When you buy a new car, does it really matter when in the model year you buy it?
July 14, 2004 6:26 AM   Subscribe

When you buy a new car, does it really matter when in the model year you buy it?
posted by smackfu to Shopping (15 answers total)
The conventional wisdom is that if you buy late in the model year, or rather, early in the next model year, you can get a good deal. E.g., I'm planning on looking at new 2004 model cars in August, when many of the 2005s are coming out. Dealers are anxious to move last year's models to make room for the new vehicles.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:37 AM on July 14, 2004

Usually by the end of a model year the manufacturer will offer a discount to clear the old inventory. The 2004, just by virtue of being a 2004, will have a lower resale value than a 2005. The discount is supposed to make up for that difference.

As for individual dealers trying to clear inventory, etc. it can happen every month. If a dealer holds onto any one particular car for more than a month, the manufacturer starts charging interest on the car. It's in the dealer's best interests to keep stock moving at all times of the year.
posted by Coffeemate at 6:46 AM on July 14, 2004

There's generally little to no difference in the cars themselves within a model year--they tend to wait until the next year to make even slight changes, unless they need to for legal/safety reasons. (Year to year, you might see large or small differences in the actual cars, but that's life, and you can usually do research to find out whether the next model year's going to have something new you really want to wait for.) You should also be aware that many European car makers follow more of a calendar model year for their car designs, even though they might follow the US model year calendar for marketing, so cars like VWs really roll over to new models in Jan/Feb of a year.

In terms of choice, pricing and supply, though, the timing can make a big difference. As mb points out, dealers generally try to clear out inventory from the previous model year at the end of their cycle, so it's often a great time for prices, but you're going to have to take what they've got on hand--you're less likely to specify options like the color you want, interior, etc. At the beginning of a new model year, you're going to pay more for the car, and unless you buy it off the lot, you'll probably have to wait longer for it actually to show up, but you can better spec out what you really want.
posted by LairBob at 6:49 AM on July 14, 2004

Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of models go through a "mid-year refresh" where a few nifty changes are made to the model to freshen up the car's image.
posted by gokart4xmas at 6:50 AM on July 14, 2004

I've also been told that model years actually have a couple of different runs, such that if you're buying a car that has been significantly revamped for that model year, you should wait until late in the model year, as the cars built later will have some of the earlier flaws fixed.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:50 AM on July 14, 2004

The conventional wisdom is that if you buy late in the model year, or rather, early in the next model year, you can get a good deal.

True. You are usually faced with a choice between last year's model with a higher rebate/greater markdown or the newer model. And experts say that if you expect to turn around and sell the car in a few years, you are usually better off to buy the newer model rather than the older one with a large rebate/markdown. Which seems counterintuitive, but that's what they say. The logic is that the newer model will hold more of its resale.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:06 AM on July 14, 2004

You can get the demand/supply ratio working for you by deferring your purchase to periods when car sales in general are slow, notoriously January and February when everyone's looking in shock at their Chrstmas credit card bills. It wouldn't surprise me if late summer sucks, too.

Slightly off-topic, remember that sales guys live by their numbers, and they're measured monthly, so if you're negoiating price definitely try to buy at the end of the month. Obviously the salespeople who are struggling that month will be more anxious for your business, and the hot shots may be shooting for a bonus if they're within sight of beating their number.

Crappy weather helps too, tho IMO a better bet is doing the RFQ by fax procedure that was described in the AskMe thread recently.
posted by mojohand at 7:21 AM on July 14, 2004

Well, I'll defer to others on whether cars change much during the model year--with newer mfg techniques, there may be more in-year revisions to cars than there used to be.

The "end of the month" idea is definitely a good one, though, as is using something like Consumer Reports to find out the real dealer price, etc., on a car. You can definitely get leverage by working up from the dealer's price, instead of trying to work down from the sticker price.
posted by LairBob at 7:31 AM on July 14, 2004

If you haven't already, be sure to explore Edmund's - there's a wealth of information and advice there (most of it available from various sites, I'm sure, but Edmund's gathers it all together in a single site). I leased a new car a couple of weeks ago and I found the information from Edmund's absolutely invaluable for selecting not only brand and model, but for choosing between purchasing and leasing and even as a springboard to look at what models and options were sitting on various dealers' lots in my area. I'd be surprised if you couldn't find an article on Edmund's addressing your specific question and I'd be very inclined to follow whatever their advice was on the topic...
posted by JollyWanker at 10:31 AM on July 14, 2004

you're going to have to take what they've got on hand--you're less likely to specify options like the color you want, interior, etc.

I can certainly vouch for this. I bought a '99 when the 2000s came out... and had two choices for my preferred model/year - a red one w/power locks and a black one without (but having some other feature I wanted but that wasnt in the red car).

Since I bought the car with the intention of paying it off asap and then keeping it until it runs into the ground (it still drives great), the savings on buying the previous year was a big incentive. (I had also timed this with a promotional offer for recent college grads which also saved me bundles.)
posted by Sangre Azul at 10:49 AM on July 14, 2004

Does anyone have a link to the older thread mojohand speaks about?
posted by hobbes at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2004

Here it is.
posted by mojohand at 12:05 PM on July 14, 2004

bought my '02 at the end of the model year (spring) when they were clearing room for the '03s. we did get a really good deal, and although they didn't have on hand just what we wanted, they contacted another dealer and brought one in for the same price - 'cept with shiny aluminum mag wheels to boot, just for making us wait for the delivery. if you don't have a dealer network that can do that for you, go earlier in the year - smaller rebates, but more in stock. depending on the model you want, you might have to adjust the timing to make sure there will be more options than just the base model in baby-poo green by the time you start shopping.

oh whenever you go, it sure helps to have the check in hand when you walk in. we knew what we could spend, were pre-approved for the loan from our own credit union, and you'd be amazed (if you've never done it this way) how much sales pressure goes away when they know you're already financed. very, very little pressure to add things on to the cost - 'cause they know that you already have aset spending limit, and they concentrate on getting you as much car as possible rather than trying to get you to add extended warranty, etc. on through their bank, from which they get a kickback commission.

i'll never finance a car through a dealer-recommended bank again, the pre-approval was so much easier.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:07 AM on July 15, 2004

Don't forget that the future residual value (what the car is worth at the end of the lease) drops throughout the model year.

To add insult to injury, many manufacturers actually increase the price of their vehicles once or more during a model year, so that when the new models come out they don't look any more expensive. So if you buy a 2004 after the 2005 models are out, you may be saving compared to a 2005 model, but perhaps not that much compared to the 2004's price at its introduction.
posted by kindall at 6:42 AM on July 15, 2004

i'll never finance a car through a dealer-recommended bank again, the pre-approval was so much easier.

As an added bonus, this can give the dealer incentive to try to beat your financing, since they do want that commission for getting you the loan. My dealer saved me half a percentage point over the financing I arrived with.
posted by kindall at 6:44 AM on July 15, 2004

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