When new models arrive, old ones get cheap. Our car guy has some practical advice.
Cheap cars are kind of a hobby of mine. I want to see people get into the right vehicle and not get shafted in the process. There are many existing online tools to help you, like TrueCar pricing, Consumer Reports dealer invoices, Edmunds, KBB and literally hundreds of others. (I need to give a particular shout out to the work being done in this field by Steve Lang, who’s responsible for The Long-Term Quality Index (tradeinqualityindex.com) and can be found at Yahoo! Autos).
These all give you a lot of power, but there’s a sort of meta-factor in play which is hard to quantify in numbers. I’ve discussed it several times before, and it has to do with buying a specific car at a specific time.
Some combinations should be no-brainers—buy a convertible in December, not April, because who wants the top down when it’s 45 degrees? But to get the best price on an everyday car or truck, you have to figure out what’s about to become obsolete when the 2016s arrive, which starts around now. This month, we’ll look at some very good 2015 sedans, which nonetheless are about to be replaced by another car.
There are tens of thousands of new Malibus in dealer inventory, which is a problem because the 2016 model is wildly different. The current one is a really nice car but it sells terribly, with many going to rental fleets. MSRP on a base 2015 Malibu LS is around $23,500, but you’re getting a raw deal if you pay over $18,000. I’d aim for under $16,000 and go as high as $16,500, plus options. Even the top $30,000 2LZ or 2LTZ trim is already thousands off.
Sporty Affordable Sedan
If you read this column regularly, you know I’m not a Nissan fan, in part because they put their stupid continuously variable transmission (CVT) in everything. But the Maxima is both terrific fun and a screaming deal, because there was no 2015. Nissan just extended 2014 production while an all-new 2016 Maxima was readied. The ’16s are now here and embarrassingly, there are thousands of new 2014s still hanging around. The base Maxima S has a 290hp V-6 and is priced an easy $7,000 under the $32,000 sticker.
You’re going to have to wait a little while before 2015 Accord prices drop, but sometime this fall a new 2016 model is going to appear. The current base model stickers around $24,000 and retails at $19,000 and up, but it’s the $30,000-plus V-6s that will take the biggest hit. There are easily 50,000 new Accords in dealer stock across the U.S., and at some point soon, that’s going to turn into a major problem. Watch for big manufacturer incentives and dealer sales, as well as straight-up price drops.
Entry Luxury Sedan
The stunning XF isn’t that old, but the 2016 is a completely new car from the chassis up. The smaller Jaguar sedan has always been a somewhat quirky choice, as the majority of the Entry Luxury is market owned by Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. In June 2015, Jaguar sold a total of 1,217 cars in America and with demand that low, leftovers will be particularly unappealing. “Base” 340hp XF sedans can be found around $45,000 on a $50,000 MSRP and unsold inventory is (relatively) huge, so I expect prices to plummet.
Full Luxury Sedan
In preparation for a very different 7-series on sale this fall, BMW started thinning the herd earlier this year and now offers only two models, the rear-wheel drive 740i and all-wheel drive 750 Li xDrive. Fortunately for you, not only are there plenty of 2015s in inventory, but the are many unsold 2014s and even a few 2013s. Stickers start at $75,000 and advertised prices $10,000 less are common. As you go up the food chain to the 750i, however, the discounts get really profound: I’ve seen $15,000 off the $100,000 MSRP for a 2015 model; and 2014s can be 25 percent off—which is $25,000. Your very best deals will come on a loaded 750i Li, which starts at $100,000 and goes up to around $130,000.
Next month, I’ll look at light trucks and SUVs (not crossovers), as the picture going into the fall gets clearer.
David Traver Adolphus is a freelance automotive researcher who recently quit his full time job writing about old cars to pursue his lifelong dream of writing about old AND new cars. He welcomes the inevitable and probably richly deserved kvetching about Airbag and anything else on Twitter as @proscriptus.