The total cost of a new car consists of many factors including initial purchase price, maintenance and repairs, and insurance. One of the most often overlooked and biggest costs of owing a car is depreciation. Some makes and models of cars depreciate more than others. By choosing the right make and model you can minimize depreciation. You can also minimize depreciation by properly maintaining your car, protecting it from the elements, and selecting the best color. One important factor in depreciation that is most often overlooked is the time of year that you buy or lease your car.
You should always buy your new car as soon as possible after that year model is introduced. Some would disagree, arguing that you can buy a car for less at the end of the model year. Even if this were so (and I don’t agree with this), the savings would not offset the increased cost of depreciation that you inherit by buying a new car that is a year old. If you follow the advice I have given in my previous columns on the smartest way to buy a new car, you can usually buy a new car for close to the same price at the beginning of the model year as at the end.
There was a time when virtually all makes of cars were introduced in the last quarter of the calendar year preceding the model year. If you bought a new model in September, you could be assured that you got it at the right time to minimize your depreciation. Nowadays, new models are introduced at almost any time and the introductions are nearly unpredictable. It’s not unheard of for a manufacturer to actually skip a model year entirely, selling last year’s model for another year. Or, sometimes a manufacturer will introduce a new model as much as two years before the calendar date of that model year. You should be sure you know exactly when that model year you are contemplating buying was introduced. You don’t want to buy a model year that was introduced 6 or 8 months ago
If you are leasing your car, you should also try to lease it as soon as possible after that year model is introduced. Also, when deciding on the length of the lease, your lease should end when the new model that you will lease or buy next is introduced. You don’t have to lease a car for a full one, two, three, or four years. You can lease a car for 39 months, for example, which may assist you in having your lease terminate at just the right time to buy or lease your next car.
Be sure you know how many more years the make and model you select will remain before it is replaced by a major model change. The life cycle of a particular model varies between manufacturers from as short as 3 years to as long as 6 or 7 years. Your car will retain its value considerably more if it is still within its current product cycle when you trade it in. You need to be especially wary when a specific model is discontinued entirely. Research this carefully and time your purchase or lease as early in the product cycle as possible.
If you are buying a brand new model at the beginning of its product cycle, be sure that you are buying from a manufacturer that has a very good reputation for quality. You can get a pretty good idea of the quality of the new model by researching the reliability of the previous year model. It is true that a brand new model can experience some bugs during the early months of its first year. If you are nervous about this, it might pay to wait for 3 or 4 months after a brand new model is introduced to see if problems in the form of recall campaigns or otherwise do occur.