5 Things to Know Before You Buy Your Next Car

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Over the past year, car shopping has changed with record-low inventory, high consumer demand, and new digital ways to buy vehicles.

There’s been a seismic shift in the auto industry since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, said Tyson Jominy, the vice president of data and analytics for J.D. Power.

“Car shopping is not the same,” Jominy said in a recent Facebook Live hosted by BestRide.com. “You used to spend all day shopping for a car at a dealership. Now it’s a brand-new world.”

Considering all the changes, here are five things you should know before you buy your next car:

1. Expand Your Search

In the past, you would visit the closest dealer to find the car you wanted. But now, finding the exact vehicle you have in mind is challenging because of inventory challenges from the worldwide semiconductor shortage. Jominy suggests expanding your geographic search beyond 25 miles. Most car shoppers are driving 10 miles further than they were pre-pandemic, and up to a third of those shoppers are driving 50 miles or more to find their next vehicle. You should also broaden the make and model of the car you want and even look beyond your current automaker. There are so many new makes and models out there, so it’s good to look. It’s best to do your research on sites like BestRide.com to see what’s available.

2. Your Trade is Worth More Than Ever

The used car market is hot, and car dealers are paying top dollar for used cars. Jominy suggests getting multiple quotes from your dealership from various dealers and trade-in sites. “Within 15 minutes, you can have five or six offers for your trade-in,” he said. “There’s also huge equity in leasing right now. A third of lessees are buying out their leases. Don’t just turn in your leased vehicle. You could buy out the lease and flip it. Used vehicles have never been more valuable.” The high trade-in costs you’ll get will help offset the high price of new and used cars for sale. Also, if you have an extra vehicle you don’t need, now is the time to sell that car to take advantage of the high trade-in values.

3. You’ve Got To Plan. You Snooze, You Lose.

You may need to pre-order your vehicle, as it could take six to eight weeks  — or longer — to arrive because of low vehicle inventory. While you might have to wait longer, some automakers, like Ford, offer incentives if you pre-order your vehicle.“It used to be you got the best deal when visiting a dealership at the end of the month or the end of the year,” Jominy said. “Sales patterns are shifting now.” Inventory challenges are expected to continue into 2022, so waiting to buy your car is not suggested. 4.5 million consumers are looking for cars, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get materially better in the next year, he said.

4. Consider Changing What You Buy

The quality of cars has never been better, so if you’re looking for a used vehicle, a 5- to 6-year-old vehicle is the sweet spot for used cars, Jominy said. “A vehicle with 80,000 miles is not even at its half-life as the average life of a vehicle is around 12 years,” he said. Have you considered an electric vehicle? More EVs are on the road since each automaker is putting out more electric and hybrid versions of their cars. “The growth rate of EVs is strongest this year since there are lots of great choices out there,” Jominy said. “There’s also a lower cost of maintaining an EV since you’re not buying gas.”

5. Go Digital

COVID-19 forced the auto industry to adopt more digital marketing solutions, which is good news for consumers since you can do your research and shopping online now. Most dealers offer online financing, at-home test drives and will even deliver the car to your house. “It’s amazing what we can do now,” Jominy said. “Millennials are now the No. 1 group buying cars, and they expect doing their shopping from home. The pandemic gave us the tools to do it. Now all the dealerships have the capability of doing things from home.”

Consumers have more options than ever when buying their next car. It’s a good idea to do your research, be open to other makes, models, and types of vehicles, and check dealership reviews before choosing your dealer, Jominy said.

“Vehicles have never been better with great safety features and mileage,” he said. “Do your research on sites like BestRide.com and JDPower.com. You are in control of your next car purchase.”

If you need more tips to make your next car purchase easier, check out our other blogs, including the top five tips women need to know when buying a vehicle from a dealership, and what to expect from your first dealership experience.

Happy shopping!

Hayley Ringle

Hayley Ringle

Hayley Ringle has been an automobile enthusiast since her first motorcar love, a no-frills, air-cooled, orange 1976 VW Super Beetle. Hayley now enjoys driving her limited-edition Release Series 9 ride, an orange 2012 Scion XB, with vanity license plate HOTLAVA. Hayley’s fondness for cars stems from her dad’s love of British sports cars and her years working at an auto parts store while in college. She has written professionally for Phoenix-area newspapers for over 20 years, covering every subject imaginable, including Scottsdale’s car auctions and the Valley’s vehicle proving grounds. Her dream car is a Jaguar E-type roadster featured in the 1971 cult classic film “Harold and Maude.”