Searching for Clarity - 2018 Honda Clarity Forum
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-14-2019, 10:35 AM Thread Starter
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Searching for Clarity

Hello to those who have already achieved Clarity !

I've been lurking here for a couple of weeks, learning enough to know that a bit of Clarity in our own future would very likely be a satisfying thing! However, I'm also frustrated at how difficult (impossible?) it is to test drive one, much less proceed to purchase, at least outside California (we are in the Pacific Northwest). Hence the Htg_Clarity username I choose, re-affirming that this model is "Hard to get".

My wife and I have owned a Honda Accord SE since 2007. It has been (and still is) very reliable and reasonably fuel efficient, but at this point we'd like to go greener and fully cover our almost daily trips to town (16 mi RT) and occasional trips to neighboring towns (40 mi RT) with just electricity from a rechargeable battery. For longer trips (approximately 12% of our annual miles) we prefer a PHEV rather than a full BEV for refueling convenience and "range anxiety" considerations, especially given the specs (and costs) of currently available BEV vehicles, and existing limited fast charging infrastructure.

With the Volt out of production, the ">40 mi RT on just EV" goal makes the Clarity one of the few PHEV candidates in the running. Even if the Volt were still being made, we like a roomy, comfortable sedan (not SUVs or hatchbacks, and no sunroof), and we are quite happy with Honda's demonstrated design/engineering/quality/reliability, so the choice quickly converged on the Clarity PHEV Touring edition. The only Clarity "feature" that I'm not sure we will like is the rear visibility through the trunk, but if that's the only drawback the outside mirrors should provide a good enough workaround, at least for normal driving (I've driven vans in the past with no rear windows!). Also the multi view rear camera helps mitigate that "feature" when backing up. Others have mentioned the Clarity's small gas tank and ~300 mile range in HEV mode as a drawback, but that is not an issue for us since we never drive longer than 3 hours or so without taking a short break to stretch our legs.

There are two dealers reasonably nearby to us, and both told us there are no Clarity models currently available anywhere in WA state. For 2020 production, one said they won't order one, period, and would also not consider a dealer swap, but suggested instead the best option would be for us to make a trip to California, or else look for some other brand of PHEV! The other dealer said that Honda dictates what dealers receive in the way of an allotment for 2020, and (paraphrasing) they will get back to us if they (inferring we) happen to get lucky. I haven't yet asked the second dealer about the possibility of acquiring a vehicle via a dealer swap, assuming some 2020 models do get allocated to WA, but not to them.

Using the Costco Auto Program, the price the second dealer quoted was discounted, but only about $1K below MSRP. If they do get one allocated I'm willing to wait (we don't expect to buy until 1st quarter next year at the earliest anyway), but if not I would need to widen the search for an in state cooperative dealer (with no guarantee of success). The suggested trip to CA made me wonder just how viable purchasing out of state would be.

Buying in California would entail paying about $3K in CA sales tax. Normally that would offset WA taxes when registering and licensing the car here, but WA currently has a sales tax exemption for the first $25K cost of qualifying electric vehicles (and the Clarity does qualify). Any CA sales tax paid would presumably offset the WA tax on the excess over $25K (close to $1K in tax with an estimated sales price of $36K), thus costing $2K more in sales tax overall than need be. For 2019 models, some CA purchasers have reported getting Honda dealer discounts. Without negotiation I've no way to know if those are still available, but if so they might offset the tax disadvantages? Alternatively, does anyone have any experience with getting a CA dealer to ship a car to a dealer in another state so it can be purchased under the normal local tax/license process? Are there any fees beyond the cost of shipping when doing that?

Any other suggestions?
Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-14-2019, 03:02 PM
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Others on this forum and Inside EVs Clarity forum have recently commented on taking delivery outside of CA to offset sales tax (usually involves a shipping cost), but I think your reasoning is sound and very similar to our situation. We previously had two Civic Hybrids and traded in a marvelous 2017 Accord Hybrid on our 2018 Clarity Touring model. We drove from WI to KS to make our purchase because no dealer in MN or WI would order a Clarity for us. We paid no sales tax in KS and eventually paid WI sales tax after subtracting trade-in value, extended warranty, and other nontaxable dealer "fees." The Clarity does have a few minor annoyances, like the mediocre windshield washer system, but overall it is an engineering marvel. It is the best car by far we have ever bought and delivers on all the major expectations we hoped for, which were similar to yours. The forthcoming Toyota RAV4 PHEV looks promising, but its EV mileage would not be enough for me. Even with the good mileage we got with our 2017 Accord Hybrid, our gasoline bill is now $150/mo lower on average for the same driving patterns after subtracting daily charging cost. Good luck with your decision.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-14-2019, 06:41 PM
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It's certainly not unheard of for people to purchase cars from out of state and have it delivered. Besides the sales tax saving which is an issue with California (no other state that I know of charges sales tax for cars not registered there) you also will likely be able to get a few thousand off of MSRP as California dealers quite often give pretty good discounts. Although some of the discount is due to the Honda dealer incentive which is only paid to dealers if the car is registered in California, but that doesn't mean they won't still make a deal. It may though take a lot of emails and phone calls over several weeks to a lot of dealers to find both a good deal and a dealer willing to ship out of state.

