When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car

Every car buyer’s dream is to walk into a dealership, point to a car and say, “I’ll take it,” without feeling the weight of the investment they are about to make. But let’s be realistic – cars are a significant expense, and every Rand counts. With South Africa’s dynamic and ever-changing automotive market, understanding the nuances can make the difference between an okay deal and a great one. When is the best time to buy a car in South Africa? Let’s buckle up and navigate this fascinating journey together!

Key Takeaways

  • Seasonal car buying patterns exist, with holidays and the end of the financial year often seeing increased sales activity. Weather, however, has a less significant impact.
  • The end of the financial year can be a strategic opportunity to buy a car, with dealers often motivated to clear out stock to meet annual targets.
  • New model releases can affect the prices of older models. When new models are introduced, dealerships are typically keen to sell off the previous year’s stock, often offering attractive deals.
  • The used car market also presents opportunities. While the optimal time to buy may differ from the new car market, factors such as supply and demand and the condition and mileage of the vehicle come into play.

Understanding the South African Automotive Industry

A thorough understanding of the South African automotive industry lays the groundwork for informed car-buying decisions. One wouldn’t start a journey without first studying the map, right? In the same way, let’s dissect the industry, grasping its unique traits and noteworthy players. This knowledge will serve as our compass, directing us to the best time to purchase a car.

Brief Overview of the South African Car Market

South Africa is, without a doubt, a heavyweight in the automotive industry. It boasts a vibrant car market underpinned by both domestic production and vehicle imports. South Africa is not just the heart of car consumption in Africa; it’s also a significant hub of car production. In 2020, South Africa manufactured almost 600,000 vehicles, contributing over 6% to the country’s GDP. Such statistics indicate the critical role of the automotive sector in the nation’s economy. Moreover, they hint at potential car buying opportunities, especially when new models are launched, or older ones are phased out. Remember, in the car industry, introducing a new model often spells discounts for the old.

Notable Players: Key Car Brands and Dealers in South Africa

The South African automotive market is home to a diverse array of key players, with an eclectic mix of local and international car brands—these range from budget-friendly brands like Datsun and Renault to luxury giants such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The high-end brands are not just for show; they are actively purchased, with BMW and Mercedes often ranking amongst the top-selling car brands in the country. Not to be outdone, Volkswagen and Toyota consistently battle for the top spot, highlighting their popularity amongst South African car buyers.

South Africa is flush with both franchised and independent dealers regarding car dealerships. Large, franchised dealerships, like Imperial Auto and Barloworld Motor, offer a wide array of brand-new cars and typically have the backing of car manufacturers. On the other hand, independent dealers, such as WeBuyCars and Car King, primarily focus on the used car market, providing an alternative route for those looking to find a bargain. Knowing the key players in the market aids in understanding where potential deals may surface.

Seasonal Trends in Car Buying

Seasons play a significant role in the ebb and flow of the South African car market. Just as summer follows spring, car sales patterns follow their own rhythm, profoundly influenced by seasonal trends. To find the best time to buy a car, let’s examine these patterns and understand how the changing weather might impact our buying decisions.

When Do South Africans Typically Buy Cars?

Car sales in South Africa have a pronounced cyclicality. Historically, the first quarter of the year (January to March) sees strong demand for cars, partly due to consumers making purchases they had postponed over the festive season. The momentum then slightly tapers off in the second quarter. However, the sales typically spike again in the third quarter, especially in August and September. Interestingly, the last quarter of the year, particularly November and December, records comparatively lower sales figures. This dip could be attributed to consumers diverting their focus (and finances) towards the holiday season and year-end festivities. For a discerning buyer, this could mean that November and December are potentially good times to strike a car deal.

The Influence of Weather on Car Purchases

South Africa’s climate is a factor that subtly yet significantly affects car buying trends. The warmer months (October to February) are associated with increased outdoor activities, travel, and in general, a more active lifestyle. During this period, cars that support such a lifestyle, like convertibles, sports cars, and off-road vehicles, tend to be more popular. On the other hand, in the colder months (June to August), demand for these types of cars may decrease, making it a strategic time to consider these models. Similarly, sudden weather phenomena, such as a drought or heavy rain, can influence the demand for specific types of cars, like water-efficient or 4×4 vehicles. You can anticipate potential bargains by observing weather patterns and understanding their influence on car sales.

