How do I best purchase a wait-listed car?
October 12, 2009 5:45 PM   Subscribe

What is the protocol for buying a new car in seemingly high demand and non-existent supply? When is a wait list really a wait list, and how do I actually get this car?

I am interested in buying a 2010 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI manual and am currently talking with 2 dealerships.

Dealership 1, referred by United Buying Services, took an "order" over the phone, supposedly entering it into their "order entry system" and provided a "Commission #," which I assume is specific to that dealership. The sales person did not request a deposit or any more information other than name, address, and phone #.

Dealership 2 took an "order," also over the phone, and requested all of the same information as dealer 1, but also requested car insurance policy #, stating that it's required by VW, and requested a deposit, stating that VW requires the deposit as evidence that I am a real buyer. I asked what happens to the $500 deposit if I don't buy the car due to unforeseeable circumstances and was told that it would not be refunded.

Neither dealer can provide a delivery date, and Dealership 2 went as far as to say that VW is not producing any manuals prior to the new year. I mentioned this to Dealer 1 who did not know anything about this.

Do any Mefites have advice on buying a wait-listed/pre-ordered car? Advice on VW/Sportwagen specifically? I am having trouble figuring out the best way to navigate these negotiations/choose a dealership so that I actually end up with a car in my parking spot as soon as possible.
posted by rabidsegue to Shopping (16 answers total)
That particular model may be "high-demand, low-supply", but most models are not; in fact, most car dealerships are in some serious trouble right now (Subaru and Hyundai being the exceptions.)

In the situation you describe, getting one "in [your] parking spot as soon as possible" is going to be tough. In fact, your best course of action is also the easiest one: wait. If you wait long enough, the car that's so hard to find will be easy to find, and you'll pay significantly less for it (and jump through far fewer hoops.)

Having said that, if you want to get it as quickly as possible, throw money at the problem; grossly overpay for the privilege. Assuming that's too much, put down the deposit with a contract that says when you'll get it and the specific options, and that it's fully refundable if they can't come through on the options or the date. Then your only hard part is finding a dealership willing to work with you that way.
posted by davejay at 5:58 PM on October 12, 2009

1.) Get an extended warranty. If you read the hundreds of reviews at sites such as, it's clear that VW has serious reliability problems and even diesel VWs are not very dependable overall.

2.) Diesel, manual wagons ARE sought after, but the way you've been treated is typical of the VW dealer network and is what you can look forward to anytime you bring in the car for service (see above).
posted by dacoit at 6:01 PM on October 12, 2009

Seconding davejay: If you want a car that is constrained for whatever reason, you either need to be ok with the fact that you're going to pay a premium if you can find one, or you need to decide that you'll wait until there are enough available to have a bit of wiggle room in the price.
posted by HannoverFist at 6:20 PM on October 12, 2009

Consider going out of state. A 'furrin' car may not be such a hot commodity in the midwest, although finding one in stock could be difficult. I would consider setting up a dedicated email and perhaps even a throw away phone number for such a search. Some dealers will let you search stock on their websites, but many will ask for full contact info and then want to call you.
posted by caddis at 6:39 PM on October 12, 2009

Found you one
posted by caddis at 6:43 PM on October 12, 2009

Cast a wide net. If you start putting down deposits, then you'll have to endure every hoop that dealer puts you through, since you've already invested some money.

So, contact every VW dealer that you can reasonably drive to in a day. Let them know what you're looking for and let them know what your timeframe for purchase is. Maybe they can dealer-trade for the car you're interested in. It could just be hard to find in your immediate area. I did a quick search on, 40 mile radius of 19147 (Philly) shows a ton of TDI Jetta Wagons.
Also, for the same price, you can get a 2010 Audi A3 TDI, which may potentially be in less demand and is mechanically identical to the Jetta you're interested in. It's also available with the DSG transmission which is faster shifting and is rated at 42mpg to the Jetta's 41mpg, FWIW.
posted by Jon-o at 6:47 PM on October 12, 2009

Do you happen to belong to a credit union?

