 4x4s cost a bit less in summer, when roads are typically clear and easy to negotiate. In winter, particularly if the weather is really bad, buyers can turn to more capable vehicles, pushing up the price.

Are there quieter periods in the used car market?

The used car market tends to be slightly quieter in summer, when many people are taking holidays or spending their cash on enjoying the good weather. It’s similarly quiet in the run up to Christmas as people are looking to save cash, or are busy planning and partaking in festivities.

These are the times when dealers are more likely to put on special deals to draw buyers in who might have otherwise waited to make their purchase.

The popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November have also extended to the used car market, with dealers keen to drum up business in the quiet end-of-year period.

Are there other times when dealers are more likely to offer a discount?

Another great way to grab a discount is taking advantage of sales teams’ monthly and quarterly targets, with the latter typically falling at the end of March, June, September and December.

With most people being paid at the end of the month, early the next month is a busy period in car sales, so you’re less likely to be able to haggle for a deal. You also don’t want to leave it too late in the month in case the dealer has hit its targets already.

So the best time to start finalising a deal is just after the middle of the month at the end of a quarter.

Why is the used car market so difficult right now?

Now is a tricky time to get a good deal on a used car. Prices have been rising steadily for more than a year now, driven by reasons related to the pandemic and the current semiconductor chip shortage affecting the new market.

The result of this has been major difficulties in delivering new cars, with huge wait times for some models. This is pushing people to the used market where cars are immediately available, causing big price increases.

This is a double-edged sword for used buyers, because while there’s never been a better time to sell your current car and get a great price, you will be limited by what you can replace it with.

Get your next used car with carwow

If you’re ready to buy a used car, take a look at the extensive stock available from a network of trusted dealers through carwow. The price you see is the price you pay so there’s no uncomfortable haggling.

Want to sell your car, too? Well carwow can also help with that. Simply upload some photos and details of your car and dealers will offer you their best price. Once you’ve picked the best deal, they’ll pay you and collect the car.