“Have it your way.” “Made to order.” These are phrases our culture has come to embrace. When it comes to buying a new car, I’m often asked about special ordering. People want a certain color, feature, or option that will make their car unique or better for them. Unfortunately, when it comes to cars, it’s just not that simple. Here’s why.
Most automakers don’t accept orders on new vehicles between two and three months before the end of the production year. Generally speaking (depending upon model and manufacturer) you can’t order anything between the months of April and August because production years tend to end in the last few months of summer.
The auto manufacturers that produce their vehicles overseas usually prefer not to accept special orders. The two months it takes to special order a car becomes four months because it usually takes two months to ship the car overseas. Although overseas auto manufacturers may accept special orders, it is usually discouraged.
Special ordering might not be the best choice if you are going to get one or two options that are part of a package. Some auto manufacturers will only let you buy certain features as part of an option group. For instance, Toyota and Honda are well-known for selling specific options only if the entire option group is purchased e.g. you can buy a sunroof only if you purchase the entire “sunroof package.”
It doesn’t always make financial sense to special order a vehicle either. You should special order if there is a certain feature that you just have to have, but if you order something out of the ordinary it may negatively affect your resale value. When you want to resell your car, it may be difficult to find a buyer if your car is too unique. Most people buy vehicles similar all the other cars out there, so it might be difficult to find a buyer who wants one that is very different.
You should always consider buying a car off the lot before you special order one. If you can compromise on color or specific features, you will save quite a bit of money buying off a dealer’s lot. Buying a car off the lot usually gives you the best deal because dealers are paying interest on their inventory (the cars on the lot) every day. Because they’re paying daily interest, dealers try to sell those cars as quickly as they can to avoid huge finance charges. That usually means you get a big discount.
It used to be that you could special order whatever kind of car you wanted, but those days are fading fast. Dealers want you to buy what they have, auto manufacturers often don’t want to honor special requests, and shipping times and production cycles have conspired to make ordering cars very difficult. Special ordering just isn’t what it used to be.