Understanding Car Dealer Math

I’m still car-less. If you haven’t followed my exploits, you can get up to date here and then here.

If you read my first post about my current car search you know I’m an Anglophile and my last two cars were British. So on a recent snowy Sunday (car dealers in Colorado are not open on Sundays) my wife and I drove to the closest MINI dealer to take a look at the 2016 Clubman. It was just the small station wagon I was looking for and Mary didn’t hate it. And that’s when I ran headlong into dealer math.

Let me digress a bit: Before Mary purchased her 2006 SLK but way before Diesel-gate, she really want to own a new Beetle convertible. And why not? Beetle coupes were leasing for $199/month. But after a much too long conversation at the VW dealership, the salesman said the Convertible lease would be $420/month.


And so with MINI USA advertising MINI hardtops for $199/month, how much would a Clubman lease for? The answer turned out to be $374. No, I’m not stupid and know the VW convertible was more expensive than the coupe and a Clubman costs more than a hardtop, but that much more? Apologists (and dealer salespeople) will say that’s because those $199 rates were incentive deals for specific models and they may be partially right. But I have another theory: The car you want always costs more.

If I had wanted a red MINI hardtop, the sales dude would say that lower rate was only good for a black hardtops, the red model is $374. That’s dealer math for you…

And no, I still haven’t found a replacement for my Range Rover. The search goes on.