By on September 12, 2009

TTAC Commentator gntlben writes:

I’m currently in the market for a new car, and noticed a local Subaru dealer has a pair of new ’08 Legacys (a 2.5GT Limited and a 3.0R Limited) gathering dust on the lot. Both are being advertised with a big discount (down to $25-$26K) that puts them in my price range. Both have VA inspection stickers that expire this year (2.5 in August, 3.0 in October), which leads me to believe that, considering they’re ’08’s and VA has a yearly inspection, they’ve been at the dealership since 2007. My question is this: what possible trouble spots/wear should I look for on a new car that’s been sitting for such a long time?

Sajeev replies:

The test vehicle for TTAC’s Mercury Montego review was much like the Subies in question. It sat around for about a year and the rear rotors rusted to the pads. (Damn that parking brake!) I’ll never forget the sound of the discs freeing themselves: from the screeching tires to the rotors popping free, it made quite a racket. Luckily, this being a Lincoln Mercury dealership, nobody heard it.

So, back to your question: fluids are my main concern. Engine oil and gasoline have a limited lifespan and performance potential after a lack of use, so I’d change both. From there, the tires could be flat spotted, but that’s remedied like the frozen brakes on the Montego: drive it. A test drive is mandatory before purchase. If something isn’t right, make sure they fill out a “We Owe” form before you fork over the greenbacks.

Almost as important: cosmetics. The leather seats definitely need conditioning with a high quality restorer.  The paint might need restoration with a clay bar and a fresh coat of wax, to remove the contaminants that can’t be washed off when the dealership does periodic cleaning of their inventory. Other than that, I would jump at the offer if you feel you’re getting a good deal.

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27 Comments on “Piston Slap: A Tale of Two Dusty Legacys...”

  • avatar

    Go for the 2.5GT as long as it’s in good condition. I picked up an ’09 2.5GT a few months ago and I love it. Very fun to drive!

  • avatar

    I found a good deal on a NEW honda bike…a cruiser…but the model year is 06. I guess it’s been sitting since 05 ???? Considering we are at the end of 09, I’m pretty leery about getting it, even with a good discount.

  • avatar

    Isn’t the plural of legacy legacies?

  • avatar

    My ’08 Saab 9-3 was built in Sept 07 but not purchased until March 09 with all of 11 miles on it. Not a single problem, up to 8500 miles now. Just buy the car if you like it and enjoy the deep discount. Any minor issues will be covered by the warranty anyway.

    The only things I have done extra are that I did change the oil myself at 4K miles (50% on the oil life monitor), and I plan to change the brake fluid when I put the snow tires on in a couple months. The Saab came with Mobil1 in the sump from the factory, so the early oil change was probably unnecessary, but I’m anal like that.

  • avatar

    The biggest think to look for is physical damage like dings and scrapes. Vehicles get damaged on dealer lots because of the close proximity they are usually parked in. The longer a vehicle remains on a dealers lot the greater chance of such damage.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I once bought a new car that had sat in dealer inventory for 16-months. I had no problems with it, and the price was very favorable.

    If the Subarus have been at the dealership since ’07 they could have been manufactured early in ’07, making them nearly three years old! Hopefully they have been moved around a few times. The door sticker will confirm the date of manufacture.

    I would not pay much more than the price of a low mileage, same model used ’08. That should not be that difficult to negotiate because the dealer is undoubtedly eligible for a whale of a manufacturers’ incentive to get rid of them. The factory warranty will allow plenty of time for any ill effects from their long hibernation to become evident and be repaired at the manufacturer’s cost.

    I would insist that all the fluids are changed and a new battery and new tires are installed, and stand there while they do it.

  • avatar

    pista :
    September 12th, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Isn’t the plural of legacy legacies?

    I don’t believe so in this case. Just like it is the Toronto Maple Leafs, not the Toronto Maple Leaves (although my kid insists on the latter grrrr).

  • avatar

    i bought 5 months ago an 08 spec b (almost same car as gt limited), which had also not yet been loved. It was a summer ’07 build. It has been a gem so far. The dealer changed the fluids at no charge the first week and I haven’t noticed any tire issues.

  • avatar

    My question is why has it been sitting so long. It makes no sense, it should have been retailed a long time ago. Something’s a miss. Run a carfax, ask a lot of questions, with back up documents. An unwind which would be the likely case, would be history by now. It’s definitely something else. Law suit maybe?

  • avatar

    I bought my SRT-4 in April of ’05, it was built in Feb of ’04. Never had any issues due to it sitting at the dealer almost a year, in fact I never had any issues at all. It only had about 35 miles at purchase so it wasn’t driven much. I wouldn’t worry about a relatively new car sitting around. Change the oil, fill up the tank with fresh gas and motor on.

  • avatar

    What dealer are you looking at? I tried to prise a 3.0R out of Stohlman’s but they wouldn’t budge on the price. I know the Limited’s have a a lot of equipment but that still seems steep for an ’08. In fact they had a ’08 3.0 Limited on the lot until June that was less than $26k. Now that the ’10s have been out for a while I would think you can do better, but who knows? Car dealers are crazy.

  • avatar

    CyCar- Don’t be so cynical. Do your due diligence no matter what you’re buying but don’t carry it too far.

    Westbound- Subaru has not been desperate in recent years to move their product. That’s why their resale is so freakin’ high. Eventually the dealer may want to wash out his aged inventory and make a deal too good to pass up, but that’s long after the factory has forgotten that year+ old piece.

    The reason Subaru is notorious for having some of these high $ cars on the lot a year or so after the model change is because the factory reps order these cars to drive for themselves. They have them delivered to area dealers so when it’s time to ground their currnet car they just get in another one. They’re not owned by the dealer they’re owned by SOA. They always order way more than they need for the year and when the model year changes they beg and plead for the dealer’s who’ve been storing these cars to take them into their inventory.

