The most frustrating part of buying a car has traditionally been tense negotiations at the dealership. Lately, buyers should consider themselves lucky if they can even find a car worth haggling over.
Spiking demand, manufacturing slowdowns and supply chain problems have hit the auto market particularly hard during the pandemic, and the results are slim pickings and soaring prices for anything with four wheels.
Buyers accustomed to scooping up bargains on used cars have been hit with sticker shock, with the average price now topping $29,000, up 28% year over year according to data analyzed by Edmunds. New cars are in short supply — in September, inventory was down 60% compared to the same month in 2020 — and super expensive, with the average vehicle going for $45,872 in November, or $662 over the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). That’s up from $39,984 just 12 months prior, when the average car sold at a discount of $2,123 off the sticker price.
Understandably, many would-be buyers have been holding off on picking up a new set of wheels. But experts don’t see the supply of new vehicles bouncing back to pre-pandemic figures until at least 2023, and it’s likely to take even longer before it feels like a buyer’s market for used cars again.
“There are so many unknowns, it’s just impossible to predict when things will get back to normal,” says Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief of Cars.com.
For the moment, the best approach is one that buyers don’t want to hear: “Wait as long as possible,” says Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights at Edmunds. “Things will only get better.”
If that’s not feasible, here are some strategies to help you get the car (and price) you want … or at least something you can live with.
Do your research and be flexible.
It’s more important than ever to narrow your list of “must-haves.” Be willing to compromise on the trim level and features, and maybe the manufacturer and model as well. Even if you always buy used, consider new — there may not be that big of a price difference. But beware: certain hot models are commanding huge premiums — some Ford Broncos are selling for $40,000 over sticker price — so it’s best to be open to alternatives.
“Figure out your dream car, then have a backup and another backup,” says Cars.com’s Newman. “Definitely be flexible on things like color.”
`It’s wise to expand your search to sellers far away from home too. “You can’t just look in the 10- to 25-mile radius,” says Newman. “Think 50 miles, 100 miles.”
Be prepared to act quickly.
No matter how good of a negotiator you are, it’s basically impossible to dicker your way …….