How Much Lower Will a Dealer Go on a Heavily Discounted Advertised Price?

Illustration for article titled How Much Lower Will a Dealer Go on a Heavily Discounted Advertised Price?

As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we are talking about heavily discounted advertised prices, playing the waiting game for a good deal, and the confusing timing of model years.

First up, how low is a dealer willing to go if they already are advertising a huge discount on a new car?

“I recently saw a new 2017 Infiniti QX70 on Autotrader with an MSRP of $58k and a quoted price of $45k. It got me thinking about how much an expert thinks the car is worth, understanding that “worth” has a very subjective component.

The last meaningful update for this line was in 2009. As such, the interior and tech is showing its age. You can find cars for $10k less with more modern tech and interior finishes (e.g. Mazda CX-5 Signature). However, there’s a scarcity element to this car, as Infiniti has stopped producing these.

This brings me to a few questions:

– How much would you, an expert in car buying, pay for this vehicle?

– How much do you think this would fetch at auction?

– As far as etiquette goes, would it be offensive to approach the dealer and say “I’d be willing to buy this car for $35k” when it’s already been discounted pretty heavily.”

The first two questions are difficult to answer, and may not be totally relevant to your goals. The third question needs to be unpacked a bit.

To put it bluntly if you made an offer of $35,000 on a $58,000 car that is already marked down $13,000 to $45,000, don’t be surprised if the dealer laughs at you. Or asks you to leave.

Here is why: if that 2017 is indeed a “new car” there is a floor at which the dealer simply can’t sell it any lower. Dealers have an invoice price that they pay for a vehicle, and on a $58,000 Infiniti that invoice isn’t going to be more than a few grand off the sticker. Dealers can sell a car below invoice but if they are offering a price for thousands below their cost, they are going to need some rebate or incentive money from the factory to do so. Therefore, the additional discounts below the invoice are limited to those factory funds.


At $13,000 off, there isn’t likely to be much more room on this car. It’s possible there isn’t an extra few hundred or possibly a grand, but there certainly isn’t another ten grand. A dealer doesn’t want to sit on a two-year-old new car. If they could sell that car for $35,000, they would have it advertised around $35,000.

It doesn’t hurt to make an offer, but be sure your offer is reasonable given the circumstances if you are serious about buying this car. If you really dig this Infiniti, the question isn’t can you get the price lower. The question is, can you find the same car for less? If so, go buy that car. If not, you have found your deal.

The other issue I would like to address with these super heavy advertised discounts is that often the price isn’t legit. Some dealers will rebate-stack discounts and lump in all kinds of caveats to get the deal. Often people see cars at $10,000 or $15,000 off the MSRP and think “I wonder if I can get them lower?” when they should be asking, “Which of these ads is actually true?”


Next, is it worth waiting for a good opportunity on a used car?

I own a ‘03 Durango with 107k miles which has been promised to my grandson upon his birthday (16) in June. My wife has a nice car so we can share, although she is often out due to her business, as we live in town I can walk to many destinations. The Durango is a great truck and in perfect condition barring some bumper scratches, etc, and I am happy to make the gift to this terrific kid. I had contemplated shopping for another (2-3) year old suv of some kind, but have found a 2012 Lexus GX460 (one owner) with 5,700 miles, garaged in summer and driven only seasonally by the part time residents. Serviced regularly with all records, $16,000. But it will not be available until the owner returns in the Fall. Should I wait? I am retired, and this may very well be my last purchase of this kind.

A well-cared-for Lexus GX with low miles for a reasonable price sounds like a very good opportunity, and if you really like that car it’s probably worth waiting for.


The good news is that if you do wait, you aren’t really under any obligation to buy it. You didn’t sign a contract. What you can do is keep an eye on the market between now and the fall to see if anything else pops up that seems like a better deal. If you better opportunity comes along, you can take it, if not hopefully the owner of the GX still wants to sell it once he returns.

Finally, how is a car made in the spring of 2015 a 2016 model?

“I bought a ‘2016′ CX-5 from Carmax ~9 months ago. I recently checked the door sticker and noticed a manufacture date of March 2015. I don’t get it. I think I have a 2015 _not_ a 2016. I did know the car had a fleet history. I know this is my fault for not paying enough attention when evaluating the car. Does this really happen and can you help me understand a 2015 can be titled and sold as a newer year?”


It would seem this could be easily explained due to the difference between model years and calendar years. Usually, model year cars precede their calendar year. For example, a 2020 Highlander will be sold in 2019. However, that changeover usually happens later in the calendar year, and your “2016” Mazda was produced fairly early in 2015.

It seems Mazda had an odd launch schedule for the 2016 car. In February of 2015, Mazda announced pricing for the new model, so it wouldn’t be too far fetched to think that early 2016 models would start to be produced in March of 2015.

The one way you can easily tell if you have a 2015 model vs. a 2016 is in the styling cues. While both cars look fairly similar overall, the 2015 models had a full black grill under the logo while the ‘16 models got bars across that grille.


Anyway, automakers often treat model years differently and it doesn’t always make a ton of sense. Just go with it.

Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at!

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