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May 27, 2022

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Vehicle shopping still a challenge

Problems that plagued customers in 2021 remain

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2021 was an unusual year for the automotive industry. While customer demand for new cars rebounded from the economic uncertainty of 2020, automakers found themselves unable to meet that demand because of semiconductor chip shortages and supply chain problems.

So what should car shoppers expect for 2022? Much of the same, unfortunately.

“Competition for new vehicles will be fierce as inventory shortages persist in 2022,” said Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights for Edmunds.

Shoppers today must contend with a limited selection, dealership markups, little to no discounts, and a greater sense of urgency to move quickly on a deal. With this in mind, here are five ways that car buying has changed, along with a few tips on how to manage it.

  • ONGOING VEHICLE SHORTAGE MEANS HIGHER PRICES.

Vehicles that make their way onto the lot are more likely to be in more expensive trims and either marked up in price or with numerous dealer-installed accessories that achieve the same effect. And as if that wasn’t enough to contend with, you’ll find that dealerships are much less likely to come down on price, because they know there aren’t many other options available. It’s a textbook case of supply and demand.

These days, paying MSRP might actually be a “good deal,” relatively speaking.

Tip: We recommend casting your net out further to increase your options. Not every dealership is marking up vehicles. If you see one you like, be prepared to move quickly, because it may not be there the next time.

  • YOU’RE MORE LIKELY TO ORDER YOUR NEXT CAR.

One way to avoid the markups and dealer add-ons is to order the vehicle. This ensures that you get exactly the color and options that you want, provided you’re willing to wait roughly six to eight weeks.

The basic idea is that ordering a vehicle saves the dealership on lot fees and insurance for vehicles parked on- or off-site, and it can then pass the savings on to the consumer. The “savings” these days is paying MSRP and not being charged for dealer add-ons or the convenience of having a vehicle right away.

Tip: The easiest way to order a vehicle is to use an automaker’s website to build the vehicle configuration you want and then send that information to your preferred dealership.

  • LEASING WILL BE LESS ENTICING.

Edmunds analysts say leasing is becoming less popular for a couple of reasons. As inventories remain low and the cars that are in stock tend to be more loaded with options, they’re less likely to be targeted by automakers’ leasing programs, because these vehicles typically suffer higher depreciation than their mid- to lower-level trim counterparts.

Tip: You might need to do some extra planning and research before your lease ends to find affordable options, said Drury. You can also consider buying out your lease, as it will likely be a better deal: Its selling price was calculated years before the market took a turn.

  • USED VEHICLES MAY NOT OFFER RELIEF.

Many new-vehicle shoppers turned to the used market for a better selection or respite from the higher new-car prices. But this, in turn, caused its own shortage and record-high prices. Edmunds analysts predict that in the coming year, the average used-vehicle price will surpass the $30,000 mark for the first time. Prices for one- to three-year-old vehicles will also often approach or exceed the price of what they would cost brand new.

Tip: If you have your heart set on used, it’s worth taking a look at certified pre-owned vehicles. They may be pricier than other used vehicles, but they come with a warranty and are often in better condition, and you’re more likely to get a subsidized interest rate, said Drury. Finally, trade-in values are very strong now, which can help offset the higher pricing.

  • DEALERS WILL BE MORE OPEN TO HOME DELIVERIES.

Having a vehicle delivered to your home was something of a “secret menu” item in past years, reserved for VIP clients or those in the know. But after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of countless dealership showrooms, home deliveries and the subsequent paperwork became almost a necessity. It will vary by location and brand, but your chances of wrapping up a car deal at home are significantly better than before.

Tip: Make sure to ask for a home delivery when making a deal on a car. Filling out any finance paperwork beforehand will greatly speed up the process.

EDMUNDS SAYS: It will be slim pickings for both new- and used-car shoppers this year, but if you cast a wider net and are prepared to act quickly on a car deal, you should be able to find a new car at a relatively fair price.

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