    Subaru is factory driven. The factory decides what they are going to build for the year and leaves the reps to dispurse the goods. If they decide their going to build 6% of their total Legacys with 6cyl, navigation and cloth interior, then that’s what they build. The reps end up driving these “odd ball” cars because the dealers won’t accept the allocation when they’re offered to begin with. I’m not venting against Subaru, they’re an awesome company. It’s just the way they operate.

  • avatar

    If the engine oil has a limited lifespan while sitting in the pan doing nothing, the ATF and power steering fluid will also be worn out. So I guess you better change those too.

  • avatar

    flush the cooling system? doesen’t the coolant (glycol and anti-corrosives) also age? (or is that only under heat-stress?)

    don’t know what kind of brake fluid is being put in cars these days, and unless the formulation has somehow been changed over the years, if the fluid is DOT-3, it is hydroscopic, and it has been absorbing moisture … so its replacement interval might best be measured in time rather than miles … unless this is figured into the discount (and the stealership would, in any case, claim that it has been), it would be best to also ask for this to be changed out too…

    and unless one really trusts the dealer, besides watching in person, can anyone tell me how to be confident that all such work has really been performed?

  • avatar

    I bought my ’77 Toyota Corolla in ’85. The first owner, the future Iraq weapons inspector David Albright, was selling it because he’d driven it a total of 2000 miles in the previous two years. It had two problems from all that sitting. The brakes had pretty much seized, and I had to spend $600 to get them into shape, on top of the $450 I spent for the car. The other problem was that the vinyl upholstery was in poor shape, with lots of tears, and likewise the dash. AT that price, I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I drove the car 90,000 miles (to 161k) over the next eight years. When I sold it, the only real problem it had was rust. Mechanically, it was fine.

  • avatar

    Isn’t the plural of legacy legacies?

    Since in this case, Legacy is a name, the plural is Legacys.
    One Chevy, lots of Chevys.

    It is not Legacy’s. And the plural of SUV is not SUV’s. It’s SUVs. You never ever use an apostrophe btw the word and the pluralizing “s” unless you are pluralizing an acronym where there is a period after each letter of the acronym, as in S.U.V.’s. People who use the apostrophe in any other cases should be forced to write on the blackboard “I will not use an apostrophe” at least 1,000 times, and then they should have to drive a Kia Rio slushbox for a year.

  • avatar

    My car sat for 12 months from build date to my garage. Front rotors warped badly in 500 miles. other than that, zero problems.

  • avatar

    My car sat for 12 months from build date to my garage. Front rotors warped badly in 500 miles. other than that, zero problems.
    David Holtzman: I’m with you on the proper use of that dreaded punctuation mark. Amazing how it gets abused…

  • avatar
    Andy D

    g2h, chances are the rotors and pads just needed a good scrubbing, the rust scraped a chunk of pad material and deposited it on the rotor. It gives symptoms similar to a warped rotor. How ever, it can be fixed by a series of pedal jabs to slow the car down from high way speeds to a near stop. Check your rearview before trying this.

  • avatar

    Aren’t there acres of band new cars sitting on storage lots all over the country right now that have been there for almost a year? In particular, I am thinking of the ocean of Mercedes-Benzs sitting in Long Beach.

  • avatar

    In May this year I bought a 2006 Merc CL500. The car had a build date of June 06, wasn’t sold until July 07 and the first owner only put 12200 on the clock. I had the Merc VMI pulled on it before I bought (as Carfax doesn’t give you everything) and there was nothing listed as far as maintenance for it sitting when the first owner bought.
    Do the review of the paperwork as stated and it should be a grand deal.

  • avatar

    The biggest thing to remember with several year old new cars is that the warranty doesn’t start till you buy the car, so you are fully covered for any mechanical niggles that may pop up from sitting on the lot for a bit. Most reputable dealerships will also replace certain parts such as tires, rotors, wiper blades, etc, that may have worn out from sitting in one place for too long if they fail within a ridiculously short period of time after purchase, even though those are traditionally wear items.

    My dealership had a bit of a changing of the guard last year and we blew out a ton of aged inventory at very low prices just to get rid of it. The majority of the cars had no problems, those that did for the most part were minor – needed new tires or trim pieces resecured, things of that nature. One supercharged vehicle blew its engine inside of a month, but that was replaced with a new one under warranty and has been trouble free since.

  • avatar

    VA has an annual inspection? I saw fewer idiotic drivers on the road there than I have in any other state. Does keeping poorly maintained cars off the road also keep bad drivers off the road?

  • avatar

    VA has an annual inspection? I saw fewer idiotic drivers on the road there than I have in any other state. Does keeping poorly maintained cars off the road also keep bad drivers off the road?

    I don’t think it keeps bad drivers off the road – NY has an annual inspection and people there can’t drive anyway.

    Oh, and as for VA drivers? Up here, we call backing down an entrance ramp ‘pulling a Virginia’ I didn’t even know people did that until a trip there years ago..

  • avatar

    what is a “We Owe” form?

  • avatar

    Jersey: clicky

  • avatar

    I’m in Richmond; there’s plenty of bad drivers around Virginia. The worst problems I see are a complete inability to merge onto/off of highways at interchanges and complete lack of lane discipline (likely contributing to the former).

    I grew up in Maryland. Home of the infamous “Maryland turn,” where one makes a left-hand turn onto a multi-lane road and clips the right shoulder.

    AICfan: never heard of that maneuver as “pulling a VA” and to be honest not sure I’ve seen it in practice around Richmond. The I81 corridor has it in spades though. I’ve just heard it referred to as “death wish.”

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