In Praise of: Brand New Old Cars

Michael Martineck
by Michael Martineck

When it comes to buying fish, stocks, bonds or cars, timing is everything. The factors determining a savvy buyer’s ideal window of opportunity are mercurial. And, like the mystery surrounding a good fishing hole, there are plenty of industry professionals whose livelihood depends on shrouding the “inside line” in secrecy. For example, you won't find prices for “leftover” ’07 Chevrolet Malibus on Edmunds or kbb. Of course, when it comes to car buying advice, The Truth About Cars is on YOUR side. We’re here to help.

If you want to save money, it often pays to wait until a manufacturer introduces a new version of an existing model. Dealers hawk model year “close outs” on a regular basis. But the deals don’t get crack-a-lackin’ until the model undergoes a significant “refresh.” If the “old” model looks old or the “new” model is significantly better— like, say, the aforementioned Malibu— the discounts are intense.We've found new old ‘Bu's for $5k off list.

Normally, model “refreshes” are evolutionary, not revolutionary. And the price difference ‘twixt old and new is impressive, not astounding. But impressive ain’t bad. Let’s have a look…

The Nissan Murano has been a solid seller since its introduction in 2003 (with a 2004 model year designation.) This first major update has now shipped, as a 2009. As there was no 2008 model, disconcerted dealers now have 2009 AND 2007 Muranos on sitting on their lots side-by-side.

What’s the diff? The new model gets a more hideous nose and badly revised sheetmetal. Horsepower’s up 25, though mileage remains roughly the same. Nissan claims the new Murano has increased rigidity and decreased noise. In the main, that’s it.

There is a value to newness. It is nice being the first on your block with a car no one’s seen before, to feel special for a while, like you’re on the cutting edge. But there’s also value to be extracted from Nissan dealers with unlucky ‘07s who MUST lure customers away from the new and improved Murano. We're talking $1,500 from Nissan and the $2,500 between the dealer’s sticker and his or her invoice. Or more.

After six years, Volvo is also launching a heavily-revised V70 wagon. The new model takes their bread-and-butter load lugger up a whole platform, from P2 (shared with the S60) to P24 (shared with the S80). Bottom line: it’s a move up market, not up-size. In America, the engine gains a cylinder, the horsepower jumps from 168 to 235, (the 2007 turbo makes 218) and gas mileage drops by around five mpg. The new V-wagon extends a lineage of safety innovations and offers some unique new features, like a power tailgate.

Volvo's a done a good job reducing supplies of the outgoing model. But more than a few 2007s V70s lurk on the lots. In the notoriously cool buying climate of January and February, buyers could find discounts as deep as upstate New York snow. There’s around $2k between invoice and sticker, more with more depending on options and local incentives.

In 2003, the Pontiac Vibe began rolling out of the NUMMI plant (a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota) and the Toyota Matrix emerged from Toyota's Cambridge, Ontario plant. Both vehicles are tall, harshly-styled Corollas– and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Both the Vibe and the Matrix are reliable, versatile, borderline fun vehicles. They just look… dated.

The models’ sheetmetal changes a bit, but the song remains the same; there’s no drastic increase in size. Horsepower is up, without a hit to gas mileage. For the base 1.8-liter engine, GM and Toyota lose the manual transmission option. Toyota and Pontiac are also offering a 2.4-liter powerplant putting out 158 hp. All wheel-drive is back as on option. If these things be important to you, stay home until March.

Good news for the bargain shopper: the 2009 versions of Matrix-Vibe don’t look all that much better. Go poke around under the plastic pennants and you'll find aggressively-priced models aplenty. Dealers are watching flat spots grow on these all season radials, knowing the new 2009's are being assembled in California and Canada as I type.

Here’s the caveat: resale. When a new model comes out, it dings the value of the previous model. In the grand scheme of things, over the long term, it’s not a huge hit. In the short term, it’s a big old whack. If you’re planning to sell your pre-model change car in two to three years, you will not get as much money as if you’d bought the “new” new car.

If you sell your pre-model change vehicle in five to seven years (or longer), factors like mileage and condition come to the fore. Of course, even then, timing is everything.

Michael Martineck
Michael Martineck

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  • Jazzman Jazzman on Jan 22, 2008

    I purchased a new '07 Accord 4dr EX-L 6MT with Navi in October...just as the Honda dealers wre filling up with '08's. Let's face it, not many people want an Accord 4 door with a gain I guess! Sticker was 29,990 but I paid 25k...the '08's are bigger, slower and use more fuel. Only item I miss is the Bluetooth integrated into the Navi...but it is not woth a 5 grand penalty. Plus no 4 door 6 speeds. First year of model runs tend to have problems wife's '04 Toyota Sienna AWD had a full page of problems in 2 years before we sold it..

  • Logdog Logdog on Jan 31, 2008

    No mention of the Honda Pilot 2008 vs. 2009. I recently read there is an overstocked inventory (on TTAC) of Pilots so deals should be around. And with the 2009 redesign coming the 2008 should be even less expensive. Any comments? Also, any experience with or CostCo buying? I HATE dealing with salespersons.

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