Vehicle Reservation vs. Order Differences

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Managing Editor

As CarsDirect’s resident pricing expert, Alex offers must-know analyses of pricing & incentives to those looking to buy or lease a car. His consumer-oriented coverage of the latest trends and breaking news has been featured by The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, Motor Trend, Automobile Magazine, and more.

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, Managing Editor - November 29, 2021

With new cars and trucks exceptionally hard to find because of an ongoing inventory shortage, more consumers are choosing to take advantage of reservation programs and place orders with dealers. However, there are some significant differences between vehicle reservations and orders worth knowing about.

What a reservation does. In most cases, putting down your name and possibly placing a deposit can show that you're serious and may save your spot in line if the car you want isn't available yet. That could be a big deal considering ongoing production problems are causing some consumers to buy cars still in transit.

What a reservation doesn't do. If you're buying a brand that does factory orders, placing a reservation may only be the first step in the process. In some cases, manufacturer reservation programs may not even let you specify the options that you want, see the price you'll pay, or explore your financing options.

What an order does. In most cases involving vehicles you can order, this may be the main way to select your desired configuration and begin the actual process of buying a car. This may come weeks or even months after placing a reservation. We've even heard of dealers taking reservations years in advance for models like the upcoming 2023 Corvette Z06 sports car.

In a seller's market where cars are selling almost immediately, an order could save you time and stress. Luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz have been doing this for years. Now, mainstream brands are offering incentives like a deal from Chevy to pay the difference if rebates are taken away. That could provide a level of assurance that you wouldn't have otherwise.

What an order doesn't do. Even if you have an order in place, it may not always mean what you think. For example, some Ford Mustang Mach-E buyers recently discovered that their 2021 orders are being converted to 2022-model-year vehicles due to manufacturing delays. A small but important detail worth knowing about is whether your order has been scheduled for production.

If it hasn't, you could be in limbo until conditions improve with the chip shortage. If you're buying a Toyota or a brand that doesn't do factory orders, you may have to work closely with your dealer to understand what cars have been allocated and whether you'll need to put down a deposit. In any case, limited supply and strong demand could make buying a car a challenging process.

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, Managing Editor

As CarsDirect’s resident pricing expert, Alex offers must-know analyses of pricing & incentives to those looking to buy or lease a car. His consumer-oriented coverage of the latest trends and breaking news has been featured by The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, Motor Trend, Automobile Magazine, and more.

Follow On: Twitter

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