This is a question we get asked time and time again:
Should I buy the outgoing generation of a vehicle or should I wait for the all-new one?
This conundrum is far more common than many of us realize, given the quickening pace of new generation (all-new, entirely new, new body, so on and so forth) models being brought to the market by the many auto brands present here.
The truth is, there is no one answer to this question as it takes into account a myriad of factors that determine certain pros and potential cons. But first, a background into the model life of a vehicle.
Much like the Best Before date to indicate the shelf life of food at the supermarket, when car manufacturers design and engineer a new vehicle they already have a prescribed showroom life for it. Nowadays that is rather easy to predict, given our access to information — whether hushed insider cues or official announcement — all over the world.
Typically, a new generation vehicle has a showroom life anywhere between 5-8 years, depending on the natural sales decline a model experiences. Manufacturers extend that life by implementing updates, upgrades and facelifts. There are exceptions wherein the single generation showroom life is successfully extended far beyond the norm. Notable local examples of which include the Toyota IMV line (10 years and counting), the Isuzu Crosswind (13 years and counting), the Mitsubishi Adventure (18 years and counting), and the longest-selling vehicle in the market — thanks to its business appeal — which is the Mitsubishi L300 (28 years, continued by the FB configuration).
Apart from those models, a manufacturer introduces a new generation of a nameplate every 5-8 years. The last year or two of a model's showroom life, however, becomes a period in which concept cars, pre-production prototypes, teaser images, videos and spy-shots start to pop out on automotive sites such as ours, piquing interest in the new model and prepares the phase out of the previous one. But the question remains:
Should I buy the outgoing one or should I wait for the new generation?
The outgoing model
The argument for buying the outgoing model is actually quite simple and very logical. It hinges on three key ownership factors: reliability, ease of maintenance, and the bargain factor.
By the time a model is ready for phase out towards the end of its showroom life and years on the street in the hands of owners, the manufacturer has already ironed out all the kinks and fixed all the bugs, typically making it the most reliable version of that generation. No vehicle, even if its from a premium or luxury brand, is perfectly reliable. Yes, the manufacturer does comprehensive testing that involves driving the vehicle on all kinds of terrain and weather conditions during the R&D phase, but none of that compares to the long term feedback from customers in terms of problems on public roads, local driving habits, and other factors. This feedback is key for the manufacturer to improve on their vehicle.
Ease of maintenance
Next is ease of maintenance, and this is brought about by third party parts makers. Understandably manufacturers look down upon the use of non-OE (original equipment) and non-genuine parts like oil filters, air filters, sparkplugs and other bits and pieces, but the truth is, their presence gives the consumer more and cheaper options towards maintaining their vehicle later on. That can't be a bad thing, so long as the consumer is mindful of the use of these potentially warranty-voiding components.
The last, and probably most important one, is the potential to get a great bargain on one. Dealers will be eager to move their existing phase out stock from their yards and into customers' garages, and this is something the customer can maximize or even leverage. If you like playing poker, then it's like having pocket aces. Big discounts, more freebies and financing deals will always favor the customer as the dealer just wants to make space for the new model in their stockyards.
There are drawbacks to buying phase out models, however. You won't be getting the latest in design, though do keep in mind that the latest design isn't always better, depending on the eye of the beholder. You also won't be getting the new technologies and upgrades that the company put into the new model. If you're willing to live with that, then perhaps buying the phase out would be the way to go.
The new generation
If you're really keen on buying the new generation model, the advantages are in design, prestige and innovation.
Like I said earlier, a car's looks really depends on who's looking. Nevertheless, unless a car company's design team botched the job (which is rare), a new generation model generally looks better and much fresher than its predecessor, and usually utilizes the latest design philosophy from the brand.
The next is prestige. New is new, and few things can beat the feeling of driving a really new car around as opposed to a previous generation model, not to mention the fleeting new car scent that many people look forward to. Yes, it can seem a bit shallow to some, but much in the same way that many want a new iPhone, there is a certain prestige to owning the very latest model... a prestige that many are willing to pay for.
The last and most important one is innovation. Unless the automaker felt content to retain engineering and architecture of the outgoing car, a true new generation model tends to get the latest in innovative technologies and features available from the brand's R&D efforts. Things like newly-developed materials such as boron steel or composites, advanced safety equipment like adaptive cruise control and active park assist, new features like voice control to even new developments in engine and powertrain technology, just to name a few.
There are also drawbacks to going all-new. Unlike the phase out model, the all-new car is still relatively untested over long periods of time, so expect a few small recalls or “special service campaigns” to fix unforeseen issues with the car. The second and probably most major drawback is leverage. Buyer beware: dealers know if they have a hot-seller on their hands, something they can easily see with long reservation lists at dealerships. Expect the dealer to prioritize those who will purchase a car on their terms such as long, high-interest terms for their in-house financing, expensive in-house insurance and “required” accessories.
It's supply and demand, and some (if not most) dealers will want to get the most cash out of the transaction. Unlike in the phase out model, it's the house that has aces in the hole. It's not personal, it's business.
So will you buy the phase out or go all-new? Well, it's entirely up to you, but whichever way you go, you'll be enjoying a new car.