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Three little-known ways to buy a discounted car

Clearance sales, managers' cars and test drive units all offer ways for bargain hunters to save thousands.

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The best way to hunt down these discounted cars is to enquire at the dealer, or look for announcements in the car company's website and social media outlets.

Singapore

THE Singapore Airshow 2018 has taken off, and you might have seen a number of BMWs being used to ferry VIPs to the event.

They are part of a 350-strong fleet of cars that have either been pre-sold or will be sold once their brief stint as Airshow limousines is over. (BMW dealer Performance Motors declined to comment for this story.)

Such "events cars", as the motor trade calls them, usually offer buyers the chance to buy lightly-used cars at a discount. For example, a new BMW 318i costs S$173,888 (with COE). But in January, Performance Motors priced the car at S$159,888 (with COE) for one that would be used at the Singapore Airshow.

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A BMW 730Li would be even more sharply discounted. Airshow units were priced at S$369,888 (with COE) in January, or S$42,000 less than the car's current list price.

But events cars are not the only way drivers can hope to score discounts on cars that are either nearly new, or sometimes even brand new.

Dealers sometimes have older stock to clear, and often cut prices to clear their inventory or make way for newer models to be launched. Demonstrator units or even cars used by a car company's staff offer other ways to get a bargain.

Munich Automobiles has a few "clearance units" of BMW-Alpina cars to sell, for example. Alpina's cars are based heavily on BMW models, but the German company describes itself as a standalone car manufacturer.

It has a handful of the BMW-Alpina B4 Bi-Turbo (the company declined to say exactly how many) for sale at S$299,800 (with COE) - S$34,000 cheaper than the normal retail price.

The Business Times understands that the cars are new, but were manufactured up to two years ago. The discounted price offers buyers the chance to drive a high-performance bargain that accelerates to 100km/h in only 4.1 seconds. That makes the B4 a rival to BMW's own M4 Coupe, which costs S$414,888 (with COE).

It isn't only exotic cars that are marked down. Cars that are used as demonstrator units for customers to test drive are also often put into the bargain pile. Volvo dealer Wearnes Automotive is currently selling a number of such "demo units".

Such cars do fewer than 1,000km as test drive machines before going on sale. Even showroom display cars with no test drive mileage end up on the clearance list, too.

In Volvo's case, the demo and showroom units are only mildly discounted. Buyers can choose between S$5,000 in workshop and accessory credits, or take a S$2,000 cash discount.

While the discount seems small, the advantage of buying such cars is that they are unregistered, so buyers will be listed as the cars' first owners and their COEs' 10-year lifespan will only start when they are registered.

But buyers looking for bigger savings should consider "management units", or cars that were used briefly by the car company's managers. Wearnes' "Volvo Selekt" used car division has eight such units available.

The cars are mostly around six months' old but some are lightly used. A Volvo V40 T2 registered in August last year with only 4,100km on the odometer is priced at S$113,999, which is around S$28,000 cheaper than new.

One S60 T2 registered in September 2017 with just 2,700km under its wheels was snapped up for S$125,999, saving its buyer around S$24,000.

Although not new, management cars are newer than the majority of second-hand cars - few people dispose of their cars after only six months.

The best way to hunt down these discounted cars is to enquire at the dealer, or look for announcements in the car company's website and social media outlets.

The bottom line is, buyers who can live with cars that have been used as demo units, driven by managers or sitting around unsold stand to save thousands. Just be prepared to find the right deal instead of the right car because car companies vary in their disposal policies.

One example is the definition of "old stock". Wearnes is putting some of its aged inventory on the clearance list, but the cars are hardly ancient.

"Anything above three months is considered aged inventory," said a spokesman. "We try not to keep any cars that are too old."

For bargain hunters, however, old can sometimes be gold.