Is there a best time of year to buy a used car?

If you ask your next-door neighbor, a co-worker and a close friend the question "When is the best time of year to buy a used car?" you’ll probably get three different answers. That’s because—unlike what you may have heard—there really isn’t a single best time.


Even in the new car market, there are several theories around the peak times to look for deals. Some will say to shop late in the month, early in the week, near closing time, on rainy days, during holiday periods or at the end of the year. While some of these may contain a little truth, there isn’t much solid evidence behind any of them. (Besides, dealerships have heard all these rumors, too.) And that’s even truer for secondhand car sales.

Do you still want to know the best time of year to buy a used car? The answer is: after you’ve done your homework.

Find out the book values of the secondhand cars you like, shop around online and in person to locate the most affordable prices and learn some practical negotiating tips. Taking these measures will save you more than waiting for some magical (and mythical) "best time."

Used car buying advice: wondering what to look for in your vehicle?

What type of used car questions should you ask when buying a previously owned vehicle? What should you have investigated? Here’s some used car buying advice:

  • Have a mechanic inspect the vehicle before buying
  • Take the car for a test drive (travel on routes with different speed limits and terrain types, if possible)
  • Ask if there’s any type of warranty
  • Know the Lemon Laws for your state
  • Closely check the exterior and interior for obvious and "hidden" signs of damage (including water and fire)
  • Inspect the trunk
  • Ask for repair records
  • Order a car history report
  • Consider your financing options before visiting the seller
  • Do your homework and be ready to negotiate

Use this as a starting point for used car buying advice. After doing your own research, you’ll get a better understanding of what to look for. Keep in mind that many financial experts recommend purchasing a previously owned car, especially because of the fast depreciation associated with new vehicles. But, that only works in your favor if you buy a secondhand car that’s safe and reliable.

Editor's note: Keep checking the Advance DIY auto blog for more tips on buying used cars. After you’ve purchased your car, rely on Advance Auto Parts for the quality auto parts needed to keep it running right. Shop online, or stop by any of our auto parts stores for friendly, expert advice.  

Last updated May 10, 2019