Ask Bark: Let's Make A Deal (On Leftover Inventory)

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth

When it comes to getting a deal on a new car, I’ve definitely been at both ends of the spectrum. I’ve paid MSRP for cars that were selling well above (see: Boss 302, Focus RS), and I’ve negotiated like crazy to save thousands below sticker, too. But my best deal I ever got was on a 2004 Mazda RX-8 that was still on the lot in June 2005. I ultimately paid $23,000 for a car that had an original MSRP of $31,500.

It wasn’t easy.

It took visits to three different dealerships, multiple return visits to the dealership where I actually purchased the car, and some, er, creative paperwork on the part of the dealer to get the deal through financing (I signed up for a LOT of credit cards on Ohio State’s campus when I was a student. Don’t judge me, they were giving away 2-liters of soda). All in all, it took about three weeks to get the Sunlight Silver RX-8 touring to its permanent home in my apartment complex’s garage.

But if you really want to steal a car, buying the previous model year is always a great way to get an initial win, especially if you plan to keep the car past the majority of its depreciation curve. Today’s Ask Bark deal’s with just such a scenario, but will our shopper be able to find the deal he wants? Click the jump to find out.

Hi Mark,

I’ve been looking into replacing my current daily driver with something newer, and typically I would look to buy a CPO model from one of the luxury brands like BMW or Mercedes. I currently drive a 2015 528i I bought with the certified warranty. I read a lot of articles online about people getting amazing deals on new cars, and my tastes tend to fall towards cars that not everyone likes. The BMW is the first purchase I had made in a while that wasn’t a low volume model or wagon.

Some of the cars I’m interested in are the kind that tend to have leftover 2018s still on the lot here in Southern California where I live. Examples includes the Buick TourX, Fusion Sport, and also Mazda6 Signature models. When I do a nationwide search I see models going for $10-$15k off sticker (especially for the Buick), but not always here. What kind of deals can I expect and is it the same everywhere? I don’t want to waste people’s time at these dealerships by completely low balling them but I’m looking for an amazing deal if go with one of these cars.

Thanks,

Steve

No, thank you for your question, Steve-O. I’m going to share with you (and our loyal Ask Bark fans, both of them) my secrets for buying leftover inventory, and hope that you are able to use them to your advantage.

1. Be Prepared To Travel

You mentioned that you haven’t been able to find the same pricing in SoCal that you can in other places around the country. Unfortunately, you live in one of the worst car shopping markets in the nation. Inventory tends to be overpriced in SoCal, as a whole, thanks to the ridiculous cost of living. That being said, Penske Buick GMC of Cerritos appears to be blowing these suckers out the door. The fine print indicates that there’s some GM cash available that you have to qualify for, but if I’ve learned anything about buying Buicks, it’s that their dealers are willing to wave the magic wand in the F&I office to make shit happen.

However, if the deal isn’t as advertised, as it often isn’t, then don’t be afraid to hit up dealers across the region, or even the country. Saving $10k is worth a $600 flight or $700 delivery charge. Just make sure that you get errrrrrrything in writing (and preferably signed) before you buy that plane ticket. I know of too many stories where a one-way ticket turned into a round-trip ticket when the dealer tried to leverage the customer’s predicament of being a thousand miles away from home with no other way home into an extra grand of profit.

2. Be Prepared To Compromise

When you’re buying a leftover car, the chances of you getting exactly the color, trim level, and options you want are pretty slim. In my story, I wanted a sport model RX-8, preferably in Nordic Green. Unbelievably, I found one at a Mazda dealer on the east side of Cincinnati, exactly the way I wanted it — but the dealer was shady as hell. Mazda was offering a $4,000 rebate to anybody willing to take an ’04 RX-8 off the hands of a dealer, and this particular dealership decided to act as though that rebate didn’t exist when they drew up the initial offer. I reacted by saying a phrase that has a time-honored tradition in the Baruth family — “Let’s get the fuck out of here!”

I ended up with a Sunlight Silver Touring model with a sunroof and ground effects, because that was the only other 2004 RX-8 in the Greater Cincinnati Area. In this day and age, I might have used the power of the internet to my advantage to locate another Nordic Green Sport model, but that color and trim combo was admittedly very rare. If you find yourself in the same boat, you’ll have to decide how much the color and trim level you want really means to you. You might end up with something else that you’ll be nearly as happy with, but for a whole lot less money.