Holiday Influence on Car Sales

Like many other countries, South Africa observes several public holidays throughout the year. Interestingly, these holidays influence car sales to a degree you might not expect. Add to this the year-end festive season, which turns the market dynamics on its head. Let’s dive deeper into these holiday influences and unravel their effects on car-buying opportunities.

Public Holidays and Car Purchases: A Correlation?

Yes, you read that correctly! Public holidays and car purchases are curiously interlinked in South Africa. Dealerships often capitalise on these holidays to host sales events and offer promotional deals, aiming to entice potential buyers. The resultant increased foot traffic and heightened consumer interest can boost car sales. Holidays like Freedom Day and Heritage Day are examples of such opportunities. However, as a potential buyer, one must stay vigilant. While holidays might offer good deals, ensuring the discounted price is indeed a bargain and not just a marketing gimmick is crucial. Remember, a deal is only as good as the value you receive for your money.

Year-End Holidays: A Golden Opportunity or a Buyer’s Nightmare?

As the year winds down and the festive season kicks in, South Africa’s car market witnesses an interesting paradox. On the one hand, dealerships are eager to clear out the current year’s stock, leading to some attractive deals. On the other hand, consumer interest is typically divided between many holiday expenses, resulting in lower showroom footfall. So, does this make the year-end a buyer’s paradise or purgatory? The answer largely depends on your situation. If your finances allow you to withstand the holiday spending and still invest in a car, the year-end deals can be pretty appealing. However, it’s critical to approach these deals with a clear understanding of your financial health, ensuring your year-end bargain doesn’t turn into a new year’s financial burden.

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End of the Financial Year: A Strategic Opportunity

As the end of the financial year approaches, something intriguing happens in the auto industry: cars often sport tantalising price tags. This phenomenon can turn the fiscal year-end into a potential goldmine for strategic buyers. But to take advantage of this opportunity, it’s essential first to understand its origins.

Understanding the Fiscal Year in South Africa’s Auto Industry

In South Africa, the fiscal year for the automotive industry generally runs from 1st April to 31st March. As the end of this period approaches, dealerships and manufacturers alike gear up for what’s known as a ‘sales push’. But why does this happen? The reason lies in annual sales targets. These targets, set at the beginning of the fiscal year, must be met by the end of March. As the fiscal year-end nears, manufacturers and dealerships assess their progress against these targets. They may resort to incentivised selling to accelerate sales if they fall short. This can open up some attractive car-buying opportunities.

Dealer Incentives: End of Financial Year Sales Push

In the automotive industry, the end of the financial year can often resemble a high-stakes race, with manufacturers and dealerships sprinting towards their sales targets. To turbocharge this effort, they frequently turn to various incentives. These can include dealer rebates, attractive finance options, complimentary add-ons, and even straight-up discounts. While this benefits dealerships by helping them reach their annual targets, it can also benefit you as a buyer. A year-end deal could potentially see you driving off in your dream car while keeping a fair amount of change in your pocket. But as always, ensuring that the deal you’re getting genuinely provides value for money and isn’t just an illusion of savings is essential.

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New Models Release: Timing Your Purchase

In the car industry, the release of new models stirs up excitement. While the shiny, upgraded cars steal the spotlight, a savvy buyer knows to look towards the shadows — where older models await a new home. Let’s dive into the lifecycle of car models and explore how a new release can impact the price of older models, creating yet another opportunity for a well-timed purchase.

The Lifecycle of a Car Model: From Release to Clearance

Car models, like many other products, have a lifecycle. They’re introduced to the market, experience a peak sales period, and eventually, their popularity wanes. Finally, as new models roll off the production line, older models need to be cleared from showrooms to make way. It’s a cycle that repeats year after year. Typically, new models are released in South Africa around the beginning of the fourth quarter, just in time for the festive season. Being aware of this cycle and the timing of new releases can enable you to plan your car purchase strategically.

