How to Order a New BMW - Tips for getting what you Want
A BMW factory or special order is an easy process that requires a little time, patience, planning and a reliable dealer. In this article, we’ll review the steps to make a special order, why it may be your best option, and also a few not-so-obvious tips to make the process go smoothly for you.
In Europe, most BMW buyers have their BMW’s made to order because a car can be built and delivered in just a couple of weeks. In the U.S. shipping time adds an additional 4 to 10 weeks after production for your car to arrive to your selling dealer. American car dealers already have models with a variety of popular colors and options on hand available for your immediate purchase, and many will steer you towards existing inventory as if it was your only option. However, a special order IS possible, and there are several reasons for ordering your new BMW rather than shopping from existing inventory:
- First, you get a car built to your exact specification. If, for example, you’re the kind who wants every option and include fancy two-tone leather and Apple CarPlay, you’re a candidate for a special order.
- Second, you don’t have to select any option that you do not want or may never use. A factory order allows you to get color and desired options while leaving everything else out.
- Thirdly, you can possibly time your order so that your new BMW will arrive for the beginning of the next model year. If you get an order in for a certain production week (usually starting late Summer and beyond), you’ll be first in line to have a next year model on the ground in the U.S. as early as September or October of the current year.
Below are dedicated sections to help you have a great experience ordering your new BMW. Pay close attention to dealer selection as a good dealer will make this process a great experience!
How long does a BMW Special Order take?
Ordering a BMW depending on the model can deliver a car anywhere from 5 weeks to 12 weeks (or more) depending on the location of the manufacture (USA or Germany), and is also dependent on your dealer’s allocation availability for the model you wish to order. Order a standard 3-series and you go right in the system. Order an M340i and you may first have to wait a month (or several) for your “turn” as dealers often take first come first served deposits on their high-demand, low-allocation vehicles.
The 5 to 12 weeks applies to time once your order goes into the BMW Manufacturing system and ultimately arrives to your location in the U.S. (East / West Coast). This is why Dealers will always attempt to find you a suitable available model before suggesting that you place a factory order. Fear not and don’t settle if you have your heart set on getting exactly what you want. If you are able to wait, you can order it!
How much does a Special-Order BMW Cost?
If you play your cards right, you should pay no more than you would for a car coming from ordinary dealer stock. Some would argue that it should be less since the dealer never really inventories the car, however the dealer does have to invest extra time and effort in placing your factory order and getting it exactly correct. The Internet puts a lot of information in your lap when it comes to new car and options pricing, and you should do all of this homework when preparing to make an order.
The model you are seeking will play a big part in the dealer willingness to discount as high-demand or low production models will generally command a higher price, but there should be no special markup merely for the fact that you are ordering rather than buying from dealer inventory.
Selecting the right Dealer for your BMW special Order
After you’ve built your ideal car in the BMW configurator, you will take that information to a BMW dealer – you can also request to be contacted by a local dealer directly through the BMW USA website. Just as all dealers may not be equal when it comes to purchasing a car from inventory, the same holds true (and becomes more important) if you are considering a factory order as your purchase relationship with the Dealer will last anywhere from 2 months or longer. In this section, we’ll discuss a few tips on selecting the right dealer for a BMW factory order – and you should probably talk to more than one initially.
Some dealers are more focused on quantity rather than quality, and for a factory order you want the latter. Initially, it is reasonable for a dealer to attempt to locate the model you desire from existing inventory (it can sometimes happen), however their willingness to take the next step and work with you on a factory order is the landing pad you want to arrive at if a suitable car can’t be found. The wrong answer would be “what is your second choice?…”
Qualities to consider when Selecting a dealer
- Communication. You want to select a dealer that will keep you in the loop on all phases of your order and make you feel like a participant rather than a nuisance during the process. You are likely at times to feel like a kid waiting for Christmas morning, and will want a dealer who supports your enthusiasm! A good dealer will keep you up to date on production, shipping, port landing, and let you experience the anticipation every step of the way.
- Knowledge. A dealer or sales advisor who has experience with customer factory orders is recommended as you want somebody who knows the steps and also isn’t fussed that you are not instantly buying a car. All dealers order their cars, however not all Sales Advisors do. The “wrong” dealer will invest more effort in trying to talk you into a model already on the lot, or over-inflate the wait you might have. You want to work with somebody that you feel comfortable with.
