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Should I Buy This Year’s Model?

When we think of the best time to purchase a new car, there’s often a lot spoken about the end of financial year sales, but the end of the calendar year is also a popular choice. Of course, that was mostly during the pre-pandemic era, as since then, the supply drought has hampered new car buyers negotiating power somewhat.

Nonetheless, cars that aren’t sold by the end of the calendar year will often enter the New Year with discounted prices. This is because dealers are reluctant to hold stock for a vehicle that in the eyes of buyers may been seen as superseded – particularly as months go by, and the vehicle still carries the tag of being last year’s model.

Why is the end of year a big deal?

One of the factors that often spurs this late rush to clear stock is the fact that models brought in from abroad can take several months to reach our shores. That has become an even bigger issue over recent times, with new car buyers facing waiting times in excess of a year for certain models.

In any case, cars may arrive carrying a build plate that differs from the period the vehicle is being sold.

Before the vehicle itself is available for sale, it requires certification and approval. Upon approval the vehicle is designated a compliance date, which can vary considerably against the build plate when all the above is considered.

Therefore, as the end of year approaches, the leeway becomes finer and finer. Dealers may be left with a couple weeks to clear a vehicle that has actually been held as stock on consignment for a period of months.

Last year’s model vs this year

So then, what about the particular differences between cars with a different build year? Are you necessarily missing out on anything by purchasing last year’s model, or a model that is about to be replaced?

When one considers the downside of purchasing an end-of-year clearance vehicle, the most prominent shortfall is often tied to the depreciation of the car and its resale value. These are both aligned to the year of the vehicle as opposed to the month it was from.

Secondary to that, differences vary depending on the manufacturer. In many instances, changes might be limited to cosmetics – differences in colour, interior styles, trims, etc. The changes could be functional, such as better sat-nav, electronic configurations, and so forth. Alternatively, differences could be more profound. Such examples would include things like improved fuel efficiency, engine tweaks, adjustments to the ride and suspension of the vehicle, advanced safety aids, and more.

With the above in mind, it becomes important that you do your homework to establish the build date of the vehicle in question (usually found under the hood on the VIN), as well as the specific trade-offs between an end-of-year model, and the forthcoming replacement. The most notable changes tend to occur in cycles. Mid-life upgrades tend to be modest advancements, while new generation releases are comprehensive upgrades. So the timing of your purchase could be the most influential factor.

And if you are opting to be one of the first to drive away in next year’s model, given lengthy wait times at the moment you’d better start your search early.