How to Tell How Long a New Car Has Been on the Lot

by Mark Ivanko

So you've found a good match for a car you're interested in buying and you want to find out how long it's been on the lot. There is no exact way of telling how long it has been there just by looking at it, but once you're inside the dealership, finding out that information is pretty easy.

How to find out how long a new car has been on the lot

Ask them how long the vehicle has been there. Some dealerships will be honest with you and tell you whether they have just received the vehicle or it has been sitting there awhile. This method requires a certain level of trust with the dealer itself, but if you know someone who works there or you have been a loyal customer for years, they will not have any problem divulging this information.

Ask to see the invoice of the vehicle. This is the easiest way to find out just how long the car has been on the lot. You can see the invoice date on the actual invoice itself. When the invoice was given to the dealership is roughly how long the car has been on the lot. Nowadays, the invoice is released to the dealer after the car is released from port. Subtract about a week for shipping and you'll know how long the car has physically been there.

Take a look at the car's stock numbers. All new car dealers have a method for keeping track of their cars. So if the car you're looking at has a stock number of A1200 and you see another car with the stock number A3400, that means that they received 2,200 other cars since your car got there. Meaning your car has probably been there for a while.

Check the glove box for the service check-in date. All new cars must be inspected by their service departments prior to being sold, to check for defects from shipping and to make sure that everything is working properly. This is also a surefire way to find out how long the car has been on the lot.

Tips

  • check Ask the dealer if the car came from another dealer. Sometimes a vehicle could have been sitting on one dealer's lot for three months before it was dealer traded to another dealership. So it could have been sitting at your dealership's lot for only two weeks but it has actually been sitting around for almost four months.
  • check Use the age of the vehicle to help you negotiate the price of the car. Dealers will want to give more money off for cars that have been sitting on their lots for three or more months.

References

About the Author

Mark Ivanko is an experienced automotive and technical writer. He has been working in the automotive industry since 2005. He specializes in European automakers, but keeps his ear to the ground on anything and everything automotive. Ivanko attended New York University, where he got a bachelor's degree in mathematics.