How to Shop When The Dealer Doesnít Have The Car You Want In Stock

Tips For Getting The Car You Want

Editorís note: This article has been updated with new information since its original posting date.

A Car Pro Show listener from Cleveland recently called in perplexed because the dealer he was dealing with wanted to charge him $500 just to locate and secure a vehicle from another dealershipís inventory. Clearly, he was at the wrong place. So, how does buying out of a dealerís inventory affect your deal versus buying out of the dealerís stock?

When a Dealership Doesnít Have the Vehicle You Want

When you make the decision to purchase, you get all excited about that new car, research it until your eyes get crossed and now you are ready to go to a dealership. You have the perfect vehicle envisioned and you get to the dealership and they do not have it. Now, what do you do?

Some people are willing to be flexible, while others want exactly what they want. Everyone has hot buttons; it may be color, equipment, engine/transmission, maybe even an interior color. The problem is no dealer can afford to stock every combination available on a particular model.
The Lincoln Navigator averages only 13 days on dealer lots. The Black Label trim, accounting for more than 20 percent of total sales, even less. (April 2018 Sales) Credit: Lincoln
Today, dealers stock cars based on recent history. The equipment packages that sell the fastest get re-ordered first. Dealers know what colors sell best, which trim packages sell best, and which engine/transmission combinations sell best, and all this information is available with the push of the button.

If you visit a dealership and canít find exactly what you want, you have three choices: you can get the dealer to special order what you want, they can find it at another dealership and get it for you, or you can make a choice out of their inventory. Letís look at each option.

1. Ordering a car

The good dealers are always willing to order for you, the greedy ones donít really care about doing this, they want that ďtoday dealĒ and if they canít have it, theyíll send you down the road. A couple of things you need to know about ordering are that it takes time-and the length of time can vary greatly depending on the automaker. Most can get the vehicle you want in six to eight weeks, but I have also seen it take 90 days or more depending on availability of the car you choose. The size of the dealership can have a lot to do with this too if it is a ďhotĒ car. Also, with most automakers, the factory incentives that you receive are based on when you take delivery of the car, not when you order it, so keep that in mind. Sometimes that works in your favor, sometimes not.

Read: True Stories From a Former Car Dealer: Ordering Cars

2. Letting the dealer get the car from another dealership

Dealers trade amongst themselves constantly because as I said earlier, no dealer can stock everything. You need to know that if you choose to go this route, it will most likely cost you money, and sometimes a lot more. With most brands, the original dealer receives the holdback money from the factory and often does not pass that on to the dealer needing the car. In many cases, this is 3% of the window sticker price and can have a huge impact on your final pricing. Then there are transportation costs. Most dealers pay a service to transport the car from one dealership to the next and that can have an impact on your price. The farther away the car is, the more it costs to get it to you.

3. Buying from dealerís current stock

This is the least expensive way to buy a car. The dealer has the most incentive to give you the best price. If you find a car that is close to what you had your heart set on, changes can be made. Letís say you find the perfect car except it has a cloth interior and you wanted leather. Today, leather can easily be added to any vehicle. The same is true of navigation systems, moon roofs, DVD players, wheels, etc. If you decide to adapt the car to fit your desires, be sure to see what it will look like when finished. Ask if the item being added is factory or aftermarket, this can affect quality and warranty. Add-on items generally cost a little more than the same option from the factory but is often much cheaper than the dealer having to get the car from another dealer.

In summary, if you can buy out of a dealerís stock, youíll save money. However, you are spending a lot of money, so make sure you are pleased with your choice.

Photo Copyright: Pavel L Photo and Video
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Martin Flowerman
Dear Jerry,
I think you remember me. My wife Barbara and I had the great pleasure of seeing you a few years ago at the Cleveland Automobile Show.
Because of your certification and kind words we went to Serra Auto Park in Akron, OH. We dealt with Tom Flory and Casey Dungan. These are two of the greatest people we have ever done business with in the car buying field.
I have sent my brother and son to these two lovely people.
I just turned in my 2017 Subaru Forester 10 months early on lease which Tom bought out from me and put me in a 2019 Forester lease for $11 mo. less than what I was paying.
To top it off, I asked Tom what he could do for my wife who owned a 2014 Forester with less than 9K miles on it. I wanted her to have the standard safety equipment.
Tom offered us a fair trade in allowance and a fair selling price on a 2019 Forester. Can you tell we love Subaru Foresters? We always hear you raving about Subarus on your radio program. Hope you might come to the Cleveland Auto Show in early 2020. Love to see you.
The Car Pro
SO GOOD to hear from you! Yes, Tom and his crew are awesome and I too love the new Forester, it's terrific.

I'm hoping we can get back to Cleveland too, just hope it's a little warmer this time! : )

I wish you both all the best!

Jerry Reynolds
What if it's the same dealership but in different cities or even states?
The Car Pro
If we are talking pre-owned vehicles, they typically wonít give the vehicle up, itís best for you to just go to the dealership that has the vehicle listed.

