Should you special order your new BMW?

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Special ordering has become an increasingly attractive way to buy or lease a new BMW. By waiting just a few short weeks, you can get your new BMW customized to your exact specifications and save money at the same time.

Because BMWs can be customized in a seemingly unlimited number of ways, many car buyers can be frustrated tying to find their ideal vehicle. Each BMW dealer has a limited number of vehicles on their lot and their first choice is to sell you one of these. If they have the one you want, great. If not, you can decide on a “close-enough” car on the lot, visit another dealership and hope they have a better fit, or order the vehicle exactly the way you want it. (Cartelligent can help you search inventory throughout California to find the closest match, or place a special order for your dream car.)

What is a special order?

A special order, or factory order, occurs when a client orders a specific vehicle with the color and options they want. Typically, the client will configure the vehicle online with the exact features desired and then place the order either directly with the dealership or through a car buying service like Cartelligent that helps clients navigate the process. You cannot special order a car directly from BMW or most other major car manufacturers.

What are the benefits of a special order?

There are a number of cases where special ordering can be a great strategy. 

  • You don't want to pay for features you won't use
  • You want the vehicle configured a specific way
  • You want a vehicle that has little to no inventory available 


We’ll expand on each of these in turn:

You don't want to pay for features you won't use

When your ideal car has limited inventory, it can be appealing to take an in-stock model that has similar features. For example, the only Alpine White M6 Coupe you’ve found can be very tempting even though it's equipped with the $5,100 Executive Package you don't particularly want. Ordering the car takes a few weeks more but saves paying for expensive features you won’t benefit from.

You want the vehicle configured a specific way

While many vehicles can only come in a handful of available packages, BMWs can be configured in literally thousands of ways.

Take the example of the BMW X5 vs the Honda Pilot:

2016 BMW X5 2016 Honda Pilot
Can be configured over 100,000 different ways Can only be configured ten different ways
Average inventory of 10/dealer  Average inventory of 30/dealer
Approximately 500 vehicles in state of California Approximately 3,000 vehicles in state of California


With only four standard colors and five available package (plus 2WD/4WD), the odds are pretty good you’ll be able to find the Pilot SE in Modern Steel Metallic with 2WD in stock at a dealership fairly close to you. Meanwhile the X5 xDrive35d in Space Gray Metallic with the M Sport line and the Luxury Seating Package will be much more difficult to locate exactly the way you want it.

In this case, special ordering the BMW can be a fantastic option that allows you to get exactly the color and features you want. 

BMW also offers a number of colors and trims that are only available on special orders. These are known as BMW Individual and they can make your new vehicle even more unique.

You want a vehicle that has little to no inventory available

Sometimes a newer model like the BMW 330e or a popular vehicle like the M3 Sedan can be extremely difficult to locate at any dealership. In this case, your best options are to special order the car you want or find another model that you like just as much.

How much can special ordering a BMW save?

At a bare minimum, ordering a vehicle saves dealers the insurance, lot fees and other costs involved with having a car sit in inventory. This can make them more motivated to negotiate on price since the vehicle costs them less than an in-stock unit. Additionally, as discussed above, ordering avoids paying extra for unwanted features which can add up to even greater savings.

How long does a special order usually take?

Special ordering takes longer than buying a vehicle off the lot—typically around 5 to 8 weeks for the majority of BMW SUVs (which are built in the US) and 8 to 12 weeks for vehicles built in Germany. BMW also offers pick up of special orders in Germany for those who want the fun of driving their new car on its home turf (See European Delivery: Want a European vacation with your new car?).

How do I decide what I want?

BMW's website is designed to make the ordering process simple. They offer interactive features that allow you to compare and contrast colors and options so that you can visualize the vehicle and determine exactly what you want. Your Cartelligent agent can also help walk you through your options and decide which are important to you.

Can I still negotiate on the price of the vehicle?

Yes, but this should be done before the order is placed. Once you’ve ordered the vehicle, it will be much more difficult to get the BMW dealership to be flexible on price. However, if the vehicle has low inventory and extremely high-demand, the dealership may not be willing to negotiate much on price as they only have a set number of units they can order.

Can I take advantage of current lease and finance incentives?

BMW will allow you to lock in the lease and finance rates when you order the vehicle and will let you switch to a lower rate if one is offered when the vehicle arrives. 

How much money does it cost to place the order?

Most BMW dealers may request a deposit at the time of order (Cartelligent clients very rarely pay this). This deposit is typically refundable if the client decides not to purchase the car when it arrives.

What happens if I change my mind?

Nothing—you can change your mind at any time until you pick up the vehicle and sign the final paperwork. If you have put down a fully refundable deposit, this should be returned to you.

What if I need my new BMW immediately?

If you need a new car immediately, special ordering is probably not your best option. If the car you want is not available, you will need to compromise on color and options, or look at cars that have similar features that will meet your needs.

Can I lease a BMW that is special ordered?

Yes. We often recommend special orders to our clients who are currently in leases since they know precisely when they will need a new car and can take advantage of that time frame to order the car exactly how they want it.

How do I place a special order?

Unless you go through a car buying service like Cartelligent, you will need to go into a dealer to order and negotiate the price of your special order. Be prepared to stand your ground and don't be swayed by the car on the lot that's the wrong color and has the wrong options. Their preference will be to sell you an in-stock car rather than wait a few weeks for the commission on an ordered car. Let them know that you're there to place an order and you expect them to help you do so.

If you have the flexibility on your timing or can start the process in advance of when you need your new car, special ordering can be a fantastic way to get your new BMW configured exactly how you want it. Whether you're considering a special order or a vehicle that's readily available, Cartelligent can help you get a great deal on exactly what you want. Call our team of car-buying experts at 888-427-4270 or get started today.