- Dealer has allocation available for ordering your desired model. Sometimes you may need to wait a couple of extra months to get a high-demand model – have them review timing with you! If this is the case, the car has not yet been ordered, so having you step in and select color and options will be the easy part.
- Car Pricing – Make full use of the available Internet tools and websites. Edmunds.com offers concise information on models, and option pricing so that you become familiar with dealer invoice (cost).
- Dealer Pricing – Have this conversation during your “interview.” Some dealers assume (and want you to believe) that if you are ordering a car to your exact specification, that you will pay list price for the vehicle. Others even play the “market adjustment” markup game. Just as with an in-stock car purchase, pricing for a factory order is negotiable. Model popularity may affect dealer willingness to offer discounts. It may be advantageous to contact a dealer through a buying service like the Costco Auto Program as it aligns you with a dealer who will know you are shopping on price as well as getting what you want. Costco selects their participating dealers, and typically requires the dealer to sell at a transparent fixed markup and also to show you the invoice so that you may confirm the discount. This is the kind of transparency you are looking for in your special order (or frankly any) transaction.
- Location – Depending on where you live, you may have multiple or a single option for selecting a dealer. If you only have a single dealer option, be sure to do as much advance “homework” as possible. All the usual car “shopping skills” of researching options and pricing in advance would apply to your order. Try to know what you want before you walk in the door.
What is Dealer Allocation and why does it matter?
Every BMW dealer is given an allotment of cars to order each month based on their size and sales volume which contains a variety of models to populate their inventory. It is from this allocation that your special-order car will come from.
If other customers are already waiting “in line” to buy the same model, depending on dealer allocation, you may not be able to place your order until an allocation slot becomes available for you. This is a factor to investigate when selecting your selling dealer. A waiting list may be shorter for the same model at other dealers. A transparent dealer will be up front with you about where you stand. Beware of vague timing promises – it likely means that they have other customers ahead of you, yet don’t want to lose your potential business.
Can I use a car buying service?
While an inventory locating service finds an existing car that you are interested in and puts you together with a selling dealer, that may or may not work best for creating a special order. You would want to choose a service that bring buyers to dealers such as the Costco Auto program as they establish pricing guidelines on your behalf, yet you arrive to the dealer to select or specify the model you will purchase. There may be other similar services, however you want to avoid any service that acts as a “broker” or go-between as that works best for an in-stock vehicle, but for a special order you will want direct lines of communication. This can vary by buying service and dealer.
Car buying services can certainly separate the pricing/negotiating anxiety from the purchase process and can be a really good thing! Everybody is willing to pay a fair price, but not everybody knows what the right number is for their purchase. It becomes even more difficult when you’re applying this to a vehicle yet to be ordered.
More car dealerships including BMW are establishing their own Internet Sales Departments. This may also be an avenue for you to approach a dealer without having to step foot in the door as you work on your dealer selection.
Creating your BMW Special Order
Once you have selected a dealer, you’ll arrange a time to come in and create your order. Expect the process to take an hour or so.
- Bring a printout of your desired build and options from the BMW Website. Make a written list of your desired options, packages and any option codes if you know them. Sometimes option ABC is part of Package XYZ – this can be helpful for you do double check the dealers work, but this is their area of expertise and if you selected a good dealer, you’ll be fine.
- BMW sales advisors also have tools to help you “build” a car at their dealership if you aren’t able to do so beforehand or have questions about features and options. It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the current colors and options if possible so that nothing important to you is left out. Every car comes with a seat, but not every car comes with CarPlay or Android Auto. Have your list!
- If you have no idea about color or interior selection, have look at the current brochure and advertising. BMW will always showcase popular “of the moment” color combinations and this can be helpful to you. It is also sometimes helpful to visit as many dealerships as practical to view color combinations or interiors. Some folks know exactly what they want, while others may need some inspiration. For some, this can be annoyingly angst creating. You can have whatever you want – you just have to decide what that will be!
