Ask Bark: What To Know When Going Demo

ask bark what to know when going demo

Brent writes:

I’ve located a 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk demo. The owner’s 16-year-old daughter was presented this car on her 16th birthday, and she piloted it for 3,000 miles (a fact that doesn’t altogether leave me with warm fuzzies).

The dealer’s first offer, which included a trade-in of my 2005 Ford Ranger XLT with 51,444 mi, was $17,497 difference — without seeing my truck. My Ranger a very clean, well maintained, two-owner example. Black Book values its trade-in value at $4,400, but I wouldn’t give it up for less than $5,000.

My needs are few, and the truck meets them. However, I’d be happy if I could get into the Renegade for my trade plus $15,000. I’ve always wanted to enjoy the local Jeep jamborees and trail runs, and I need a “Trail Rated” Jeep to participate.

Is this deal feasible or am I being unreasonable? And what things should I keep in mind buying a demo?

You know what’s funny? I actually had a minor stroke in that dealership. I kid you not. And it wasn’t because of an overpriced Jeep Renegade demo, either. Nah, this one isn’t too badly priced, but we’ll get into that in a bit. First things first.

Let me be blunt. The Renegade sucks. I tried to write a review of one that I drove into Brooklyn a few weeks ago, but it was so goofy and stupid that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It manages to suck every ounce of the goodness right out of the Fiat 500X and replaces it with 100% Pure Poseur. I’d take the Fiat every day over the Renegade, and twice on Sunday.

But, that being said, it seems like you have an affinity for the car, and I learned a long time ago that nobody really wants a conflicting opinion on a car that he/she already loves. So let’s address the real question you asked: is this a good deal, and what should you be looking for when buying a demo?

Demos can be an outstanding way to get a new car at a much reduced price. 3,000 miles don’t bother me that much on a car. You’re talking about maybe 1/60th of the usable life of a modern car, and you’re likely to get much more of a relative discount on it than that.

So what should you look out for?

First of all, is it really a demo? Or was it a service loaner? Or, God forbid, a program car?

Depending on where you live, all three of these can be sold as “new cars.” Demos typically aren’t that bad, but keep in mind that most car dealers have never actually owned a personal car — they have no idea what cars are really worth. Imagine if somebody gave you a new, free car every 90 days. Would you really take good care of it? Would you ensure that it got its first oil change on time? Or would you just give it back and get your next free car? It’s something to think about.

Service loaners and program cars should be avoided like the proverbial plague. Service loaners are abused by customers daily, and they’re also typically used as the “lunch run” car. Don’t do it. Seriously. Meanwhile, program cars might be driven by a local OEM regional road warrior rep for a few thousand miles, only to be ridden hard and put away wet. Or, even worse, it could have been a press loaner! Do not want.

However, if it really is a demo that’s being sold as new, that’s actually going to be in your favor. You’ll get better financing options than you might on a CPO car, and you’ll qualify for all of the existing rebates. It looks like they have this particular model listed as “new,” so that means that you’ll qualify for the $2,000 in incentives that Jeep is offering, or 1.9% interest financing.

Which brings me to Thing To Look Out For What’s the actual history of this car? I’d ask them for a vehicle history report. They might balk at first, but you’ll want to verify that little Miss PHD (Papa Has Dealership) didn’t run it into a tree. The whole “my daughter borrowed it for 3,000 miles” doesn’t jive with me. Get the real story.

TTLOF #3 (I made up a cool acronym): What’s the actual price? Is the dealer presenting this price to you as before or after rebates? My guess is that the $17,497 price includes those rebates. If that’s the case, they’re only offering you $4,000 for your trade, and Kelly Blue Book Instant Cash Offer is closer to $5,000. The numbers are a bit fuzzy. I don’t think you’ll get anywhere near that $15,000 price you want, though.

That being said, the number they’re offering you is a very fair price for that Renegade ( if that’s what you’re into). Standard industry math for figuring out a price on a loaner is to take the invoice price of the car and treat it like a car that’s exceeded lease mileage — in other words, deduct 20-25 cents per mile. In this case, that’s $26,396 minus about $750, or approximately $25,650. $23,447 seems like a decent deal, once you factor in that it’s at the end of a model year. However, you might be able to find a similar 2015 that isn’t a demo with all the same rebates and a dealer who’s willing to deeply discount it, too.

So, in short — yes, you’re being unreasonable to think that $15,000 is gonna float. But, it never hurts to make an offer and to be prepared to walk away if they don’t accept it. Maybe meet them in the middle at $16,300 and see what happens.

But did I mention that the Renegade sucks? Just making sure.

Bark M. doesn’t like the Jeep Renegade, but he likes you! Send your questions to him at or on the Twitters at @barkm302. Gracias.

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5 of 66 comments
  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on May 26, 2016

    OK, maybe it sucks, but does it suck as bad as a Compass or Patriot? Just curious since I didn't thing anything short of a Mitsubishi or Suzuki sucked as bad as those Jeeps.

  • Monty Monty on May 26, 2016

    In my lifetime, I've bought both a demo and a program car as new vehicles. The program car was a '92 Dodge Spirit that was an okay deal with not quite 4K on it, but I only spent $200 for the Chryco extended warranty which saved us probably $5000 over the lifetime of the warranty. Great f'ing deal. Best $200 I ever spent. The demo was a '96 Voyager - it was almost a year old with 10K on it, but it had been maintained well. Your story may be different, but it's a vehicle that should last 200K or more, so if it's a good deal and you like the Renegade, do it. I test drove a Fiat 500L, and contrary to the B&B, I liked it. Maybe because it was a manual transmission, but it drove and handled much better than I expected. If you like the car, buy it. don't listen to us grumps.

    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on May 26, 2016

      The manual transmission receives very good reviews. It's the polar opposite of the awful 9-spd automatic. And, the MT is paired with the 1.4 Turbo, which is smoother than the 2.4L, but just not as powerful. The combination of 2.4L - 9A is icky.

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