New Model Releases: Affect on Older Model Pricing

When a new car model is released, it doesn’t just bring an upgraded vehicle to the market. It also often brings a reduction in the price of its predecessor. The reason for this is simple: dealerships need to clear their inventory of older models to make room for the new arrivals. As a result, they are often willing to negotiate on the price of these older models, leading to some attractive deals. Suppose you’re not particularly keen on having the latest model and are more focused on value for money. In that case, the arrival of a new model can present an excellent opportunity to buy the outgoing model at a discounted price. However, as with any other deal, assessing the offer thoroughly is essential to ensure it genuinely represents good value.

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Buying Used Cars: Is There a ‘Best Time’?

Buying a used car can be a clever way to get more value for your money, provided you choose wisely. The second-hand car market in South Africa is as dynamic as the new car market, and understanding its rhythm can equip you to score a great deal. Let’s delve into the intricacies of the used car market and uncover how timing can affect your purchase.

Second-Hand Car Market in South Africa

The second-hand car market in South Africa is buoyant, with many choices available for buyers. From nearly-new models to older, reliable workhorses, there’s something to cater to every need and budget. Moreover, purchasing a used car can often allow you to afford a higher-spec model than buying a new one. However, timing your purchase in the used car market can be slightly trickier. There’s no new model release or fiscal year-end to guide you. But worry not — there are still ways you can use timing to your advantage.

Timing Tips for Buying Used Cars

Unlike new cars, the prices of used vehicles can be influenced by a broader range of factors, such as mileage, condition, and individual seller circumstances. However, there are two general patterns to keep in mind. First, like new cars, used cars can also see a price drop around the festive season, as sellers aim to close deals before year-end. Second, the launch of a new model can affect used car pricing, particularly for the same model. For instance, when a new model is released, demand for the older models may decrease, potentially leading to lower prices in the second-hand market. It’s also worth remembering that while timing can help you find a good deal, when buying a used car, the condition and history of the vehicle should take priority.


The best time to buy a car is when it aligns with your personal needs and financial situation. As we’ve seen, various factors can influence car prices and availability, but they should serve as guides rather than dictating your decision. Consider your budget, the type of car you want, your willingness to negotiate, and your flexibility regarding timing. Being patient, keeping an eye on the market, and remaining open to opportunities can pay off in finding a deal that feels like the ‘best’ time for you. Armed with the knowledge from this guide, you’re well-equipped to make a confident, informed decision about when to step into South Africa’s vibrant car market. Happy car hunting!


Is it Better to Buy a Car at the Beginning or End of the Month?

Traditionally, many people believe it’s better to buy a car towards the end of the month. The reasoning is that car dealerships and salespeople, who often work with monthly quotas, may be more inclined to negotiate and offer better deals to meet these targets. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, and the quality of the deal depends on a range of factors, including the dealership, the specific car, and your negotiation skills.

How Does the Release of New Models Affect Car Prices?

When new car models hit the market, dealerships are often eager to clear out the previous year’s inventory. This usually means they’re more willing to offer discounts on these older models. Therefore, New model releases can create an opportunity to nab a bargain on a relatively new car.

Is there a Specific Season When Cars are Cheaper in South Africa?

The South African car market doesn’t have a specific ‘cheap season’ for car purchases. However, seasonal trends do play a role. Dealerships may offer sales during certain holidays, and the end of the financial year can see dealers motivated to move stock. Keeping an eye on these seasonal patterns can help you spot potential deals.

How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Impact Car Prices in South Africa?

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a slowdown in the global car industry due to disruptions in production, supply chain issues, and changes in consumer behaviour. In South Africa, car prices did rise due to these factors. However, the market also saw increased interest in cheaper, used vehicles and a shift towards online car sales. The pandemic has undoubtedly altered the car buying landscape, making flexibility and market awareness even more crucial.

Are there Differences in the Best Time to Buy a New vs. Used Car in South Africa?

While some principles apply to both new and used car purchases (like end-of-month and end-of-year sales), there are differences. New car prices can drop when next year’s models are released, while used car prices can vary depending on factors like mileage, condition, and supply and demand. The ‘best’ time will depend on the specific car you’re after and the market circumstances at that time.

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