The best time to buy a car: it's not when you think

So I was at a dealership yesterday, gritting my teeth, not bothering to pretend to be happy about buying a car.

We needed a second car. My ancient wreck of a vehicle died last month, or came close to it, anyway, when smoke started pouring out of my engine and the rear of the car as I zipped along the highway. I was able to make it to a mechanic but was told it would cost $3,000 to repair the engine, and so we told the car doctor not to resuscitate. Still, I didn't want to be here, since I've been here before: in the land of car payments. I had only paid off my car, which I bought used several years ago, about a year ago. And now, as interest scores are skyrocketing, we were here again.
Anyway, at some point, my wife and kids were off getting fast food while I discussed financing options, and the sales guy and I made polite small talk, and at some point, this Cincinnati-based car salesman, an affable man named Bob Freihofer, offered a car buying tip that I thought was particularly interesting.

Freihofer said -- and I have no reason to doubt him; he knew he had us as a customer, and he didn't know he was being interviewed until after we talked, when I asked if I could quote and attribute this information to him -- that the best time to buy a car isn't at the end of the month, as everyone believes.

Why is that? "Because everyone believes it's the best time of the month to buy a car," said Freihofer. Everyone has read that salespeople are desperate to fill a quota, and so you can always get a good deal. And while you may get a good deal, because everyone shows up at the end of the month, salespeople aren't feeling all that desperate to get cars off the lot. This is the period of work where they can somewhat relax. They know that they're going to find a customer to buy a car.

The best time to buy a car is really at the beginning of the month.

Why is that? "Because it's a very slow time," said Freihofer. If you want to find a salesman who is desperate for a customer and will bend over backwards to make a deal, so they can earn a living and pay for their kid's braces, go visit at a time when the dealership is something of a desolate wasteland. You'll be treated like royalty.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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