Don't buy a car until you read this

New research shows the best time to make a purchase — and the best vehicle. But should you even bother?

Do not — repeat, do not — buy a car now. Wait until Christmas Eve to start shopping for a new ride. Better yet, hold off until Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18.

That's the takeaway from new research by iSeeCars.com.

But there's more, and you won't see it reported anywhere else. iSeeCars.com also compiled a list of the most-discounted used cars for me.

I'll share it with you exclusively in a second, along with some irreverent car-buying advice that might make your head explode. You've been warned.

Best times to buy a car

Here's the best time to buy a used car, according to iSeeCars.com. The percentages represent more deals than average:

  1. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (39 percent)

  2. January (29 percent)

  3. February (22 percent)

  4. New Year's Eve/New Year's Day (20 percent)

  5. Christmas Eve (18 percent)

Note: Never buy a new car. The vehicle loses about 10 percent of its value the moment you drive it off the lot. 

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These are the best used cars to buy

Here are the best used cars to buy, according to the research. (The average discount and percentage are in parentheses.)

  1. Mercedes-Benz Class ($2,622; 9 percent)

  2. Volkswagen Passat ($1,487; 9 percent)

  3. Toyota Sienna ($2,300; 8.9 percent)

  4. Nissan Versa ($967; 8.8 percent)

  5. BMW 3 Series ($2,252; 8.5 percent)

To come up with this list, iSeeCars.com compiled sales data from 2018 to 2020 for one- to five-year-old used cars. The average percent discount — the difference between the listed price and fair market value — was mathematically modeled for each vehicle listed below fair market value.

Here's a full list of the 30 most-discounted cars (subscribers only).

What to do with this list

"Over the next few weeks, we're going to see a lot of 'YEAR END SPECIALS! BUY NOW!'," according to Karl Brauer, iSeeCars executive analyst. "But if you can hold off until after the start of 2021, you'll see better pricing as dealers face the post-holiday car-buying doldrums."

In other words: If you're in the market for a car, wait a few weeks. January and February are ideal times to buy a used vehicle. And by the way, weekdays are slightly better than weekends. 

Then again ...

Why buy a car at all? It's been such a strange year, with most of us confined to our homes and apartments, that many of us have started to question the viability of owning a vehicle. With so many new transportation options, is it necessary to have a car?

If you think about that really hard, you might come to the same conclusion I did. For me, it's better to subscribe to a car like a Volvo than to own one. Or just rely on Uber, mass transit and rentals. Ownership is unnecessary and obsolete for many people.

And it's not just cars. You can buy a subscription to a phone, a computer, and almost anything else you can think of, like razors and musical instruments. 

I haven't owned a home in years; I rent furnished places by the month.

When I was growing up, the American dream was ownership. Success meant having your own car and home. Everything in your home belonged to you.

Now, I own almost nothing. Only the clothes in my carry-on bag are mine. My next phone will be a subscription, and so will my laptop computer. The pandemic has changed the American dream.

Ownership isn’t freedom. Non-ownership is. 

It will probably take a generation for people to accept that, but I think it will happen.

I'd love to get your thoughts. Do you believe subscriptions are a fad or are they the future? Why or why not? Speaking of subscriptions, please don't forget to subscribe to this newsletter to get all the exclusive data. You don't want to miss it.

PS: Please join me tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET for a live travel chat at the Washington Post online. You can submit your questions now.

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