I ask because mine provides an outstanding car-buying service. They negotiated quite a good price for me (maybe a hardcore negotiator could do better, but they certainly did better than I would have on my own), and I never set foot on a lot at all. The car actually ended up coming from pretty far away, but they had it delivered to the bank branch. Granted I was buying a Toyota, not exactly a rarity, but it still might be worth a try, because they do a LOT of legwork for you.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:01 PM on October 12, 2009

Once upon a time I worked as a salesman at a Mini Cooper dealership. This was just a little after the release of "The Italian Job" with Marky Mark and so the car was super hot. We sold ever car pretty much at sticker price because it really did require placing an order from the factory in Germany, and the time from order to delivery was somewhere between 6 and 12 weeks depending on a few factors.

Deposit - yes, they should be taking a deposit if they're actually ordering a car for you. This is standard operating procedure. I don't know if its "VW policy", but its totally normal in the realm of retail auto sales. The reason is that they could have a really difficult time reselling an odd car like the one you want, and the nonrefundable deposit mitigates their risk. You can try negotiating, but with this particular car I think you should expect to pay something near full MSRP.

Its strange that the dealer wouldn't be able to provide you with a rough delivery date, though. Also, not sure how they can claim that the factory isn't making any more cars with a manual if they're actually custom-ordering one for you.

You might seriously consider calling Volkswagen of America and telling them what your problem is. The manufacturers take this kind of thing very seriously and they can probably help you figure out the best way to get this done.
posted by ben242 at 7:32 PM on October 12, 2009

I have no actual evidence to base this on, but I'm inclined to believe that demand is going to be a bit lower for the Audi A3 TDI, which is due on the market in a few weeks. Same platform, same engine, nicer bits inside and out... and the sticker price is roughly comparable, perhaps a bit more for the extra rings on the badge.
posted by bhayes82 at 7:58 PM on October 12, 2009

If you're a Costco member, you can get deals through them.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:16 PM on October 12, 2009

I tried buying the new GTI when Volkswagen was releasing them in early 2006. I was led to believe then that the dealers couldn't actually order a car from the factory, but rather had to transfer inventory between the dealers in the area. I was trying to get a car with no options besides the 18" wheels. None of the dealers had this on their lot, and nobody was willing to order one for me.

So I ended up getting a Mini instead. It wasn't waitlisted by the time I got mine, but you still had to order one if you didn't like the 4 or 5 they had on the lot. And I paid every penny of the MSRP.
posted by hwyengr at 8:46 PM on October 12, 2009

Have you searched on and I am (probably) about 100 miles from you and I could find one about 30 miles from me. Also seconding Costco - they have special arrangements with specific dealers who sell a lot of cars at lower margin because of this arrangement. Even for cars in short supply, they can get you a deal. It's worth the $50 membership, just for that.
posted by Susurration at 8:51 PM on October 12, 2009

Best answer: I bought one of the first Mini Cooper S cars available on the west coast. I was obsessive about getting that car. I called every dealership west of the rockies and put my name on lists. Some were nicer than others - the ones that were nice I called back and checked in with regularly. I made myself a fixture on the Mini Cooper community sites that were deep wells of information on dates and inventory numbers. When I had a good experience with a dealer - I posted about it. That gave me more good will. I considered myself lucky to pay sticker price for that car. I recall that before dealerships were allocated inventory - they couldn't accept a deposit but once they knew how many cars they were getting, they took a deposit and my spec for the car I wanted. I was enough a fixture that when the dealership I finally placed an order with got a car on the lot that was close enough to what I'd ordered - they called me and offered it to me 6 weeks or so before my car was set to arrive. Good luck.
posted by Wolfie at 9:43 PM on October 12, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for your input. What etc had listed often seemed to not be up-to-date or incorrect on details, but that was a great idea.

FYI, so far it seems like the key in this case is finding a dealer with an "allocated shipment" where VIN numbers have been issued for each car and then determining if they have the car I am looking for within that shipment. At that point, I am willing to make a deposit (and wait a few weeks) for that specific VINed car. This means calling somewhat randomly to local (and not-so-local) dealers until I get lucky.
posted by rabidsegue at 6:46 PM on October 13, 2009

so you are not willing to travel for our dream machine?
posted by caddis at 10:01 PM on October 13, 2009

"your", although that really could so easily be "our"
what a cool vehicle
posted by caddis at 10:06 PM on October 13, 2009

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