In this report

Should you buy a leftover 2010 car?

Last reviewed: September 2010
Nissan Altima

Cars have been introduced in the fall since the mid-1930s, when the intention was to boost year-round sales and employment.

Although carmakers now introduce models anytime, September remains the official start of the automotive new year. That raises a question: If you're in the market for a new car, should you wait for new models to come out or buy a leftover at the end of the season? The answer: It depends.

Why to buy a 2011 model

A "new" 2010 car is a year old the moment it leaves the lot. That doesn't matter much if you keep cars a long time, but you'll lose a bundle on depreciation if you trade every couple of years. Your 2010 car is likely to depreciate even faster if it has been replaced with a redesigned model for 2011. Carmakers redesign models every five years or so and normally update mechanicals and styling in intervening years. Waiting for updated or redesigned models means that you'll get the latest safety and convenience features; and powertrain updates will probably boost fuel mileage.

Why to buy a 2010 model

You'll save money up front because dealers want to clear old inventory. New models almost always cost more than those they replace—even slightly tweaked models often get a price hike—and discounts are less likely. A 2010 car still comes with a full warranty. Finally, our surveys have shown that new or redesigned models have more problems on average than those on sale for a year or more. The last year of a model's production is often the most reliable.