How to Snag the Best Leftover Cars

When next year’s new vehicles roll into dealerships, buyers can cash in on discounts on last year’s models.

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Originally published on August 16, 2018

Editor's Note: Pandemic-related production shortages may hinder your ability to find competitive deals on leftover vehicles. The underlying points in this article were written pre-pandemic, and may not represent the current, chip-shortage-impacted market.

Article QuickTakes:

Anyone who has ever stumbled to the refrigerator first thing in the morning and discovered the last slice of pizza from the night before, or a hidden container of Chinese takeout, understands the pure joy of finding a well-timed leftover.

It ranks among life’s little treasures.

Landing the right “leftover” car can deliver a similar jolt of exhilaration, especially when you save a few thousand bucks on it. But uncovering a sweet deal on one of last year’s new models takes a little more research and planning than snagging that final piece of pizza.


Americans are reported to waste approximately 35% of all food in the United States, according to the non-profit coalition ReFed.

So not everyone loves leftovers.

There are plenty of people who want their meals – and their automobiles – fresh from the oven, which is why it’s worth doing a bit of soul searching before you start traveling down the leftover road.

In general, you might be a leftover shopper if…

  • You don’t mind playing the waiting game. It takes time to track these vehicles and patience to wait until the remaining supply reaches the right level for big discounts.
  • You keep your cars for more than five years. If you sell after only a couple of years, depreciation may be higher because a leftover is already considered a year old.
  • You’re flexible on colors, options, and even vehicles. The supply of leftovers is limited, so you can’t be too picky if price is your prime motivator.
  • You enjoy doing a little detective work. New car pricing can be aggressive. Be ready to compare the savings of buying last year’s model vs incentives on the newest models. Also be willing to get competing bids on any cars you’re considering.


While there isn’t a specific “season” for buying leftover new cars, the bulk of next year’s vehicles start rolling into showrooms in summer and fall. So now is the time to develop your leftover search strategy.

Gregg Fidan, founder of and author of the Honest Guide to Buying a Car, tracks discounts on leftover cars on his website. He said in 2018 there were already quite a few of next year's models available by late July, and discounts on the newest were typically thousands off MSRP.

“You really need to figure out which model or models you're interested in buying, and start tracking the inventory,” Fidan said. “When the leftover inventory is between 10% and 20% of the latest model year, that's when you can get optimal deals. And by optimal, I mean buy a leftover with colors and options that you actually desire.”

For example, Fidan said he searched the database in late July 2018 for 2019 Jeep Cherokees within 100 miles of his home and found 42,000. Then he searched 2018 Cherokees and there were nearly 4,000.

“That's about 10% of the inventory level of 2019s, which means it's an optimal time to shop for it,” he said. “There were even some 2017 leftover models available (about 1%), and I could probably get a better deal on those, but it's unlikely to find the exact colors/options, and you add another year of depreciation.”


Buying leftover new cars, by definition, means limiting your choices. True bargain hunters might want to narrow the search even more to focus on vehicles possibly primed for discounts.

  • Cars and trucks up for redesign: If a manufacturer is unveiling a new generation of a vehicle, you may find deeper discounts on the previous year’s model. For example, Ram 1500 was redesigned for 2019, and RealCarTips’ research showed an average savings in July of $9,490 on 2018 models. As always, keep in mind that discounts and incentives vary by region. (Kelly Blue Book tracks a list of vehicles being newly redesigned.)

  • Vehicles that aren’t topping the sales charts: Midway through 2018, seven of the 10 best-selling vehicles in the U.S. were trucks and crossover SUVs. Ford announced plans to phase out many of its traditional cars, such as the Fiesta, Fusion and Taurus. And sales of Toyota Corollas, Honda Accords and Nissan Altimas, were all down in 2018 from the previous year. Savvy leftover shoppers should be able to take advantage of the basic rules of supply and demand. If an abundance of sedans are still on dealer lots, discounts are likely to climb. In July, sale prices on 2018 Nissan Altimas and Hyundai Sonatas were averaging about $5,000 off MSRP, according to RealCarTips.

As we mentioned earlier, shopping for leftover cars isn’t for everyone. At times, it can feel as if you’re settling for second best. But if you want a new car, and the cost of the next year’s models gives you a case of sticker shock, a leftover might just hit the spot.

Some vehicles unveiling new designs for 2019

Automakers are introducing new and improved versions of the vehicles listed below for 2019, which means the 2018 models may have even steeper discounts than regular leftovers.

Sedans: Audi A6, A7, A8, Kia Forte, Mercedes- Benz CLS, Nissan Altima, Toyota Avalon, Volkswagen Jetta, Volvo S60 (sedan) and V60 (wagon)

SUVs: Acura RDX, Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota RAV4, Infiniti QX50, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Porsche Cayenne, Subaru Forester

Trucks: Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500

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Rick Press
After a long career as an editor for a major metropolitan newspaper and website, in 2017 I joined Capital One as its Managing Editor for Auto Content. I’ve been fortunate to cover everything from breaking news and Super Bowls to CEOs and celebrities, and now I am excited to explore the connection we all have to our cars and help consumers navigate the car-buying journey. Let’s ride!