Factory Ordering a New Car: Everything You Need to Know

If you’re tired of hunting for the car you want on dealership lots, you may want to consider ordering a new car.

Car sales automobile vehicles concept on a tablet in a coffeeshopShutterstock 

Article QuickTakes:

It’s a tough time to buy a new car. The chip shortage has lowered dealer inventory, leaving few options on the lot and pushing up prices of the few vehicles that are available. Some dealers are using this moment to charge markups—sometimes tens of thousands of dollars over the manufacturer’s suggested price—to buyers willing to pay extra to get into a car right now.

If you can’t find the exact vehicle you want or you’re unwilling to pay a premium for your next car, truck or SUV, you may want to consider ordering a vehicle from the factory. You’ll lose the instant gratification of buying off the lot, but you’ll also gain more control in the transaction, which can help you secure your ideal vehicle at a fair price. While the ordering process should be fairly straightforward, there are a few pitfalls to beware of.

How to Factory Order a New Car, SUV, or Truck

Most buyers will start the ordering process by building their vehicle in the automaker’s online configurator. Once you’ve chosen your trim level, paint color, interior upholstery, and options, the site will connect you with a local dealership to finish the deal. Next, the dealer orders the car to your specifications and serves as your point of contact until you take delivery of the vehicle. It sounds like a breeze, but there are some things you should keep in mind.

If the configurator gives you a list of local dealerships, look up each one and see what other customers have to say about it. Unsatisfactory reviews can foreshadow a whole heap of trouble throughout the process in terms of communicating, negotiating, and fulfilling the order.

The opportunity to factory order the new car you want may tempt you to create something very personal—maybe you’ve always wanted an orange car, or a blue interior, or a no-options stripper with a manual transmission and steel wheels. But if resale value matters to you, be careful what you spec. When it comes time to sell, it pays to have a car that appeals to a larger group of buyers. And while some used-car buyers may be okay with the vibrant paint color you chose and the $1,500 premium stereo system, don’t expect them to pay more for those things when you go to sell your vehicle. Want a car that’s going to be easier to sell when you’re done with it? There’s a reason dealers stocked so many mid-level models painted black, gray, silver, or white back when their lots were full.

To special order a car to your specs, the dealer will almost certainly require you to put down a deposit. Be sure to read the fine print and consider the consequences of any agreement you sign. A refundable deposit will allow you to back out of the purchase in case you change your mind or find your ideal car while you’re waiting for your order to arrive. But some dealerships may specify a nonrefundable deposit in exchange for selling you the vehicle at the window-sticker price. Make sure to get all the details of your order in writing, particularly your out-the-door price, to avoid any surprises like additional dealer markups or other fees.

How Long Does It Take to Factory Order a New Car?

If you need a car pronto, you’re better off settling for something on the lot, as an order can drag out for months. Domestically made vehicles typically take about eight weeks to arrive, while internationally made ones take about three months. What’s more, some automakers let dealers place orders only once per quarter, which could increase your wait time.

While a dealer should be able to provide you with a delivery estimate, you should also prepare yourself that the vehicle may be delayed, possibly by weeks or months. Parts shortages, factory shutdowns, and production problems have been causing major headaches for automakers and car buyers alike. If you’re trying to coordinate your new vehicle arriving just as your current lease ends, it’s a wise idea to have a backup plan in the event that the vehicle you order is delayed.

Should I Factory Order a Car or Buy One Off the Lot?

Prior to the pandemic, the cars with the biggest discounts were sitting on dealership lots waiting for buyers. These days, patience pays. Factory ordering a new car is often the surest way to avoid overpaying while still getting a car that you’ll be happy with in the long run. The average new-car buyer hangs onto their vehicle for six years according to iSeeCars.com, so be sure that the car, SUV, or truck you buy is a vehicle you really want.

Deciding whether to order a car or settle for what’s available is a personal decision based on your priorities. Are you willing to pay extra or to compromise on the exact model to get a new vehicle quickly? Or would you rather wait and potentially save thousands of dollars? Only you can answer that question.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.
author photo
Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad is an award-winning automotive journalist who has contributed to several automotive, electric vehicle, luxury lifestyle, and technology publications. His work isn't just limited to the written word, as he's also hosted YouTube videos and podcasts. Having grown up in the '90s, he has a strong sense of attachment to that era's style, though he also loves to geek out about the modern, futuristic tech and powertrains rolling out today.