Jerry Reynolds
Nathan K.
Does this hold true for used cars? I've been looking for a used Lexus RC 350 and while I test drove one that was close to me at a Toyota dealership, it is not quite the one I want to go with due to the interior color (and exterior if it can be helped).
The Car Pro
Definitely not in most cases. Dealers work hard for their used inventory, and even dealers with common ownership won't trade used cars.

Jerry Reynolds
Timothy L.
I just purchased a 2019 corvette stingray from a dealer in Virginia, but it is actually at a sister dealership in Georgia. They said they would send someone down to pick it up. I assumed it would be on a flatbed, but the salesman just told me today that they will be driving it back, over 1000 miles. I told them that was unsatisfactory and a deal breaker. What is the norm for dealers to pick up cars they you buy from other dealers in the same family? Drive back or flatbed?
The Car Pro
There really isn?t a norm for this. I suspect there was not enough profit to have it trailered or flat bedded. I would not want it driven either frankly. Not sure where you are located, but I have great Chevy dealers that might match the deal, and be a lot closer.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Ann .
Hi, I purchased a new 2018 Hyundai Elantra only to find out later on that the colour I wanted was no longer available. Do I have the option to cancel
my purchase in this case?
The Car Pro
Not sure where you are located, but in every state my show airs, all sales are final. Not sure why the color being dropped would matter anyway to be honest, car colors change every single year. It could be a plus down the road with resale value.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Martha .
I purchased a car over a month ago and I am waiting for it to come in. I received a call from subaru and they told me that the car a want a 2018 legacy with a moon roof is not available and I have to get a 2019 with moon roof and all the extras that come with it. The problem is they say it will cost me $40.00 more dollars a month which I can't pay. Is there anything I can do ?
The Car Pro
Honestly no. The dealer cannot control what the factory can build or price increases. I wish I had better news, but you?ll need to decide to pay more for the 2019 or pick something in inventory to get closer to the original quote.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Michelle H.
I recently went and put a deposit on a been car and I was told they would have it within a week. Then I was called and told they have a VIN number and would have the car in 7 business days. But I?m hearing conflicting things that it could take weeks? Anyone else had experience with this?
Dix .
Yes! I bought a car that my dealership found for me in TX they didn't have the color or standard I wanted. They kept promising me it would be here in couple days...then a few more days...then, on a Tuesday, the day I was to pick it up...I recieved a call saying the transport guy had hurt his leg and hadn't gotten it. The sales manager told me he'd pay my first car payment if I'd let him send the couple he found down and fetch it and have it here by Sat. I called today...Thursday. make certain it was on schedule...only to find out the "couple" wasn't going to pick it up either. I finally had to say I'd have to cancel and get my sizable down payment back...they called and said the salesman (who sold me the car) and his wife were going to get it and have it here by Sat. I'm not holding my breath.
Ron H.
Jerry, Sure wish you would return to the Minneapolis area. We miss you. - Ron
Ray D.
Hi Jerry, you said in your article about finding the perfect vehicle, that when the dealer gets a car from another dealer that the 3% holdback doesn't go to the dealer. Don't dealers usually trade with another dealer? If so would the 3% go with the deal?
Jerry Reynolds
Ray, yes. In those cases where the dealer gets a car back, it?s usually a wash or close to it. The trend I?ve seen in recent years is that dealers are overloaded with inventory and will sell a vehicle, but won?t take anything in trade. Sure appreciate you listening to the show.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Mike .
Hi, I love your radio show! Quick question. In 2012 we bought brand new, off showroom floor, auburn Subaru Forester. Radio never worked right and we tried several times to get dealership to fix under 100,000 bumper to bumper warranty but they said radio was ok. Finally bought aftermarket system. When picked up car after install we were informed that factory radio was a "remanufactured" radio. We bought a brand "new" car so is it legal for them to have put in used parts prior to selling as new off showroom floor? Thank you.
Jerry Reynolds
Not sure if it is legal or not, but should not have been done in my opinion. I?d take it back to the dealership to get the proper radio put in, that should not have happened. - Jerry
Judy C.
Hi Jerry, we enjoy your show every Saturday morning here in Spring. I did read your FAQs to try to find the answer. I'm going to buy a new Honda CR-V EXL around the end of September or later. You have stated that these are very popular and I do see a lot of them. Since I only want white in this model, I'm not sure there will be one at Russell and Smith by the time I'm ready. My question is about what would the approximate difference be in trying to get an end of year model or just get a new 2017. I have just retired so I know I will keep the car at least 10 years as I have done with my last 3 cars. That is why I don't want to settle on something other than what I want. I do appreciate your expertise and advice. When I'm ready, I will certainly contact you before I go to Russsell and Smith. Thanks very much, Judy
Jerry .
Good to hear from you. Since Honda is not big into rebates, the difference in a 2016 and a 2017 equipped the same is probably $500 or less and as long as you keep a car, it?s probably worth that.

Give Dino a little notice before you want to go in, he?ll take awesome care of you!

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network