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Should I Buy the Latest Release Car or Last Year’s Model?

The end of the calendar year often throws out a lot of new car bargains, with the allure of discounts often leading to a spike in sales. After all, dealers don’t want to be left holding stock for a model that is no longer badged with the current year, or may even be superseded. However, as dealers clear vehicles from the prior calendar year, it raises the question, is it in the best interests of new car buyers to consider last year’s run-out models?

Why is there a frenzy of sales activity over the new year?

It typically takes some time for vehicles to arrive on our shores from overseas. Sometimes, this may be as long as several months. By the time this stock makes it to Australia, it is not uncommon that it is still carrying last year’s build plate.

On top of this, the vehicle then needs to pass certification and approval to be sold locally, which adds more time. At this point, it will be assigned a compliance date, which may fall into the new year.

Because of the above, dealers are typically more inclined to bargain with you as the end of the calendar year nears. They may be in ownership of stock that has been on consignment for months. At that point, can you blame them for wanting to clear it as quickly as possible?


Should I consider a car with a last year’s build date?

Once the new year has started, that also means that new car buyers have some bargaining power by leveraging the fact that ‘old’ stock is less desirable to the public. It also explains why dealers may continue to discount aggressively even into the first few months of the year, including March, which aligns with the end of the Japanese financial year.

If you choose to buy a vehicle with last year’s build date, one common disadvantage you should be aware of is depreciation that has already taken place. The market will value this car based on the year in which it was built, rather than how late into the year it was, or the compliance date.

Other factors are likely to differ depending on the specific make and model in question. Quite often, changes between years may be limited to just aesthetics. In other instances, cars may differ in terms of their functionality, amenity or safety features, which can be noticeable when it comes to day-to-day practicality. For the ‘right’ price, however, some buyers may find these trade-offs to be worth it.

Where a model is effectively upgraded, however, with changes to its mechanical specifications, you may want to consider whether this vehicle still represents the best value you can find. Notwithstanding a generous discount, does it still stack up against vehicles on the market from other brands?

The key takeaway is to always do your homework and don’t rush to a decision, but keep your eyes and ears open to the possibility of a bargain.

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