How far has a new car traveled before it reaches its customer?

The new car joy

new car lot

We all have our tremendous joy when our brand new car arrives on our driveway. Like many others, we usually run the delivery checklist, and……check the odometer. Why are we doing this? Because it is natural for a person to
check how new is a new stuff.


Let’s check the numbers …

Naturally a new car buyer will check how far the new car has traveled before it arrives at home. Customers tend to look at the odometer, then would calculate the distance between the car dealer and the vehicle’s delivery destination. Then they will arrive at the perception of how “fresh” the car at the time of signing the delivery receipt.


What customers expect ….

As a buyer, it is only reasonable that we expect our new car to be as new as possible, that it has not traveled more than expected. And an expectation only follows what customers know about the sales links or structure. While every customer’s perception and knowledge may vary, a common perception about a new car journey is as follows.

[manufacturer] > principal > dealer > customer.

Many don’t even consider the [manufacturer] as a third party which may be some more distance away from the principal’s main business premises.

But it does not always work that way. A new car might have traveled much farther than a customer expects, or what the odometer shows.


The journey it takes …

Let us see an example of a new car journey from its birth, and the sales structure. From the factory, a new car is delivered to the principal. The principal then sells the car, well not only that one, but many cars, in bulk, to the dealers.01 supposed factory trip


The order in batches

Car dealers run big business. They buy cars in bulk. They order cars from the principal according to buyer’s orders, and to meet the order batch, include other models /trims /colors, or cars with specifications they predict will sell, even before a customer orders one. When a customer orders a car at a dealer, the dealer may or may not have the car in hand (what we call ready stock cars). What if the ordered model is not ready stock? Will car dealers put an order to the principal? Well, they might. But there is other way to get the car fast, which is to get an unsold car from another dealer.


The extra miles

transfer from a dealer
transfer from a dealer

If the requested and available car matches, the car from the other dealer will be delivered to the requesting dealer. Within the dealership network, the journey the car takes (it might be driven between the two dealers) can cover quite a distance. Some might be hundreds of kilometers, between cities or crossing provinces. This even allows a dealer located relatively near from the principal to transfer back cars that have been delivered hundreds of kilometers farther away.


Sometimes the numbers don’t add up.

A new car odometer may not show how far the car new has actually rolled. A car dealer might reset the odometer at a specific point which usually meets the customer’s expectation, or at least where complaint will be suppressed.

In a real case I once found, a car was ordered to another dealer half way (about 700 km away) from the principal’s city. The customer was located twice that distance from the principal’s city. The odometer showed about 700 km when delivered, which only suggested that it was the other dealer that reset it to zero. The customer certainly knew and accepted that the car had traveled more than 1,400 km. The following pictures
shows the scheme.

03 car journey 800 x 48004 odo zero 800 x 480


Let us just be happy with the new car

Car manufacturers /principals try their best to deliver cars as new, as fresh as possible to the customers. Here in Indonesia, it is easy to find new cars driven to car dealers with windows open during the tropical heat. The drivers are not allowed to turn on the air conditioner! And we can easily guess that it is done to maintain the brand new status of the car equipment.

The odometer reset may be done to help satisfying customer’s expectation. And during completion of delivery, terrain, road conditions may necessitate new cars to be driven for quite a distane for delivery. Thus a new car may not ride on a truck carrier all the time.

So let us just be happy with our new cars. The extra hundred, or even one thousand and some miles won’t matter much comparing to the function a new car serves.

Just pack our bags, drop them in the car, and take the family on a nice trip.

Before you take the trip, if there is any comment or suggestion about this article, just leave it in the comment box below.

Thank you. Have a nice trip.


8 thoughts on “How far has a new car traveled before it reaches its customer?

  1. Hi there,
    Hmmm… I must say that you got me here. Frankly, I never thought of these kinds of “inside” moving around when it comes to brand new cars. I really appreciated you having quality images portraying how it happens and from which point to which point the car is EXPECTED to travel and how it REALLY is. Also, it never crossed my mind that the car would go from principal to Dealer 2 and only then to Dealer 1. I guess that’s how businesses operate!

    1. The article only gives one sample of the many possible variations of new car distribution. It is a sample of a local, domestically manufactured car. The law, production locations, and other factors might result in a different scheme. Thank you, Zarina.

  2. Hello, I was in the new car transport business for 10 years. I would pick up cars right from the factory lots, load them on my trucks and take them to local dealers.
    There are inspection points at every step in the new car distribution.

    I grew up in Michigan so I had access to plants directly. If a vehicle is made in Mexico it is loaded on trains to storage lots, then on a truck to a dealer. Pretty simple process. I wouldn’t worry so much about miles on the odometer. Most cars have around 15 miles on them from testing and employees driving them to spots once they leave the line. also people test drive at dealer too.

    I would concentrate on damages caused by rail yards or trucks. scratches, dings, etc. I saw on numerous occasions people drive cars right off the top of the truck. I even hit a bridge once and totaled two brand new dodge dakotas and made convertibles out of them. Talk about a bad day. that was scary

    Thanks, Tim

    1. Hi, Tim. Thank you for sharing your experience.
      What I described in the page may be only one of many variations of new car distribution scheme. Some countries or states might also have regulations about odometer settings. Yes, there are risk of accident or small incident during a new car journey to its customer. It is indeed rather scary and adds stress to the car dealer.
      Thank you again.

  3. My friend once bought a car at a really cheap & the meter showed that it had run for on 150 miles or so. But after a week it started to cause issues. when he took it to a mechanic it turned out the car had been used pretty roughly for a few years now. & the meter had been tampered with to show it had run 150 miles while it actually had runway more.

    1. Hi Maisie. A cheap car at only 150 miles should raise suspicion. After all, an odometer is not a reliable tool to a assess a car’s condition. Overall condition, such as worn interior, how the car handles, rattles when driving could few signs of how far a car has gone through. I hope the car can still be fixed and driven.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *