Buy a car that's in stock now

You need to know this essential tip about dealership stock levels and who owns that car on the showroom floor

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When a car dealer takes delivery of a new vehicle, he owns it. The car company has sold it to the dealer; selling that car to you now becomes the dealer’s problem.

Dealers buy their new cars on credit. And that means holding those cars on the showroom floor incurs a hefty interest bill every month. Every new car dealer is highly motivated to sell any car on the showroom floor because the interest from holding it is literally burning a hole in his pocket.

Dealers often have a warehouse full of cars in what amounts to ‘pending tray’ – also incurring interest. In the trade, the cars the dealer owns are called the ‘floorplan’ – so even if you can’t see a particular car on the forecourt, it could still be in stock now. And therefore, it’s burning a hole in the dealer’s pocket. And that’s a great result for you, because the dealer wants to minimise the number of cars he's holding at the end of the month.

Dealer’s try hard not to telegraph this position to you, the prospective buyer.

So, what you need to do is act like you’re in a real hurry to own the car by asking how quickly it can be delivered to you. "Is it in stock? How quickly can you supply it?" If you can either see the car on the floor or the salesman says you can have it tomorrow, it’s in stock now. Result.

The alternative scenario is that the car you want just isn’t in stock. Or – worse – there’s a waiting list of eager buyers. In that case, the dealer has to order it in. Because it’s not burning that hole in his pocket now, he’ll be much less motivated to discount it heavily, or at all. Financially this is a bad option for you. It’s even worse if there’s a waiting list, because buyers are queueing up. No discounts for them.

Buying a vehicle in stock now means you might have to compromise on exactly the trim level or the colour that you really want, or the options. But you can use that as leverage – tell him you really want the silver one, but if he makes you the right offer you’ll take that blue one out the front, right now.

This is why you should always enquire at as many dealers as possible. Use the hi-tech miracle of e-mail. One dealer you approach might just be overstocked – which is good for you, and bad for the dealer.

Never be afraid to walk away – it's a powerful negotiation tool for you to find out how motivated particular dealers are to sell. (Motivated ones won't let you leave.) Tell the dealer you’re a serious buyer, and you’re interested in that car – but you’re going to see what other dealers have in stock now. That’s often enough to get an overstocked dealer to change his tune, right there on the spot.

Never – and I mean ‘never’ – put down a deposit when you’re shopping around, and don’t sign any contracts. When you say you’re leaving to look elsewhere, a salesman will often counter with: “I can only give you this great price right now. The price is going up tomorrow.” Alternatively, they’ll tell you how another buyer is already racing back to get his deposit on the car, as we speak – so if you want to secure this great price you have to act now.

These are invariably bare-faced lies, and you will qualify yourself as a moron if you fall for it. That great price? It’ll be available tomorrow, and the day after that. And there are no competitors racing back to gazump you. It’s all just salesman mind games.