Reader Question: Off the Lot?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Cliff asks: I’ve been told that one’s likely to get the best deal on a car buying from inventory. Is this true and if yes why? Thanks for all you do!

My reply: Yep, it’s true – and there’s a good (legitimate) reason for it, too. When you buy a car from a dealer’s stock, you relieve him of inventory on which he is paying out money to keep on his lot. Each month a car sits on his lot, the more it costs him. Which is why he has an incentive to get rid of it, by making you a deal on it. The incentive grows especially urgent toward the end of a calendar year, when the new cars he has in stock are on the verge of becoming used cars; or at least, last year’s cars. Even if they’re still brand-new, they just depreciated in value a bunch vs. the brand-new calendar year cars that just rolled in.

But there are downsides, the chief one being (usually) less choice. You shop what’s there – and what’s there may not be the color you want or have the options you want or have the options you don’t want.  But even that can be turned to your favor – as a haggling point. You can legitimately tell the dealer/saleseman that you really want to buy that model – but not that color. If it’s the only color he has is tock, the dealer has an incentive to cut you a deal. Same goes for the getting-ripe 2020 (as an example) in the late fall of this year; the dealer will want to get rid of it before 2021 – and the 2021s – arrive.

Your best bet is to go to a dealership with a large inventory as that will kill both birds with the same stone. You will probably find the car you want equipped the way you want it – and be able to buy it for less than if you ordered it.

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. I recall once asking a dealer about the best price(long ago). He said he could give me a better price on an ordered vehicle since he knew it was sold and wouldn’t be sitting on his lot.

    I think mostly what we see at dealerships is cheap money sitting there. Manufacturers get cheap money and pass it on down to dealers as cheap money. No doubt you can go find that final of 3 of the last sellers of a year model and make a good deal, often better simply because they need to money to buy the next year model. What they don’t make from the one sitting there for months is made up on the next, new, exciting model that’s thousands of times better than the old model and so it goes, ad nauseum. “Oh, did you see the new FordChevyDodgeToyotaNissanetc? No, is it a new model? Well, it’s a lot like the last year but I really like the tail light, headlights, chrome/black dingy on the front. Guess I’ll have to go look at them. I need a new car. This one just seems to not be the same since the battery died(she left a purse on the brake during vacation). I just don’t “trust” it any more. Or the one I’ve heard before and couldn’t believe it was a reason “I just don’t trust this car since I had that flat tire.” No shit, that’s the sign of a really unreliable car alright.

  2. What about getting your salesman to track down the vehicle you want? It seems like just about every combination is available somewhere, just a matter of finding the right one. And at least in 2016 it was a somewhat opaque market for consumers to do direct searches across dealers, maybe that’s changed in the last few years though. When I bought the Cherokee I wanted it loaded up except for the sunroof, which turned out to be an odd setup. But the sales guy managed to track one down and had it delivered. Don’t recall if there was an extra charge for that or not but even if there was, unless it was exorbitant I would have paid it just because of the hassle factor.

    • Dealers sometimes (or at least they used to) trade new vehicles with another dealer, to get the customer the color etc that they want. A few years ago (about 12, actually) when I was visiting down in Texas, my dad and I drove a new Silverado down to Amarillo and brought another one back. Silver for red, or red for silver – I don’t remember which.


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