Many car shoppers decide what options they want on their next vehicle without any idea of what is actually available at the dealership. After selecting the color, trim level and options, they may have chosen a car that doesn't physically exist. Only an all-points-bulletin would locate the car they have in mind.
How do you avoid this reality gap? Edmunds.com to the rescue! On each of our Price With Options pages in our New Car section, we have a feature that identifies the "typically equipped options." A small "T" is placed next to the box listing that option. If you check only the boxes with Ts next to them, you will have a good chance of finding this car on the average dealer's lot.
For example, let's look at Toyota's hot new FJ Cruiser. Nine options are listed (many of them "packages" that contain several options at a reduced price). However, only two of the options are typically included on the FJ: the "convenience package" and "rear differential locks."
We aren't saying that you can't get the other options. But before devoting a lot of shoe leather to your search, it helps to know that you can't count on finding a vehicle with the specific combination of options in the color you want.
A smart strategy is to make a list of your "must-have" options and a second list of "would like." Then, list your first, second and third color choices (and the two colors you wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole).
Now, resist the urge to run right down to your local dealership and enthusiastically beam: "Here's the exact car I want!" Instead, contact the Internet manager using our Dealer Locator and use this shorthand: "I want this car, in this trim level. My first color choice is this, my second and third choices are this — and I definitely wouldn't take this color. I have to have these certain options. I'd like, but I don't require, these other options."
Hopefully, you will soon get an answer from a salesman saying, "Yes, we have your car in stock!" If they don't, they might say, "Here's the closest match." A good salesman should show that they have listened and are giving your preferences the highest priority rather than trying to "switch" you to whatever they happen to have on hand.
If you are determined to buy a car with an impossible-to-find set of options, don't despair. You can always order the car from a dealership. However, you may have to pay more and you will certainly have to wait at least six weeks to get it.
The "typically equipped" option feature will speed up your search and better prepare you for your car lot encounter with the salesman. So look for the little T on our "price with options page." The choices you make will suit you to a T.
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.