Fantasy Car Shopping Lineup Advice

Are you ready for some football? Automakers are. Car brands are traditionally yards ahead of other industries when it comes to TV advertising spending during the NFL season.

NFL ad spend

According to Standard Media Index, automotive TV ad spend was down 5.4% in 2017. However, automakers have scored 34% of total ad spend among the Top 10 industry advertisers during 2015 and 2016 seasons combined.

TV ad spend share

As a shopper, you should be prepared to view all the brands and models that will be targeted towards you. There are plenty of behaviors and strategies when considering a new or pre-owned purchase.

In the spirit of football season, I will breakdown the type of deals and vehicles you should start, sit, and cut as you shuffle your fantasy car shopping lineup.

(feel free to watch the video below instead of reading further)

Start ‘Em

New cars

If you’re in the market a for a new car, buying one off the showroom should be a great play. In 2017, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) reported 3,789,500 new cars were available for sale in the United States. While domestic brand dealerships such as a Ford and Chevrolet store tend to have crazy rebates, they also have longer inventory times (70 days) compared to import brand dealerships such as Toyota and Honda (56 days). Take advantage of these deals and dealer urgency to sell cars out of their inventory.

You’ll appreciate becoming the first driver of a vehicle, enjoying the “new car smell,” and keeping your car as long as you want.

Certified Pre-Owned carsCPO graph

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) cars are an underrated player in the fantasy car shopping league! If you find a certified car within three years of its original sales date, even better. CPO cars don’t have as steep of depreciation as new cars and could carry a longer longevity for warranty coverages.

CPO Sales have also seen a compounded annual growth rate of 4.6% between 2008 and 2017. As CPO sales grow, expect brands to continue to promote certification benefits such as competitive financing and extended service options. Some dealerships also dedicate more time and money in the shop to ensure that vehicles reconditioned as new as possible. 

Reliable older cars (veterans)

If you aren’t looking to spend thousands on rising auto prices, an older pre-owned vehicle, can be a valuable starter in your shopping lineup. These reliable veterans have been tested on the roads and can usually be found on trusted dealer’s lot or stashed in online inventory (ex: a Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, or Honda Accord at a luxury dealer lot is a sneaky steal of a deal).

FYI: Consumer Reports is a great source to guide you through the waiver wire of reliable vehicles. (


Leasing a new car

Playing a weekly fantasy league versus a season-long fantasy league is football’s version of leasing versus buying. Just like weekly fantasy football, leasing is short-term commitment without the risk of depreciation and disappointment. A new car lease can be a two to four-year fling with flexible mileage options and potential payment savings.

new car sales price

As the average new car price has increased over $4,500 in just 8 years – a few factors including inflation, safety, and technology – have led to this Gronk-like spike.

If you don’t drive a ton of miles and/or want to drive new cars more frequently, then leasing needs to be considered so you can save money up front and avoid trade-in headaches at the end.

Buying loan cars

Loan cars can also be a great waiver wire pick up to add to your flex shopping position. Typically loaners are new cars that dealers may stash in their service fleet for clients who bring their car in for maintenance. Mileage and inventory time can help you with pricing, but be aware of how many people may have been driving the loan car if you are in the market for one.

New models (rookies)

Newer models are rookies who we just don’t know about. Example, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA was a popular rookie of the year candidate for luxury sedans due to its attractive $29,990 price point. However, the vehicle was smaller than owners anticipated, and the drive was rougher than most Mercedes fanatics have experienced (the CLA has turned things around since then).

There will be more CLA-type rookie stories if brands continue to manufacture and increase their model lineup. Be cautious with these cars because besides your traditional car review sites, you’ll be the guinea pig for vehicle improvements if needed.

Sit ‘Em

Cars changing body styles

If you want to be avoid a nasty depreciation cycle, you should look to bench any cars that will change body styles within a year of your expected purchase date. I would ask a dealer rep when they expect the vehicle of your choice to face a major body change. If they don’t tell you, try visiting the brand website or searching for future models.

Cars with minor CARFAX accidents

If you find a quality pre-owned vehicle with a minor CARFAX damage report, this car may still be a good play. Think of a minor damaged CARFAX report as a player who is questionable on your fantasy football lineup. You and the dealership will have a game-time decision to determine if the minor damage was a small fender bender or minor hail damage.

I would lean towards benching a car with a bad CARFAX, but if the deal is too good to pass up, just dig deeper to find the story behind the report.

Cut ‘Em

Luxury cars out of warranty

You may be comparing the price of an older luxury model to the price of non-luxury vehicle. However, please be mindful of the cost of maintenance throughout your ownership period. If you are considering a luxury car without its factory warranty, you should cut this player from your car shopping roster – especially if you are buying from a outside the brand store.

Luxury maintenance

Cars with bad CARFAX

Just imagine a car with a bad CARFAX as a player that’s out for the season. No need to waste your time if you see an accident or even worse, a red warning on the report.

CARFAX images

If you’re looking to end this season with a championship purchase, these fantasy car shopping tips should help you own the experience. I will dive deeper into these strategies in future blog posts, but until then, this blog is a great starting point for your season.

One comment

  1. Pingback: The 4Ps of the Certified Pre-Owned Market -


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