Consumer Reports

Tips on Shopping for a Car During Inflation, Supply Chain Issues

Sellers have the advantage in the current car market

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You cannot escape the hard facts right now; prices are higher on everything from groceries to homes. But, the car market is experiencing something we've never seen. Inflationary pressures and supply chain issues are making it very hard for anyone searching for a car.

"Well, it's definitely a seller's market right now. There simply isn't a lot of inventory and you look up the old laws of supply and demand - the demand is far outstripping the supply," said Consumer Reports' autos specialist, Mike Quincy, as he explained why sellers have such an advantage in the car market. There just aren't enough cars because of a shortage of microchips.

"You wouldn't think that such a tiny little piece of hardware would have so much impact on a car. But these microchips run window switches and infotainment screens and even heated seats," said Quincy.

The effect is so great that used cars can cost just as much as new ones.

"I've never seen anything like this, and I'm sure that people at the retail level and buyers haven't seen anything like it either because the value of used cars has gone up so much," said Quincy. "You might be able to get a new car for the same price as a 3-year-old used car, depending on the make and model."

When it comes to trading or selling the car first, Quincy said, you get more money if you sell it yourself. If financing, save yourself some time and have that sorted out before going to the dealership. "Check out a credit union. If you haven't joined a credit union, they usually have the best rates," said Quincy.

Know what you want. Browse inventory online and try to verify with the dealer that the car is still available. Also, in making your choice, be flexible.

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"Go look at another sedan that has done well in Consumer Reports testing and has good reliability, instead of just focusing on one make and model because that will help you; that the more flexibility you have, the greater your chance is of getting a good car," Quincy said.

And you don't have to settle for something overpriced with dealer mark-ups.

"You have as a consumer, you got your feet and you just start walking right out of the dealer. You know, you don't have to pay this additional dealer markup," Quincy said.

If you're still not sure where to start searching, you can go to the Consumer Reports website and browse their top picks in your price range.

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