3. Be Prepared To Walkaway

In most cases, there is a reason that a dealership has a car leftover from the previous model year well into the next. In many of these instances, it’s because you’re dealing with a rather unpopular car. That’s certainly the case with the Regal you mentioned — there are 554 of them left in nationwide inventory on Cars.com. There are only about 2,000 Buick GMC dealers in the entire country, which means that about one in four is stuck with one of these floorplan anchors.

However, the other reason could be that the dealer is a unrepentant, money-grubbing douchebag. You may find that some of these guys will deal even harder on aged inventory. If you come across a dealer like this, don’t waste any more of your time — there are 553 other Regals out there.

4. Just Be Prepared, Period

You asked if the deals will be the same everywhere. The answer is — probably. There are rare exceptions where an OEM may offer a rebate in one part of the country and not another, but the cash on the hood should be similar. Before you contact any dealers, do some research and find out what rebates are being offered. Be wary of the dealer who tries to pocket that rebate, like the Mazda dealer above. That rebate should be the starting point for your negotiations, though, not the ending point. Remind the dealer that it’s almost August, and that in about another month or so, the 2020s will be arriving. Do they really want a car that’s two model years old?

Conclusion

At the end of the day (or model year), you’ll have to decide if going down this path is worth the significantly more time and effort it will take you as opposed to just going down to the Bimmer lot and picking out another CPO lease return. For me, it was. For you? Only you know that.

Send your stupid questions to Bark at barkm302@gmail.com and he will assuredly answer them. Sometime. Someday. Somehow.

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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  • Bullnuke Bullnuke on Jul 27, 2019

    In addition to left-overs, I've been pretty successful in finding excellent prices for vehicles that were special-ordered but not delivered to the person originally ordering. An '86 Astro base model with 4.3 V6/5MT, cruise but no tilt, nice mid level interior trim, and towing package for a 20% off MSRP; my '99 F350 XL w/7.3 and 6MT was an extra from a fleet order - got the diesel option ($5k or so that year) for free, and a strangely optioned special ordered '19 F350 XL, 6.2 gasser w/4.30 axles and a nutty bunch of options for around 15% off MSRP. It's paid off for me to "walk the lots" looking for the unicorn.

    • See 2 previous
    • Bullnuke Bullnuke on Jul 27, 2019

      jack4x - there were 4 with 4x4 and a pickup box and the 4.30 within 1000 miles of me; two new and two pre-owned w/less than 3k miles. There were a bunch of cab/chassis 2WD in Oxford White with the 4.30 on Ford Commercial Vehicle dealer lots.

  • Ptschett Ptschett on Jul 29, 2019

    It's a good place to be if you can be there. I've been there twice. Late 1990's: my parents & I were more or less agreed that I needed a car to take to college, & that me & my sister needed separate cars. I came to decide that I liked the post-1994 refresh 'MN12' Ford Thunderbird/Mercury Cougar. We looked at a 1994 Cougar V8 on the late-model used lot at my hometown's Ford dealer, but decided to go with what became my 1996 Thunderbird V8 from the Ford dealer in a neighboring town, where it had been a demo car for the wife of one of the dealership owners for a few thousand miles. There can't have been many '96 Thunderbirds that had their 3/36 warranty's time clock start later than mine's did in August 1998. We paid ~$14,000 for a car that would have cost ~$20,000 if it had sold when it was supposed to. Almost exactly 9 years ago: I decide that I want a Dodge Challenger R/T with the 6-speed to replace that Thunderbird. I was prepared to order the car. My local dealer has a 2010 on the lot, that's close enough to my specifications that I decide to live with the 20" wheels and can wait a few weeks to have the Sirius satellite radio kit installed. Not as good of a deal as the Thunderbird, but it was meaningfully under-MSRP in a time when under-MSRP Challenger R/T sales were not terribly common.

  • Stephen Never had such a problem with my Toyota products.
  • Vulpine My first pickup truck was a Mitsubishi Sport... able to out-accelerate the French Fuego turbo by Renault at the time. I really liked the brand back then because they built a model for every type of driver, including the rather famous 300/3000GT AWD sports car (a car I really wanted, but couldn't afford.)
  • Vulpine A sedan version of either car makes it no longer that car. We've already seen this with the Mustang Mach-E and almost nobody acknowledges it as a Mustang.
  • Vulpine Not just Chevy, but GM has been shooting itself in the foot for the last three decades. They've already had to be rescued once in that period, and if they keep going as they are, they will need another rescue... assuming the US govt. will willing to lose more money on them.
  • W Conrad Sedans have been fine for me, but I were getting a new car, it would be an SUV. Not only because less sedans available, but I can't see around them in my sedan!
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