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This is the best time of year to buy a car

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It’s one of those big ticket items in a market that seems almost “limitless.” Buying a new car isn’t about making a quick decision, but rather doing the research beforehand.

Automotive journalist and expert Miranda Lightstone of Vaudreuil, Que., told Global News before you even think about buying a car (new or used), consider what you need the car for on a daily basis.

How far are you commuting? If you’re considering an electric vehicle, do you work near chargers? How long is your commute in kilometres? Do you have kids? Dogs? How much space do you need? These are the types of questions you should be asking yourself before you look at models.

“Take your time, shop around, do lots of test drives and really consider your needs and wants,” she said. “Narrow it down to your top three choices as quickly as you can and make sure you visit them all on the same day before you make a choice.”

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Is there a best time to buy?

Lightstone said the best time to buy a new car is fall.

“Fall tends to be the best time as manufacturers are changing over their previous model year stock for the new model year,” she explained. “So, for example, you could get an amazing deal on a 2018 because they want to make room for the 2019 models.”

And unless the model of a car you want has been completely redone, there are usually very few changes year after year. “You’ll be getting essentially the same car for much less money or a better rate.”

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Experts over at Auto Loan Solutions, however, recommend waiting until December to make a purchase. “December is one of the best months to buy a car in Canada. Dealers like to keep their inventories lean. Around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, they try to get rid of the cars they don’t want. That often means a price drop at that particular dealership,” the site noted.

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Other experts list the months of October, November, December — basically, months leading into the new year.

New vs. used

And while it’s quite tempting to buy a shiny new car or even that trendy one you’ve been eyeing for years, sometimes it’s better to go with something used.

“Buying new is always the more alluring option as it’s brand new, however, looking into taking over a lease could also be a great option,” she said. “Elderly people who no longer need their cars or have passed on sometimes have vehicles that are essentially brand new [with] no mileage or very little and used very gently.”

Consumers also have an option of buying a dealer’s demo car — although this can be a risk because you don’t know how it’s been driven.

“Unfortunately, today’s cars are not made the way they used to be, so thinking you’re going to own your next car for the next 20 years and have no issues is a bit of a pipe dream,” she continued. “Cars are almost designed to start ‘breaking’ after the four- to five-year period, exactly when your lease would be up so you could move on to another new model.”

READ MORE: Cars — should you buy new or used?

And if you are buying a used vehicle, make sure you get a trusted mechanic to do a full inspection. “Ask for oil change receipts, damage reports if the car has been in an accident.”

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You can also figure out a car’s history by looking at the vehicle identification number (VIN), which can be found on the windshield.

Your checklist

Once you determine why you need a car, how often you need a car and if you want something new or used, it’s time to look at your finances. Cars are expensive and even used ones could come with payments down the road.

“If you are buying new, having your credit checked before you head to the dealer will save some potential embarrassment there when you go through their financial department,” she said. “If you are buying used, then consider getting a loan from your bank as they will likely offer you a better rate than the dealer would.”

READ MORE: Calgary man urges caution when using vehicle history reports like CarProof and CarFax

And if it’s a personal purchase from someone else, you’ll have to pay a fee and fill out paperwork for registration and a new license plate.

“Regardless of buying new or used, make sure you test drive your top three back-to-back on the same day. If you leave the test drives a few days apart or a few weeks, you’ll never remember what each was like compared to the other,” Lightstone said. “Yes, it’s a big purchase, but it’s also something you’re going to enjoy.”

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arti.patel@globalnews.ca