- Your dealer may require a deposit. It is up to you to ask if your deposit is refundable or not should you cancel. This can vary by dealer and by state according to law.
- You may be required to complete a credit application. This is not to begin financing, but rather allows the dealer to run your credit to ensure that you should be able to finance/afford the purchase when the time comes. This may be done even if you intend to pay cash – again, varies by dealer policy. Unless you are on a short timeline and need to finance soon, you will re-do this step on your delivery day or shortly before.
- You should request that the dealer print out your order from the system. This will allow you and your sales advisor to review the entered color, wheels, and options to double check that nothing was missed (or inadvertently added). It will also provide you with a production number which is how you track the order through the BMW system as a VIN number is not assigned until the vehicle is actually in production.
- You should ask your dealer for a written agreement on pricing as specified if it is not listed on your order printout. It is best to have this clarified so that there are no future misunderstandings. Some dealers are formal about this while others are not.
- You should ask your dealer how long before your order becomes “locked” in the system. It may be possible to make changes in your order on longer lead-time orders. However, there becomes a point 6 to 8 weeks before production where changes will no longer possible as manufacturing and parts must be arranged specific to your build. If you are on the fence about a color or adding an option, you often have a small window of opportunity for making a change. However, don’t leave this to chance. Knowing when your order is going to be locked is helpful. Sometimes you’re ordering a color and you’ve never seen it in person – expect a little angst and anticipation but know that changes are possible until the order is locked.
- Next Model year options may be different. If you are placing an order that will be built later in the year as the next year’s model, you may not have the exact same set of options or colors to select from – your dealer will advise you if this applies and re-connect with you as soon as the next model year specifics hit the system. This is also why orders don’t lock down until a certain point in the process. Again, you want a dealer who keeps an eye on things and keeps you in the loop!
- You should have your dealer review any incomplete steps, and understand timing. You mostly get to wait at this point…
What are your Finance options for a BMW Order?
- Finance through BMW Financial Services (recommended)
- Lease through BMW Financial Services (recommended)
- Cash or other outside financing
While you can investigate financing while waiting for your car to be produced, you generally do not finance until shortly before you take delivery – or perhaps even day of delivery. When placing a special order, keep in mind that BMW Financial Services changes rates and programs periodically (usually quarterly). You cannot generally select a program until your vehicle has arrived and is ready for contract. Be sure to review this with your dealer at the time of order if you plan to use BMW F/S for your purchase or lease, that way you will know what to anticipate.
Also note that some incentive programs may only apply to current year or in-stock inventory, so if you are collecting a next year’s model towards the end of the current year certain incentives may not apply.
Should you consider European Delivery or Performance Center Delivery?
Yes! If you have the time or means to take a trip to Munich or Spartanburg in the U.S., by all means consider taking delivery of your new BMW at the factory. This program is a unique experience of a lifetime where you receive your car and have it to explore Germany and surrounding European countries; or in the U.S. experience, a day including time on the Track with BMW Supplied vehicles.
BMW European Delivery Program is a no-cost option, has a pre-set 5% discount off the list price of your vehicle, and includes registration and 14 days of road insurance (which may be extended if you are taking a longer trip). U.S. manufactured X-Series vehicles are not available since they are already built and located in the U.S. The i3 model is also currently not available for this program.
BMW Performance Center Delivery is also a no-cost option, but does not have a prescribed vehicle discount (you can still negotiate with your dealer). The program includes the Spartanburg factory tour, BMW Zentrum Museum, and a track day experience. This option may be more practical for those living closer to the East Coast of the U.S. as you will drive your new BMW home from the Spartanburg factory.
Should you consider BMW Individual?
BMW Individual Manufaktur is the unique BMW group dedicated to “special” factory orders. If you are interested in an off-chart color, special leather, stitching or trim not offered on the Build-a-BMW configurator, you may wish to investigate the world of BMW Individual Manufaktur.
This can easily become a “money is no object” sport and may also extend your order lead time considerably depending on the Individualization you are requesting. Regardless, it is your opportunity to get a truly one-of-a-kind BMW!
Tracking Your Order
You can track the production steps of your BMW through the entire process. Using the Production number that has been assigned to your order, you can create an account on the BMW “Owner’s Garage” and use this number to track every step along the way. Your car will not have a VIN number assigned until the actual beginning of vehicle production.