Some people even purchase sight unseen and have the car shipped, which is not as risky as it sounds as you can refuse delivery if the car is damaged or is in any way different than what was on the sales contract. However you might feel more comfortable purchasing in person which allows you to see and test drive the car. So after getting a quote that is to your liking you fly there, do all the paperwork, just don't take delivery at the dealer instead have it shipped to you and then you fly back home. Even with shipping costs and your airfare and rental car you will still likely come out ahead compared to buying locally assuming you can even find a dealer willing to order one for you which is not impossible but pretty close to it based on what we keep hearing.

You may want to arrange your own shipping, it's not as intimidating as it sounds, you can even get quotes online right now just to get an idea what type of prices you will get. Likely a lower price than what a dealer will charge if they make the arrangements. Also it may make it easier to find a California dealer willing to sell it to you if you tell them you will handle the shipping, including tell them that you will arrange for a notary to be present at delivery for signing (easiest way to do that is take delivery at the notary's office). Go onto California's tax website and look up out of state sales tax for cars and you can see the form that is signed on delivery which confirms that delivery was taken out of state (the form is not necessary but it makes it easier for the dealer to prove to California tax authority that they did not have to collect sales tax). Technically all of that is the dealers responsibility but it is to your advantage to be familiar with the process so you know what is going on, and it will also possibly make the dealer more comfortable selling to you if they know you are knowledgeable about the process, because that means it is less likely that it will become complicated like it would if the buyer is clueless and expects the dealer to do everything.

Another option might be to call an auto broker, that would make it easier but of course that would likely cut into the savings somewhat, unless maybe they are able to find a better deal than you could have on your own.

Last edited by 2002; 12-14-2019 at 06:49 PM.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-14-2019, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks TomL and 2002 for your suggestions and info.
I'll see what Dealer two says about allocations (supposed to be known next week, according to them) and will also start doing some research per your suggestions.
Happy Holidays!
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-14-2019, 11:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Htg_Clarity View Post
Thanks TomL and 2002 for your suggestions and info.
I'll see what Dealer two says about allocations (supposed to be known next week, according to them) and will also start doing some research per your suggestions.
Happy Holidays!
I don't know if you have happened to read some of my posts on other threads, but Honda only shipped cars to all fifty states in the 2018 model year, 2019 models went only to ZEV states (all on east coast except California and Oregon) and even those shipments to ZEV states only lasted until about February of this year. That is not published anywhere that is my conclusion based on studying VIN numbers around the country (back when there were cars on dealer lots, they are almost all gone now). Only up to about VIN number 1000 were shipped to the east coast (and a few to Oregon) which is why I estimate February because the 2019 model year began production in December. After the first 1,000 were shipped all cars have since gone exclusively to California which is now up to VIN numbers in the high 6000's. It wasn't until August when questioned by car websites did Honda acknowledge that cars were being shipped for inventory at this time only to California, but they claimed that customers in all fifty states could still order it. Most of us knew that was pure spin to avoid admitting the pullback to California, and this has been proved out by virtually no reports of anyone outside of California successfully ordering one, instead all we hear about are dealer refusals. Maybe someone in the U.S. has been able to order one but that would seem to be extremely rare, in spite of what Honda claims. Other than a smattering of cars still left on some dealer lots on the east coast (those left have sat for nearly a year) the Clarity is only available in California and in my opinion that will continue in 2020 since there will apparently be no change in 2020 (based on what we hear from Canada) so no reason to expect Honda to change its current distribution with the new model year number. I.e. if your dealer can't get a 2019 there is no reason to believe they can get a 2020.

Note that in 2018 when selling in all fifty states VIN numbers for that model year got up to about 24,000. 2019 will probably end just over 7,000 which gives you an idea how massive the pullback was in 2019. My theory why they pulled back was because they found that the tax incentives weren't enough and Clarity only sold when Honda kicked in thousands of dollars in dealer incentive. They weren't willing to continue losing money that way thus the pullback to California where Clarity is an easier sell then it was on the east coast and where they presumably need more ZEV credits.

