Can you reserve a new car from the dealership?

A salesman shows a young woman a new car at a dealership.Image: A salesman shows a young woman a new car at a dealership.

In a Nutshell

Can you reserve your new car from the dealership? Yes, and going this route could make it easier for you to get a vehicle with all the amenities on your wish list.
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With supply chain issues creating a challenging environment for car buyers, you may have a tough time finding the vehicle you want on dealer lots.

Factory shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to diminished inventory, and car production has been slowed by a shortage of semiconductor chips — computer chips that modern cars rely on for their electronics. In addition, the war in Ukraine has made some raw materials used in car manufacturing more challenging to come by, further reducing vehicle production.

Typically, car shoppers choose the vehicle they want from existing inventory on dealer lots. But the lack of inventory means the make, model and trim you’re seeking may not be readily available on any given day.

One way you might overcome this challenge is to reserve a new car — by working with a dealership to claim an incoming vehicle ahead of time, or by custom-ordering a car online from its manufacturer.  

Why you might want to reserve a car from the dealership

Reserving a vehicle from a dealership can improve your chances of getting a ride that checks all your boxes. There are a couple of ways to go about it.

In some cases, you can reserve a car from a dealership by working with the dealer to browse inventory that’s on the way. With this approach, you’ll have a head start on other buyers who wait on shopping until cars show up on the lot.

Another approach is to choose, customize and reserve your car online, on the manufacturer’s website. Many aspects of a vehicle are customizable, including the color, trim, options and packages. By taking this approach to car buying, you can pick and choose your car’s features and amenities.

How to reserve a car from the dealership

If you want to reserve a car from the dealership by choosing a vehicle from its incoming inventory, you’d first need to communicate with the dealer to determine which vehicles are expected for delivery to the lot. Some dealers provide information about incoming models on its websites, but you can also visit the dealership in person or give them a call to learn about availability.

A deposit is typically required to complete your reservation.

If you have a vehicle you’re interested in trading in, you can use information from valuation sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds to get a sense of how much your used car is worth.

This info will help you negotiate the price of the car you’d like to purchase. Negotiating a price is part of the process whether you’re walking onto a lot to choose a car or reserving or ordering a vehicle ahead of time. As always, you’ll also want to shop around for the best financing terms you can get.

Some car manufacturers, like Tesla and Rivian, sell their vehicles directly to the public, cutting out the need for a middleman. Instead, you complete your purchase online via the automaker’s website. When buying online from these carmakers, the sale price listed on the company’s site is non-negotiable.

Keep in mind that in some cases, not all models are available for reservation. For example, if an automaker has exceeded its production capacity for a particular model, you won’t be able to reserve that model at the dealership.

Steps to reserve a car from the dealership

Follow these steps to reserve a car from the dealership.

  • Select or design the car you want — Information regarding incoming inventory is available on some dealership websites, or you can contact your dealership and ask them directly about vehicles on the way. Visit the manufacturer’s website to custom-design and order a car online via the automaker’s website — once this process is complete, the carmaker will refer you to dealers in your area who can help you wrap up the reservation process.
  • Make a deposit — The dealership will require a deposit to lock in your reservation.
  • Sign the paperwork — Make sure you have copies of all documentation for the transaction.
  • Wait for your car — The amount of time you may wait for your car varies by the make, model and manufacturer and its availability.
  • Pick up your car — The dealership will contact you once your car arrives.

Does it make sense to reserve a car from the dealership?

There are advantages and disadvantages to reserving a car from the dealership.

Advantages of reserving a car from the dealership

  • It may give you access to colors, trims and amenities that may not be available in cars currently offered on dealership lots.
  • You’ll have greater control over the selection process, particularly if you custom-order from the manufacturer.

Disadvantages of reserving a car from the dealership

  • There’s a wait time that could take weeks or months. And limited inventory could mean certain cars or features aren’t available at all, even on reserve.
  • Dealers require a deposit, so you’ll need to hand over cash weeks or months before receiving your car.

Alternatives to reserving a car from the dealership

Reserving your vehicle from the dealership can be a good option, but there are alternatives. Here are a few to consider:

  • Look for a used vehicle instead of a new one. There may be used cars available that cost less than a new car. You may need to sacrifice some items on your wishlist, but it could make sense if you need a new vehicle soon.
  • Expand your search radius. A dealership outside of your neighborhood might have the car you want in stock.
  • If possible, put off your vehicle purchase until the market becomes more favorable for car buyers.

What’s next?

You can start your car buying journey by looking at your budget and figuring out how much you can afford to spend on a vehicle. Once you take that step, you’ll be ready to go online or reach out to a dealer to browse incoming inventory — or find your chosen manufacturer’s website to begin a custom order.

About the author: Warren Clarke is a writer whose work has been published by and the New York Daily News. He enjoys providing readers with information that can make their lives happier and more expansive. Warren holds a Bac… Read more.