You can also track the status of your BMW by calling 800-831-1117. When prompted say “vehicle production status.” Have your production number or last 7 characters of your VIN Number ready for the latest update.
Trackable Production Steps:
- Order Received
- Scheduled for Production
- Production Begins
- Exterior Body Assembly Begins
- In the Paint Booth
- Entering Assembly Line
- Assembly in Progress
- Quality Check
- Final Assembly
- Ready for Transit
- Awaiting Carrier Assignment
- Dispatched from Factory
- At the Port
- In Transit
- At the Dealership
It is also possible to track your vehicle once it gets onto a ship (“In Transit” stage). You can most easily find this out via BMW vehicle production status, or have your dealer make the inquiry to help you pinpoint the exact name of the cargo ship your vehicle is traveling on. From there you can go online and use one of the maritime shipping trackers to watch the ship as it makes the journey to the US. This can be more fun than you might think!
Once your vehicle reaches the US port – it is delivered to the BMW Vehicle Preparation Center (VPC) where it is inspected and cleared for delivery to your dealer. Once cleared, it is transported and delivered to your dealer, who will clean and prep it for delivery to you.
What if I change My Mind?
Your color preference can change. Circumstances or fortunes can change, and you may find yourself unable to complete the purchase. Perhaps you need a new car sooner, or fell in love with a different car.
- If you ordered Red and now want Blue, you are able to make changes up until a certain stage of the production process. Several weeks prior to production, the order status will become locked, and no further changes are possible.
- If you find that you no longer wish to purchase your ordered BMW at all, you should inform your dealer as soon as you know this.
- Depending on the state that you live in, your dealer must generally refund your deposit fully for a cancelled order – even though they will end up with the unsold car. Check your local laws – especially if your dealer tells you that deposits are non-refundable. (Best to do know this before you place your order.)
- Letting the dealer know your change of heart as soon as possible gives them the opportunity to either change some of the options, color, or offer the vehicle to another customer who may want to make those choices.
- If the car has already been produced, don’t expect a happy dealer. However, do expect your deposit back under almost all circumstances. Know that the car will eventually find a happy buyer, and if it is a high-demand model the dealer may find a buyer before it even arrives to the U.S.
- If you must cancel, your dealer will understand this. Be professional when you cancel, and thank them as you may want to return as a customer in the future.
Delivery Day: What to Expect
When the big day arrives, don’t be in a rush when you go in to collect your car! Prepare to spend at least 2 hours at the dealership as you will have a few things to take care of on the day. Taking delivery of a factory order BMW is basically identical to taking delivery of a BMW off the lot, except you have the extra excitement of seeing your new car for the very first time after that long wait!
Dealers often have a special spot where your new BMW will be parked and waiting for you. Bring your camera! It is reasonable to request a drive in the car before you begin contracts and financing, so do so if you would like. This gives you a quick opportunity to inspect the car and review that all the options made it into the build and see if any minor adjustments are needed.
Finance or Pay for your New BMW
If you have not completed this in advance, you will finance your car whether it be to purchase or lease. Dealer financing (usually through BMW Financial Services) is often the easy option as it is in-house. You do have other options and a factory order does not have different financing requirements than an in-stock purchase. If you choose to finance elsewhere, the dealer may still have you complete a backup application as a standard precautionary measure unless you walk in with a cashier’s check on day of delivery.
The dealer finance manager will also explain warranties, and likely offer you an extended warranty program or other add-ons at an additional cost. Choosing add-ons is entirely up to you just as it is with any new car that you buy or lease.
Learn about your New BMW
You will next meet your sales advisor or the BMW Genius who will review all of the features and help you set up your new BMW. They can help you sync your phone and show you how to store an address in the GPS among other things. Be sure to bring your questions and curiosities – and your phone!
Before you drive off into the sunset, your dealer should explain when your car will be due for service and/or what is included as complimentary. BMW also has an “Encore” program where you will be invited back to again meet with the Genius after you’ve had your car for a couple of weeks in order to re-visit features and review any new questions that you have.
And finally, it’s time to enjoy your new BMW!