Honda Canada has for many months said there will be a 2020 Clarity in Canada. Honda U.S. has been pretty much silent so far on 2020 Clarity, but the cars are still in production, my opinion again, people have been saying for months that 2019 Clarity production stopped but that is not at all true according to my observations. My personal opinion is that the 2020 model will be sold only in California and Canada, nothing changes in 2020 so there is no reason why they would suddenly decide to give it another whirl in states where it didn't sell without massive discounts. Personally I'm just glad that it will continue to be produced in California so at least people who want one can still get one even though it requires a bit more effort.

Last edited by 2002; 12-15-2019 at 12:01 AM.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-15-2019, 01:57 AM Thread Starter
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Well, forewarned is forearmed, so that always helps.

I had seen your other posts on availability. All I can contribute is what I was told by dealer two (Wilder Honda). They said that there were some, but very few, 2019 Claritys that were allocated to WA dealers in 2019, including a base model that happened to go to Wilder. They held that Clarity from whenever it arrived (I didn't ask the date, sorry) until September, at which point it was the last one in the state. They traded it to another dealer for several Civics (presumably the other dealer had a buyer).

Maybe the very limited allocations to WA in early 2019 (and perhaps to some other non ZEV states, based on thin but non-zero buyer reports in the various forums) were just "tokens" so Honda wouldn't be caught in an outright lie re. "50 state availability"? If so, that strategy was clearly abandoned later - as you note there do not appear to be any reports of additional shipments or new arrivals outside of CA (other than the very occasional cancelled custom order).

I suspect you are also right about 2020 availability, but hope dies hard - I will let you know if I hear anything different. Supposedly 2020 allocations will be made known to dealers in the next week or two.

If you are correct then the continued availability of Clarity in at least CA is good not just for those like me who want to buy one (and can handle the extra effort - it helps to be retired!), but for existing owners too, because continued production implies a longer commitment to support. Even for those with backyard mechanic skills, manufacturer support always extends the useful life expectancy of any complex machinery.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-15-2019, 03:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Htg_Clarity View Post
"50 state availability"
As I learned when shopping for a Volt (and, later, a Bolt), that statement means that the manufacturer makes the vehicle available to dealers but - and it's a BIG "but" - it doesn't mean that dealers are required, encouraged or incentivized to sell the vehicle. There's now one Chevy dealership in my state (out of nearly 40) that will sell the Bolt.

I had to go to a neighboring state to purchase my Clarity - none of the four Honda dealerships within 90 miles of my home would order one for me, nor had they any on their lots. The 2018 I eventually purchased had been on the lot for nine months, one of two at that dealership. Right around the time I made the purchase was when Honda decided to not release the 2019 beyond the ZEV states - so another buyer grabbed the other Clarity, but without the discount the dealership gave to me to finally get rid of one of them!

The Honda dealership about two blocks from my home - although they refused to get me a Clarity - has a Clarity-certified service department. I don't know why as they never sold one, but who am I to look a gift mechanic in the mouth?
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-15-2019, 11:59 AM
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Currently, in CA, there is a $4,000 Honda discount and about $2,000 dealer discount for 2019 on the lot Clarity PHEV.

My co-worker is getting one before the deal goes away.

If you arrange with a CA dealer to have it shipped to your WA dealer, you will save yourself about 10% in taxes.

With the current discounts on the 2019, it would be a very wise idea to pick up one from CA and have it shipped because shipping from CA to WA would be less than $1000 for transport on a LTL carrier.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-22-2019, 05:54 AM Thread Starter
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Update: My local dealer reported Friday that indeed there were no allocations to them from Honda’s planned 2020 Clarity production. They are still checking whether other dealers in WA State may possibly have been favored with any that they could exchange for, but it does not look promising.
So far California dealers have not been much help. One did tell me that Honda’s dealer incentives only applies to cars sold to California buyers (i.e. registered within CA), confirming what 2002 said. That particular dealer also offered only straight up MSRP pricing, and quoted $2K for shipping.

I contacted two car shipping companies and got quotes of between $1200 and $1300 (which included insurance), based on locations of potential dealers in mid-California.

Given shipping, an offer with a minimum of $2.3K off MSRP would be needed for a California purchase to be a push with my local dealer’s still live offer of $1K off MSRP for an ordered Clarity; but the best offer I have received from any California dealer so far is just $1.9K below MSRP. (A California dealer with existing stock would certainly be able to deliver quicker, but that advantage does not hold any extra value in my case).

I did locate and download California’s Department of Tax and Fee Administration form CDTFA-448 Rev. 8 : Statement of Delivery Outside of California. It is a fairly straightforward 1 page form, but does need to be notarized. It also notes that if the car is returned to CA within 12 months, use tax becomes due and collectable. Records of where the car was used for that first 12 months must be kept for 8 years in case of an audit!

Might end up just ordering one, but still looking for now - does anyone have a recommendation for particular California dealer(s) that they have had success with? Perhaps as we near the end of year a better price might be offered...
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-22-2019, 12:16 PM
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