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Are New Car Specials a good deal?

I’m planning to buy a new car in the next few weeks. Would I be buying an inferior car if I buy one of the New Car Specials offered on Dealership websites? Are they the same as the cars sold otherwise? Of three or four Honda and Mazda salesmen I’ve talked to, only one salesman told me about the Specials, and when I wouldn’t let him Bait and Switch, he added only a $200 Administrative Fee.

Should I stsy away from Specials or are they okay - good, quality, really new cars?


Specials can be very legit especially at the end of the model year like now. OTOH, they can be bait to get you in, tell you that one is sold and switch you to a higher priced version with more features, etc. Be wary if that happens.

A car advertised and sold as new should be just that and shouldn’t be inferior to any other new cars. I don’t believe they can advertise a demo model or a previously sold and returned car as “new” but those would have to be sold as “used” not represented as new. To avoid getting screwed, once you know the car you want, switch into what I call “the empowered consumer mode” ask a LOT of questions. For example,

You can ask to see the factory paperwork (not the lot invoice) and check the prices against the factory sticker on the car. If you need to find financing, get preapproval for your price range from your own lender before you go to the dealer, like your bank or credit union. Dealer financing is a huge source of additional money to the dealer. Stay away from gimmicks like the $1000 dealer-installed “custom and convenience package” with additional waranties for things like lock failure, special paint coatings, armour all, Scotch-Guard, and the “administrative fees”. A DMV fee is legitimate however and need to be called out on the purchase contract. The others are all B.S.

Be a good consumer. Ask questions and get satisfying answers from a dealer with a good reputation from multiple sources, you should be fine. If the deal doesn’t pass the smell test, just walk away and tell them not to call you after you leave unless it’s with the “drop close”. Oh, and if they tell you the deal is only good that day, leave them with the wisdom “If it’s good today, it should be good tomorrow, and I’ll give you a buck and I need the receipt, to hold onto the car til then”.
Happy Motoring.

he added only a $200 Administrative Fee

Don’t look at any fee, extra charge, etc. Only look at the bottom line. Nothing else. Then compare. If they start adjusting price, just tell them you are going for a drive and will be back in 30 minutes and you expect them to have their final total price (offer) then.

Don’t get drawn in to add ons fees etc. Compare only final price. Remember you can walk, and buy from another dealer, you will be out nothing. If you walk, they loose the sale.

Don’t ever give them your keys. If you are going to trade-in your car, let them test drive it with you in the car and don’t be shy about telling them to stop, get out and they can walk back, remember it is still YOUR car YOU are in charge and if they don’t want to leave your car, you have a cell phone to call the police.

In short, Web dealers should be treated just like a local dealer.

Can you tell me why you say No to buying a car the Dealer offers as a Special?

The specials are cars that they want to move most. It probably has nothing to do with the car’s condition. A car can have up to 400 miles and still be considered new according to some manufacturers. I got a $1500 discount on a car that had more than 400 miles on it. That appears to be the cut-off where GM considers a car new or used. This is one example of a new car special. Just because it has more mileage does not mean that it is a bad car. Many new cars have more than 300 miles on them after several test drives. Every car is a demonstrator these days.

What do you think about this - I test drove a Honda Civic LX with a problem transmission. I drove another one and it was perfect. I test drove 3 different Mazda 3i Touring, and they all had different steering tightness - one very tight, one too loose and not handle well, and one that was fine. Isn’t this scary?

It sounds like they are not new cars. How many miles are on the odometer? Make sure it is not the trip odometer. I don’t know you, and will assume the worst even though I’m reasonably sure you know the difference.

Dealers sometimes have a special price on a car that might be hard to move. I was ready to go back to graduate school, 370 miles away in August of 1963. My dad had purchased a new Studebaker Lark from the dealer several months earlier and I had taken it back to the dealer to be serviced. On the showroom floor was a brand new, barebones, black, bottom of the line Studebaker Lark with a price of $1495–total price, out the door. When I got back home, I happened to mention seeing that car at the dealer. My mother became all excited–she was worried about me making the trip back to school in the old car that I was driving. My dad talked me into going back to the dealer to see the car the next day. I protested that I would have to borrow $1000 to pay for the car which was quite a chunk of change to me back then. My dad said he would loan me the money. When we got to the dealer and my dad saw the car, he said, “You don’t want a car like that. Let’s find something nicer on the lot”. Well, I thought the $1495 Studebaker was just fine. At one time, my dad who had been through the depression, would have jumped at a car like that. The upshot was that I didn’t buy a car because I didn’t want to owe money. I kept driving my old car. (Now, had my dad tried to upgrade me to an Avanti, it would have been a different story. Everybody has his price).
The point is that sometimes dealers’ specials are cars that are hard to move. If my dad, who had gone through the depression without much money thought the car looked too cheap, I’m guessing that the car attracted the attention of few other buyers.

Great ideas. I’m wondering why the cars listed on the dealers wwebsites under ‘Specials’ could perhaps be hard to move. They’re 2010’s and they say the odometer reads 0-4 miles.

I am doing my calculations from the List price on the car, not from the Special cars prices. And I will pick a car from the lot, not let them bring it to me. Maybe the 3 Mazdas I test drove that were brought to me were ‘Specials’ - 2 were defective in steering. There was a Recall on steering for the 2007-2009 model. Maybe a problem is still there. Thanks for your help. It’s making me think and plan what I need to do to protect myself.

Keep in mind that a hard to move car at a low “special” price will, in all likelihood, not be popular as a used car. If you drive the car into the ground, you will get your money’s worth. If you trade it after a year, you will lose quite a bit in depreciation. Tom McCahill, the automobile tester who wrote from 1946 through the 1970’s for Mechanix Illustrated advised buying an unpopular new car when it becomes a used car if you are really seeking a bargain.

The problem is, unpopular new cars usually don’t have high reliabilty ratings, thus more repair expense out of warranty and as a used car, right?

“The problem is, unpopular new cars usually don’t have high reliabilty ratings, thus more repair expense out of warranty and as a used car, right?”

Not necessarily. They can be unpopular for a number of reasons. They might be ugly, or underpowered, or from a manufacturer that is out of favor. Before the redesign in 2008, the Chevy Malibu was unpopular because it was ugly. But was and still is reliable transportation. Another possibility is an old design. The Chevy Cobalt is at the end of it’s production; it will be replaced next year. We bought a 2009 Cobalt at way below MSRP because it was unpopular and the bottom just fell out of the market. My kids love the Cobalt. My oldest daughter likes it so much that she wants to buy one. I have to admit that I like it, too. Even after 9.5 hours to SC (I drove).

Often, the unpopular cars were the more expensive cars when purchased new. Big cars often have high depreciation and can be had as used cars for less than used economy cars. My brother drives Lincolns and Cadillacs for that reason. Back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, a used Cadillac was a particularly good buy. Consumer Reports gave them a good repair record. The gasoline mileage of a 1954 Cadillac 62 series was better than that of a 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air with its 6 cylinder engine(the Cadillac had a more efficient transmission and a very efficient–for the times–V-8 engine). Yet, in 1960, a 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air fetched more than a 1954 Cadillac when the carswere in equivalent condition with equivalent mileage. The Chevrolet was considered a cheaper car to maintain.

According to this article, online specials can be the best way to buy.