When I sold cars at a Toyota dealership, we got to choose our days off. The store closed on Sunday, and all the salesmen fought over who’d get Saturday or Monday.
Every dealership in town closed on Sunday—which was nice because we didn’t have to worry about GM stealing one of our Tundra customers for a Silverado.
I remember chatting with a co-worker about an out-of-state customer making the trip for a car. It seemed like a sure thing, but there was a problem: The customer wanted to come in on Sunday.
Why not? It seems strange that dealerships can’t do business on Sundays. Hell, it might even cost us a sale. Walmart is open on Sunday, and so is the hardware store. So why can’t dealerships sell cars on Sunday?
I did some research and found the answer. Here’s why (and where) you can’t buy cars on Sunday.
Why Can’t You Buy a Car on Sunday?
In short, there are two reasons why you can’t buy cars on Sunday in 18 states. States with religious ‘blue laws’ prohibit car dealerships and other businesses from operating on Sunday. These church-influenced laws are often more than a century old. Additionally, states close dealerships to prevent unfair Sunday competition from overworking employees.
States that Ban Car Sales on Sunday
State laws (and the reasoning behind them) differ in regard to Sunday car sales. And remember, these laws don’t apply to private sales between individuals—just businesses. Today, the 13 states that ban Sunday car sales are Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Maine, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
States with Some Sunday Restrictions
Some states don’t outright ban dealerships from operating on Sunday. These states, known as ‘mixed’ states, allow some dealership or car sales operations but place restrictions on certain activities.
Mixed states include Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, Rhode Island, and Utah. In these states, regulations often restrict how you can buy a car, not necessarily if. For example, some states restrict the hours that dealers are allowed to sell cars.
Why Dealerships Close on Sunday
Wherever you stand on blue laws, one thing is clear—closing dealerships on Sunday might actually make sense. I’m all for the freedom to work when, where, and however long you want, but hear me out for a minute.
I sold cars. It’s hard work, and the hours are long. Turnover is insane at car dealerships, and it costs a tremendous amount of money to hire and re-train employees. High turnover can also reduce customer satisfaction and service quality.
Car sales have a well-deserved reputation for grueling hours and tight competition. It’s an industry where employees who can take days off often don’t due to internal pressure or company quotas.
That’s the nature of working in a fast-paced sales environment.
For this reason, states that initially banned car sales for religious reasons continue to justify these laws. They believe that prohibiting car sales one day per week, workers from all dealerships are guaranteed at least one day off.
Other Reasons Dealerships Close on Sunday
But what if you live in a state that doesn’t prohibit buying cars on Sunday? There’s a chance that you’ll still have to wait until Monday. Many dealerships voluntarily close on Sundays to give their staff a day off and to simplify payroll.
Some dealerships cite other benefits, such as increases in efficiency and higher customer and employee satisfaction. After all, turnover sucks, and most people can’t handle a 7-day workweek.
Online shopping for cars also reduces the need for full-scale Sunday operations. Sometimes, dealerships retain a skeleton crew or stay open for appointments only, so customers who already purchased a car can pick it up.
Service stations often remain open on Sunday as well, due to the essential nature of mechanics.
Ignoring the Rules: Buying a Car on Sunday
It’s not that you can’t buy a car on Sunday. The rules exist to keep the dealership from selling you a car on Sunday. Dealerships that sell cars on Sunday may violate their state licensing and bonding obligations, which can incur fines much larger than the profit they earn from you.
Alternatives to Sunday Closure
Some dealerships that remain open take other steps to prevent overworking employees. Incentives and rotating off-days are a popular alternative, provided everyone is required to take at least one day off per week.
Additionally, many large-volume dealerships provide a non-commission salary to salespeople. Although the practice may not incentivize sales, it reduces turnover and encourages employees to take days off.
Residents and lawmakers in some states believe that banning Sunday car sales is outdated. States such as Illinois, Texas, and New Jersey recently made attempts (or are currently in the process of) repealing the old laws that ban the practice.