Motoring advice: Save money – buy a car at the right time of year

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Which is the best time of year to buy a car? It all depends, says Motoring Editor Sean McGreevy in his latest podcast.

1.

Just before or just after the registrations change on 1 March and 1 September. If the dealer has to shift a certain number of cars over a month, quarter, etc., then they may need to sell just a couple more to get an extra bonus. Go into the dealer during the second half of February and the second half of August and have a look at what might be available. Or wait until just after the registration has changed. The dealers will have been extremely busy but then it will go really quiet and they will be keen for your business.

2.

Look out for manufacturers' campaigns: they are normally quarterly but sometimes run for longer. Again, a good time to get an extra-special deal is at the end of the campaign. Those campaigns will have targets – so, again, if they need one or two more sales to reach that target they may be ready to do a deal with you to unlock a bonus. They may be on a bonus once they've sold 50 units – so they may even be happy to take a hit on, say, sales numbers 45 – 50 because they've already made their money and just need to unlock the target bonus.

3.

Look out for when there's a model change. Dealers will be ready to do a deal on the price to get rid of the old models, because most people coming in will want the new model. But if you just want a new car and you're not worried about it being the next generation, there are bargains to be had on the outgoing model. The dealer doesn't want them to be sitting there once the new model is out.

4.

Christmas. The year change may be a busy time in the fleet market but, in the retail market, it's a relatively quiet period, so it can be a good time for bargains. Some people may be buying cars as a distress purchase around this time – the old one has blown up or they've had an accident. But, generally, everyone's thinking about turkeys and presents, rather than spending thousands of pounds on a new car. Obviously, dealers will have annual budgets and targets that will take account of these quiet periods. But, again, as they reach the end of the year, they will want to shift some cars to bump up their total revenue. For some dealers, this will mean Christmas time; for others, the end of the financial year at the start of April.

5.

Buy out of season. If there is a convertible sitting on a forecourt at the end of October when the clocks have changed and it's starting to get cold and dark, that dealer doesn't want that car still sitting there at Christmas. They will be looking to do a deal to get rid of it. The same with four-wheel drives in July. No one's thinking about four-wheel drives in summer, which means it's a good time to buy one. Don't wait until it starts snowing again and everyone's suddenly looking for one.

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