How to Shop When The Dealer Doesn’t Have The Car You Want In Stock

buying from dealer stock

Editor’s 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 dealership’s inventory.  Clearly, he was at the wrong place.  So, how does buying out of a dealer’s inventory affect your deal versus buying out of the dealer’s stock?

When a Dealership Doesn’t 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.

Lincoln Navigator

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 can’t 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. Let’s look at each option.

1. Ordering a car

The good dealers are always willing to order for you, the greedy ones don’t really care about doing this, they want that “today deal” and if they can’t have it, they’ll 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 “hot” 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 dealer’s 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. Let’s 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 dealer’s stock, you’ll save money. However, you are spending a lot of money, so make sure you are pleased with your choice.

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Photo Copyright: Pavel L Photo and Video

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11 Comments
  1. Judy Crocker 2 years ago

    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

    • Michele Sanders 2 years ago

      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

  2. Mike 8 months ago

    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.

    • Amy Plemons 8 months ago

      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

  3. Ray Davis 7 months ago

    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?

    • Amy Plemons 7 months ago

      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

  4. Ron Hillberg 7 months ago

    Jerry, Sure wish you would return to the Minneapolis area. We miss you. – Ron

  5. Michelle Hope 6 months ago

    Help!
    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 5 months ago

      Yes! I bought a car that my dealership found for me in TX …as 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. ..to 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.

  6. Martha 2 weeks ago

    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 ?

    • Car Pro 2 weeks ago

      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

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