Can I buy a brand new 5-year-old car?
December 30, 2007 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Can I buy a brand new 5-year-old car? For example, can I buy a brand-new *2003* Nissan 350Z? Or did they really sell each and every last one back in 2003? Where do unsold new cars go when the new models come out? Any car dealers out there that can explain this to me? They must end up somewhere.
posted by sidereal to Shopping (13 answers total)
Near the end of the model year car dealers sell old cars at cheaper and cheaper prices until they manage to get rid of them all.
posted by aubilenon at 12:19 PM on December 30, 2007

Yep. There is a possibility of finding a collector that has bought such a car but rarely driven it. Considering he's a collector, though, he will probably put a higher value on the car than you're willing to pay.
posted by Doohickie at 12:32 PM on December 30, 2007

Best answer: The vast majority of dealers finance their new car inventory and have to pay interest on each and every new car in inventory each and every month. While their invoice cost remains the same, their actual cost on old inventory keeps climbing until it is sold. This motivates the dealer to kep dropping the price until someone takes his old stuff off his hands.

Every dealer I ever worked for made sure his old stuff was gone within 3-6 months the new model year debut (even if that meant sending the old units to auction).
posted by buggzzee23 at 12:34 PM on December 30, 2007

That would be cool. I recall early 80's Yahama motorcycle's being in stock at dealer, any year for the past 5 or something.
posted by thilmony at 12:34 PM on December 30, 2007

I had some friends who happened across a three year old "new" Oldsmobile Aurora on a dealership lot in Virgina Beach. The car had been used as a demo model and had perhaps 700 miles on it. The dealership was stuck holding it after Olds released an updated Aurora, no one wanted the older style and the dealership hadn't aggressively discounted the car enough to move it. My friends happened to be there at the right time and got a great deal on it.

As for your 350Z, don't count on it. Sports cars and other enthusiast vehicles are the first to go when it comes time to discount them. There are literally people out there who search entire multi-state regions for "year-end" cars like that when the time comes.

Amid collectors, at least in the 80s and 90s when sports car speculation was nuts, there was a trend where people would "time capsule" cars - basically buying them and then storing them with zero miles for years before trying to resell them to reap the profits. This may have worked on some models, but many people were left holding a car which they should have just enjoyed instead of trying to make a buck. Today the trend has reversed to the point where a used, but well maintained car is worth more than one which has been completely restored or one that has sat for decades.

Getting back to your Z example, I do know that before the current generation Z was released Nissan took a handful of 240Zs and professionally restored them. They were then sold for something like $20,000 or $25,000 through dealerships. It was a bargain considering they had been restored to factory spec, and I'm sure they were all quickly snatched up by collectors.

Sorry for the rambling response, in a past life I was a car nut.
posted by wfrgms at 12:41 PM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Your best bet is going to be to find a used one with very low miles. It might be useful to make friends with some mechanics and shops so you can get word if a car they work on goes up for sale.
posted by rhizome at 12:45 PM on December 30, 2007

Well into the 90s there was a Pontiac dealer in California who had a never registered, brand new, fully loaded, 88 Fiero GT in storage waiting for the value to appreciate. It had the half dozen miles a car gets leaving the factory and getting on and off transport but that's it.
posted by Mitheral at 1:31 PM on December 30, 2007

88 Fiero GT in storage waiting for the value to appreciate

Heh, now that's brand loyalty. Ugh, those were rotten little cars.
posted by wfrgms at 1:45 PM on December 30, 2007

Besides just dropping the prices, they can play games to sell a year-old car. They can add on all the options that are dealer installed, especially if those options changed in the intervening model year. Even if they charge minimal markup on the options, this gives them a selling point compared to the new cars in the lot.

Another nice move is to put the car inside the showroom. You will think it's been inside for a year, not that it was sitting in the lot outside for months and months.

Finally, they'll give you a sales pitch along the lines of "if you plan on keeping the car for five or six years, the model year won't even matter when you sell it, so it would be stupid to pass up this better car from a prior model year." Salesmen earn their money on selling these cars.
posted by smackfu at 3:10 PM on December 30, 2007

I bought a car that was almost a year old when I took delivery. It had been snagged up in customs. Anyway, it's not a great a deal as it sounds because cars rot from the inside when not driven. It's actually why I am now carless. I drove so little my car was wearing out fast, so I found it a new home.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:33 PM on December 30, 2007

Response by poster: These are wonderful responses, rambling or otherwise, thank you. I am not actually trying to buy a old new car right now - though at some point I may. It's just that the question has been nagging at me for some time now, and no amount of web searching has answered it. Very mysterious. I didn't believe that every single model year car gets sold, every one of them, but I see now how that does happen. Fascinating.

It may be helpful to add the following anecdotal information, for others who may actually be considering it: every now and then, some zealous car fan finds a sweet, cherry old car that some crank has kept in his barn under a tarp, and the fan buys it, to the puzzlement of the owner, for a pittance. Say it's a phat 69 Charger with like 12 miles on it. Sweet! You huff up the tires and put a new battery in it and crank it up, roar! And down the road you go, and you're grinning like a maniac, you big block badass, and life is good and then everything goes wrong all at once.

Because you're running on the same gas that was in the tank for X years, and the same oil is going through the oil pump only by now it's not really oil any more, it's warmed up sludge, your filters are impervious to air or fluid, and every rubber hose or line is baked by time or the elements in some way, to say nothing of all of the O-rings (which are plastic dust now) and especially the seals/gaskets (head gasket, transmission gasket, anyone?) and basically as soon as it warms up the whole engine falls to pieces and hemorrhages all of its fluids like a bad Tex Avery cartoon, and you're sitting in $50 worth of dee-troit scrap metal, unless it's on fire, in which case you're watching it burn from the side of the road. You're lucky the freakin' wheels didn't fall off.

The only Old New car I'd buy would have been started, driven and serviced on a regular basis over the years, religiously. Which makes it not New, just Cherry.

So anyway. Thanks for the education. It was really bugging me, how that worked. I have greater respect for car salesmen, I didn't think about how complicated it is.
posted by sidereal at 5:11 PM on December 30, 2007

I don't know about one that old, but I bought a one year old car once, at a great discount. The 1992 cars were just coming out and they still had a 1990 car on the lot. You could say it was two years old, but it was still 1991 and there were plenty of 91s still around. Anyway, I got a $16,000 car for $12,000. It was a long and complex haggle, but it saved me a lot of coin at a time when I did not have many coins. For instance, they tried to justify the price due to some fancy wheels on the car that they claimed were worth $1,200 dollars. We had those removed and replace with steel and $1,200 dropped right off the price. These guys were such rube negotiators it was amazing they were able to stay in business. It's not like I was any pro. I was merely tight. Probably, they were just happy to unload what they deemed an albatross and I saw as my dream car. Such deals exist, but good luck finding one. For me it was just dumb luck that after seeing numerous dealers one of them had this vintage of the exact model car I was seeking. A five year old brand new car? You're not finding that at the dealer.
posted by caddis at 5:56 PM on December 30, 2007

If you know what you want to buy, and you find a dealer you trust and who you can work with, and if you're not in a hurry, you can just tell them what you want and to call you when it comes in. I just bought a brand new 2007 Audi with 2k miles on it because someone bought it, drove it for 3 months, then decided to trade it in for something else. I get a brand new car (basically) but they paid the instant depreciation.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:08 PM on December 30, 2007

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