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  • Dave Kinzer

Now Is The Worst Time To Buy A Car

My wife and I finally decided to get a new car. Actually, she was ready years ago- I finally came around.

She’s got a 2004 Honda Civic, and it’s been a great car. No major problems or repairs.

With two growing kids though, it can feel a little cramped. We figured we’d join everyone else on the planet and buy an SUV. After some research, and lots of positive comments from people who actually own these vehicles, we narrowed our choices to the Honda CR-V hybrid and Subaru Forester.

When we went to take a look at the Honda, we had a problem. We couldn’t actually find one to test drive. Not in Springfield, anyway. When I expanded my search to central Illinois, I found only one, and it was 94 miles away.

Our luck with the Subaru was better, but not by much. We found one in Springfield, but only one, and it wasn’t the trim level we wanted. The dealer told us they wouldn’t be able to get any more until August.

It turns out, as luck would have it, we picked the absolute worst time in recent memory to purchase a car.

Many dealerships have sold all they have of their most popular lines of new cars, and if you’re wanting a used vehicle, it’s about the same. They all seem to have just a portion of their regular used car inventory in stock, which mean the price on the car is what you’ll have to pay. In other words, most dealers won’t discount any car’s price because they don’t need to. They know someone else will come along and buy it at their price if you don’t.

What is to blame for this extreme seller’s market for cars? You guessed it: COVID-19.

The pandemic shut down plants that manufacture semiconductor computer chips, and since all new cars use them, this put a crimp in car companies’ production. Not only does this mean they can’t make cars as quickly, it also resulted in the average price of a new vehicle going up.

So if you’re also shopping for a new or used car at this time, what can you do?

First, consider holding off on purchasing a new car if you can. According to a recent CNBC article, the computer chip shortage might last until 2023. That means two more years of slim pickings at the dealerships and no negotiating. So if your car runs fine, and you want a new car more than you need one, I’d advise you to wait.

Second, don’t forget to get a couple opinions on your car’s trade-in value. One dealership offered us $500 on our Honda, while another offered us $1,500.

Don’t forget to check other dealerships to see if they would be interested in buying your car outright. We checked with CarMax, and were pleasantly surprised when their online estimator told us they would buy it for $2,600. So now we’d be in better shape if we sold it instead of trading it in.

Third, if you are looking to buy a popular car ASAP, be ready to be flexible. You might have to buy a car with a different trim level or more (or fewer) accessories than you wanted. Also, don’t be surprised if they don’t have your favorite color in stock.

It’s also possible that you can find the exact car you want, but you’ll just have to drive two hours away to get it.

If you can hold off for awhile on the purchase, however, it’s more likely you’ll be able to buy exactly the car you want.

Finding the exact car you want today isn’t impossible, but it is a lot harder than usual. Try to be as patient as you can, and hopefully you’ll find it sooner, rather than later!

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