Is December (Still) the Best Month to Buy a Car?

How the Supply Chain Has Changed Car Buying

For years, It’s been somewhat of a holiday tradition to tout that December was the best month to buy a car, at a time when dealerships saw sales spike as consumers rushed to get year-end deals. But thanks to the worldwide pandemic, a clogged supply chain, and a global shortage of microchips (key components for new cars), things are a bit different in December 2021. 

In fact, things are a lot different. 

With the car industry undergoing an unprecedented shortage of new vehicles, prices have surged and the usual cycle of discounts for end-of-the-model-year cars aren’t so obvious anymore.

Even so, consumer demand continues to rise. Americans still need to make car purchases, and adjustments are part of the process. As a scarcity of new cars has turned the used car market boiling hot, buyers are learning to adapt to a new set of expectations. 

Edmunds, a leading automotive information and vehicle research website, offers some optimism in an unpredictable market with car shopping tips for those who are still looking for a good deal on a dependable car. 

Car Shopping Tips 

  • Rethink “discounts.” The market has changed, and you won’t likely get the great deal you would have a few years ago. Don’t be surprised if a dealership offers little to no discount at all.
  • Expand your search. Driving to the next town or county or even 100 miles away is becoming more commonplace. (If you decide to car shop out of state, make sure to research the local sales tax laws and emissions requirements and ask how to handle the temporary registration.)
  • With limited inventories, don’t get too set on one color or car. Have backup picks in colors and even a range of different models to give yourself the most flexibility. 
  • Trucks and SUVs are by far the most popular vehicles today, making them more scarce and more expensive. Have you checked out a modern sedan lately? Today’s models offer more space than ever, and they should be easier to find than SUVs and trucks. 
  • Consider buying a discontinued car. Kelly Blue Book has listed eight discontinued cars in 2021 that may tempt you. Most offer incentives that include cash back, leasing deals and very low to zero percent financing. 
  • One bit of good news in this market is that the value of your trade-in is probably higher than you think, hopefully taking a generous bite out of the price of the car you will be replacing it with. 
  • Consider a lease as a temporary solution. It gives you an easy out in two to three years, so you’re not making a long-term commitment but still getting a better deal on a new ride. 

The Kelly Blue Book’s best-selling new models released in 2021, in order of popularity, include Ford F series, Ram Pickup truck, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Toyota Highlander. This list may be a springboard for your car search and may just lead you to similar vehicles to check out. 

When is the best time to buy a car? This year is not the norm. The best time to buy a new vehicle seems to be: whenever you need one. 

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