What’s a dealer demonstrator new car?

Want a new car without the new car price tag? Such a thing does exist – well, sort of – and it’s known as a dealer demonstrator.

Dealer demonstrator new cars, otherwise known as demos, are current-model vehicles that are owned, driven, and then sold by dealerships with a few kilometres on the clock.

Once received, demos are registered by the dealership and put to work as either a test drive car, dealer staff car, or both.

This period of usage generally lasts no longer than 12 months, and mileage is usually limited to 10,000km or less. Demonstrators are also often sold as runout models when an update or new model is due to go on sale.

The car in question is then sold on to a public buyer at a discount, which varies depending on a variety of factors according to Brighton Automotive Group general sales manager Joshua Ferguson.

“Depending on the model you can save between 5 and 15 percent by buying a dealer demonstrator,” Mr Ferguson told CarExpert.

“We definitely get customers who come in looking for that from a price saving point of view.”

Aside from discounts, another advantage of buying dealer demonstrator cars is they’re not subject to the long waiting times attached to in-demand new models.

If you buy a demo off the showroom floor, chances are you’ll take delivery within days, rather than several months as is the case with some cars in 2024.

A demonstrator car is also likely to be loaded with all the desirable optional equipment (technology, materials, sunroof etc.), given that it’s meant to impress prospective buyers.

In addition, even though a demo is technically first registered by the dealer and often accumulates thousands of kilometres, a public buyer is still considered the first owner. This is because dealers are able to fit demonstrator vehicles with ‘trade plates’ which are transferable from car-to-car.

You’re also likely to get a car that has been looked after, as dealers are motivated to keep their showroom stock in top condition. The same can’t always be said for owners of used cars.

“Generally it’s a better option than a used car because you know the full history, it’s never had a second owner,” Mr Ferguson said.

“Dealer demonstrators will often be in a lot better condition than used cars, and they’re maintained in accordance with logbooks whereas some used cars may not be.

“You know exactly where it’s been and what it’s done. That comprehensive history provides reassurance.”

The other side of the coin is you don’t always know exactly how a dealer demonstrator has been used, and whether it may have lived a harder life than expected.

For example, some off-road capable cars are exposed to the elements when used for the purpose of filming promotional material.

There’s also a bit of an unknown surrounding how dealership staff and in particular test drivers treat demo cars on the road.

Many individual drivers expose a car to varying driving styles, and therefore unpredictable levels of wear and tear, even though demo cars show low numbers on the odometer.

As such, it’s best to carefully assess the condition of a demo in person.

While serving as a demonstrator doesn’t impact a car from an ownership history perspective, it can have warranty implications.

Warranty coverage generally begins when a new car is first registered, so the advertised warranty period is shortened by the time a buyer gets their hands on the keys to an ex-demonstrator vehicle.

In Western Australia, however, buyers are still entitled to the full manufacturer warranty period from the date of sale. With that said, the mileage limit still applies, so any kilometres clocked by the dealer are counted towards the limit.

Buying an ex-demonstrator car also limits buyer choice when it comes to specification.

A dealer may only have one demo of a new model in stock, so you may have to settle for that example without getting to choose your favourite colour or interior trims.

So, while the car is likely to have all the bells and whistles, it won’t be customised to your exact taste.

It’s clear there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to purchasing a dealer demonstrator car, and potential buyers should weigh up the pros and cons before parting with their hard earned.

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