Are you eager to warm up in heated front seats this winter, or savor that new-car smell without relying on air fresheners? Car ads proclaim there’s no better time than now to buy, but is it really the optimal moment?

The best time to purchase a vehicle aligns with when dealers are most motivated to sell. Early in the week, at the end of fiscal quarters, during new model releases, and on three-day holiday weekends like President’s Day often yield excellent deals. Strategic timing can potentially slash thousands off the sticker price and net you extra perks like incentives or discounted upgrades.

Timing aside, preparation is key. Being ready to buy means more than just showing up at the right time. Research financing options beforehand, check your credit, and get prequalified so you understand your financial standing. When you head to the dealership, aim for early in the week—Mondays, especially, are favorable as they tend to be slower, allowing salespeople more time for negotiations after busy weekends.

While the best buying opportunities may not be marked on your calendar, understanding these nuances can maximize your buying power.

Sales promotions and incentives in the automotive industry aren’t always tied to specific calendar dates but rather revolve around key intervals crucial to dealerships and salespeople. So, when exactly is the best time of year to buy a car?

Typically, it’s when sales representatives are scrambling to meet their quotas and dealerships are eager to clear out old inventory to make way for incoming models.

Dealerships and their sales teams operate under monthly, quarterly, and annual sales goals, often with incentives and bonuses tied to meeting these targets. As each period draws to a close, the pressure mounts, making salespeople more willing to negotiate lower prices or accept reduced commissions to reach their goals. Dealerships, too, are motivated to lower prices to surpass quarterly sales projections.

While January 1 marks the start of the new year, automakers operate on unique rollout schedules. Some models hit the market in the summer alongside existing ones, while others debut later in the fall. In either case, opting for an outgoing model rather than a newly redesigned or mid-year model can often result in greater savings.

While December has traditionally been heralded as the optimal month for car purchases, it’s not the exclusive window for scoring great deals. Although December tends to lead with enticing incentives, other months can also present favorable opportunities for buyers. If your vehicle breaks down in February, there’s no need to delay your purchase for months.

But why does December consistently stand out as the prime time to buy a car? Unlike automakers, car dealerships operate on a calendar year basis. As the year draws to a close, dealers are under pressure to meet annual sales targets and clear out older inventory, which translates into significant savings for consumers.

In December, dealerships make a final push to move out remaining inventory from the current model year. On the other hand, September marks the peak of the new model season. While new models can debut throughout the year, the majority arrive in late summer and early fall. These model changeovers often bring attractive incentives such as zero down payments, rebates, and special trade-in offers.

Holiday sales events present excellent opportunities to purchase a vehicle with exceptional rebates and special financing offers. Beyond the Christmas season, sellers also heavily promote New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. When a holiday coincides with the end of the month, such as New Year’s, salespeople gain an extra day of business. If the holiday falls on a Friday, dealerships benefit from three additional days to boost their monthly sales figures.

Three-day holiday weekends, like Labor Day, often come with a lot of promotional hype. Dealerships advertise “blowouts” and “huge” savings, but are these claims just marketing tactics? President’s Day also stands out as a potentially favorable time to buy a car. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, President’s Day, and Black Friday are all occasions when buyers can expect ample saving incentives. However, it’s wise to prepare for busy showrooms and sales agents during these popular sales periods.

Knowing the best time to buy a new car is only part of the equation. Timing tips won’t secure you a great deal if you lack a well-thought-out plan. Start by test driving the cars on your wishlist early to narrow down your choices to two or three favorites.

Avoid waiting until your current car breaks down to begin shopping. Being prepared to walk away strengthens your negotiating power. Once you’ve decided on the car you want and know what you can afford, show up at the dealership at the right time, and you just might drive away with a fantastic bargain!