The Best Time of the Year to Buy a Used Car: Right Now

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In the third quarter of this year, the average price for a used vehicle topped $20,000, a 3.5% year-over-year increase and the highest quarterly average since 2005. Combined with higher interest rates and longer loan periods, used-vehicle buyers’ average monthly payments hit $400 a month.

These data were reported in early November by auto industry analyst firm Edmunds.com. This week, used-car research firm iSeeCars.com analyzed 2.4 million sales of used cars between one and five years old and concluded that a used-car buyer’s best opportunity to save 5% or more comes in December. That’s an off-the-top savings of around $1,000.

The researchers found that more than 40% of all listings at the end of the year are deals offering savings of at least 5% below the fair market price. Which vehicles offer the best deals? According to iSeeCars, sedans dominate when it comes to discounts.

iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly commented: “Given the declining sedan segment, dealers are more likely to discount these cars in order to sell them.” Of the 10 vehicles offering the best end-of-year deals, eight are sedans. The 10 vehicles offering the most deals are listed below, along with the percentage of deals above the overall average of 40%.

  1. BMW 3 Series: 26.6% more deals than average
  2. Ford Fiesta: 24.2% more
  3. Ford Focus: 24.2% more
  4. Chevrolet Camaro: 23.1% more
  5. Volkswagen Passat: 21.7% more
  6. Mercedes-Benz E-class: 21.2% more
  7. Volkswagen Jetta: 20.1% more
  8. Ford Mustang: 19.9% more
  9. Mercedes-Benz C-class: 18.9% more
  10. Audi A4: 17.7% more

Four of the vehicles on this list — the BMW, the two Mercedes-Benz models and the Audi — are luxury vehicles that are often leased before turning up on the used car market. Sales of compact cars like the two Fords and the VW Jetta suffer from low gas prices, so deals are more frequent on these cars in order to get them sold. Camaros and Mustangs are sports cars that are often driven harder than family sedans and, therefore, likely to need a larger incentive in order to attract a used-car buyer. The midsize VW Passat, like other sedans, simply isn’t popular with buyers in this era of sport utility vehicles, crossovers and high-end pickups.

Speaking of SUVs and pickups, iSeeCars has also rated the used models of these vehicles that get more deals. The Ford Edge tops the list of SUVs with nearly 22% more deals than average, and the Nissan Frontier has nearly 10% more deals than average in the pickup category. The full listings for these two categories are available on the iSeeCars.com website.