If you’re looking for a new or used car, you might have noticed that many dealerships don’t have the selection you’re used to.
As people get back to work and back on the road, demand for new and used cars is very high. Add to that a shortage of cars based on automaker production slowdowns and supply chain issues and getting your exact car can be tough.
Here are a few tips to help find the right car for you.
Expand Your Search Area
First, broaden your search. If you’re using an online experience like Autotrader or others, you may be asked for your zip code, and then the option of how far from your home zip code you want to search. The default is usually something like 25 or 50 miles. Try expanding that to 100 or even 200 miles. This will give you a broader selection of vehicles for sale. In an urban or even suburban area, this will likely add dozens of vehicles for sale to your search results. If you live in a rural area, you may have to expand your search to include an even wider area.
If you already have a specific car in mind, consider some of that car’s competitors. For example, if you have your heart set on a Toyota Camry, try considering a Honda Accord or a Kia Optima as well. If you’re not willing to switch brands, try to be flexible concerning options, color, and model year. You might still be able to get a Toyota Camry but don’t be too rigid about things like interior color or unusual combinations of options.
For example, if you’re looking for a used sedan and want leather seats, that car will likely come with a sunroof too. Even if you don’t want the sunroof, consider that car anyway as you make your list of cars to test drive. The more flexible you are, the more likely it is that you can get a car directly from the dealer’s inventory.
Be Prepared to Pay More
One of the things the current inventory shortage is causing is a spike in prices. For example, minivans are in short supply, as are SUVs and pickups. In a recent KBB.com survey, buyers said they were willing to pay up to 13 percent more to get the car or truck they really want. In the current car-buying climate, you probably won’t be able to negotiate the price down at all.
Consider a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle
Halfway between new and used are certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles. These are low-mileage used cars that have been inspected by the manufacturer and have been repaired (if needed) to the automaker’s standard. Cars with severe issues like fire, flood, or frame damage are not accepted into the certification program.
Also, these vehicles get an additional warranty and some secondary perks like free satellite radio, roadside assistance, or free scheduled maintenance. Often, these vehicles qualify for new car financing terms like low interest or other incentives.
Avoid Popular Vehicle Types
One way to find a good car at a reasonable price is to avoid popular types of vehicles. Minivans, pickups, and SUVs are popular and are likely to command a price premium over other types of vehicles. While brands like Chevrolet, Ford, Jeep, and Ram are likely to have a good selection, the prices will still be a little higher than you’d expect versus just a year ago.
Instead of an SUV or minivan, consider your needs versus your wants. Do you need three rows of seating and a big V6 or V8 engine? If not, a good sedan like the Honda Accord or Hyundai Sonata might work just as well. Cars like these plus the Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, Tesla Model 3, Toyota Camry, and Toyota Corolla are good for everyday use. The Altima, Camry, and Model 3 can be had with all-wheel drive too.
The author of this article, Brian Moody, is Executive Editor for Autotrader and a monthly contributor to YurView’s Creative Living show, airing Sundays at 8:30pm, Mondays at 7:30pm, Thursdays at 8pm and Saturdays at 10pm.