The standard consumer advice for car buying is to purchase as close as you can to the end of the month, quarter or year. Dealers, the thinking goes, are more eager to make deals later in the month to make sure they achieve manufacturer quotas that pay lots of extra money.
Car buyers took that advice to heart, making Dec. 31 the second busiest day for car sales ever, according to J.D. Power, the market research firm.
Dealers sold 117,985 vehicles on the last day of last year. That is surpassed only by the 123,212 cars sold on July 7, 2005.
J.D. Power is counting only what is sold to consumers. The numbers don't include fleet sales to rental car companies, commercial businesses and government agencies.
Last year also logged the third-busiest car sales day ever, and it was also at month end. Dealers sold 116,329 cars on Aug. 31.
The J.D. Power research shows that the 10 top days for car sales all were on the last day of the month. June 30 is in the list three times and Dec. 31 makes it twice.
One reason why this last New Year's Eve was so busy goes back to the Black Friday sales weekend following Thanksgiving, said Thomas King, senior director at J.D. Power.
The big promotions at the end of November pulled a lot of sales forward from November. December started slowly. As the end of the month neared, dealers pushed hard to meet their monthly and year-end sales target.
December also was notable for what people paid for cars, he said. The average transaction price of a vehicle last month was $30,454, the highest J.D. Power has tracked and up $468 from the same month a year earlier.
The sales price was high because December has become a big month for luxury car sales, and that pushes up the average.