Pre-Ordering A Car You’ve Never Driven Is A Bad Idea


Image for article titled Reminder: Pre-Ordering A Car You've Never Driven Is A Bad Idea

Photo: Ford, Hemmingway

We get article suggestions all of the time, and often they’re fantastic ideas because, as you know, our readers are very smart. And devastatingly attractive. And while I’m sure that’s the case with this particular article-suggestor, the article suggested isn’t the one I think they had in mind. It involves a new 2021 First Edition Ford Bronco. I better explain.

Because I’m not really using the reader’s intended story idea, and since what I am writing is at least a bit critical of the reader’s choices, I’m not going to put their name here, because I’m sure they’re generally fantastic people and don’t deserve any sort of abuse. But I am going to quote what they emailed us, because I think there’s a valuable lesson here.

Here’s their predicament, as described in the email:

So I am one of the very patient people who placed an order for a 2021 First Edition Ford Bronco way back on July 10, 2020. My vehicle arrived in October and I paid in full so no loans or liens to worry about.

I immediately had an Xpel ppf coating put on all the paint and a ceramic coating put on over that. I also purchased some useful third party accessories, like the Redline hood strut and an Auto-stop eliminator. I also bought the dealer’s $3000+ service contract that’s transferable.

The issue is, while it’s great for some things, it really sucks at the highway driving at elevation I do 90% of the time. The turbo lag is ridiculous, the wind noise gives me a raging headache and it’s massive weight (more than my Silverado 1500) means if I twitch my big toe, my speed drops 10 mph instantly.

I found this out on the almost 200 mile ride home from the dealer and a weekend drive thru the Appalachians west of my present home in West Virginia. My other home is in Colorado and I expect worse performance there. So I have about 550 miles on it but held off registering it so I can sell it as a new vehicle.

The article the new Bronco buyer was hoping we’d want to write is How To Sell Your Brand New Bronco, or something like that. That’s not the way this is going to go, partially because the way the market is right now, selling a new Bronco should be easier than eating a pre-masticated meatball, and more profitable, too.

No, the article that looks to be needed here is “Test Driving A Car Is Still Important” or maybe “Why The Hell Do You Really Need To Pre-Order A New Car You’ve Never Seen In Person.” Either one generally gets the idea across.

And the idea I’m talking about is this: cars are complicated, idiosyncratic things. So are you. You and the car really should meet in person at least once before committing to a relationship, otherwise you may discover that, say, the expensive new car you bought gives you “raging headaches” and really sucks at the driving you do “90 percent of the time,” like our unnamed Bronco-buyer here.

I don’t want to lay in too hard to this buyer who I firmly believe will be able to sell the Bronco easily and maybe even make a bit of money but if you do mostly highway driving at high elevations then, yeah, of course a big, heavy, boxy SUV designed primarily for off-road performance isn’t likely to be a good choice. Maybe they should have seen that coming.

A test drive could have likely revealed all of this before the buyer committed, but that would have meant waiting for one to be available to test. That may have meant they couldn’t get a First Edition one, or at least maybe not as early as October, when they got their Bronco after pre-ordering in July.

But who cares? I can’t think of any benefit to pre-ordering a brand-new, first-year-available car that makes up for possibly ending up with a brand-new car you hate to drive.

It’s not that cool to be the first with some new car, and even if it is, it’s an ephemeral status, because the delight of having the first new Bronco can only last a limited amount of time until the cars become more and more common, and then you’re just another person with a Bronco. So hopefully, it’ll be a Bronco you like to drive.

And there’s the catch: to be one of the first, you have to pre-order, which means buying a car blind without testing to see if the A-pillar is always in your line of sight or the seat feels weird in the small of your back or you hate the way the shifter feels or the cupholder is in exactly the wrong spot or it’s hard to get into or out of or any number of other little yet important details that are part of a life with a particular car.

Who gives a shit about pre-ordering and being an early adopter, anyway? Is anyone impressed beyond an “oh, how about that?” level when you tell them you had one of the first whatever mass-market cars? If so, it’s still not enough to risk ending up with a car you don’t like to drive.

Now, our Bronco-buyer had the money and thought a First Edition might be a good investment, if lightly driven, and I suppose if that’s why you buy cars to not really drive them then, sure, I guess I see the logic. Sorta.

But for everyone else, I say learn from this person’s mistake and do yourself a favor: don’t fall into the allure of having to have the newest automotive whatever before anyone else. Just wait. Let them get out into the world, and actually take one on a drive.

Sit in the seat, open the doors, put something in the trunk, play with the controls, really figure out every single thing that may piss you off because you have to deal with it every day for years and years.

Then, if you come away still smitten, buy yourself a car.

Sorry to not give you the article you were hoping for, gentle Bronco-buyer, but your tale has served a higher purpose.


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