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Buying a new car in 2021 is probably not the smartest decision. Between the chip shortage limiting production, increased demand, and prices going up quickly, figuring out how to afford a car could feel impossible. Hell, even if you can afford one, you may not be able to find one. So, we came up with a few tips for buying a new car, the smart even during the madness of 2021. 

Car salesperson standing next to a customer at a Ford dealership
Car Salesperson at Ford Dealership | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Dangers of overpaying for a new car

According to NPR, at least a third of Americans will roll an average of $5,000 in debt into their new car. The long and the short of that situation is someone continuing to pay for a car they don’t own. I’m no financial pro, but that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. These figures are from 2019, so take the same principle and apply it to a market with historic high prices and panicky purchases due to low inventory. 

If you don’t have a choice and you have to buy a car, buying a new car makes as much sense as buying a used car at this point. Let’s keep a few things in mind when buying a car in 2021. 

Tip #1 for buying a new car: Get preapproved for your loan

Since there are so few new cars available to buy, you need to make sure you are ready to pull the trigger as soon as you find the car you want. Getting preapproved can be a really great way to make things as simple as possible. One main reason to do this is to ensure you have all the proper information about your finances. For instance, you could qualify for a lower percentage interest rate than they initially offer. It can also inform a really good deal if the dealership offers a lower rate than your bank approved. More information is always a good thing. 

Tip #2 for buying a new car: Keep it simple

Like playing poker, buying a new car is kind of like a game where whoever knows the most about the situation is going to have the advantage. Don’t overshare. The dealership has the upper hand more now than ever. 

The market is leaning heavily in favor of the seller. This means you need to hold your cards close to the vest as not to lose any more ground. A simple way to do this is to cover one topic at a time. Start with the car you want and its price. Once that get’s settled, you can move on to other things like trade-ins. It’s ok to buy if the car if it’s a good price and leave your trade-in out of the deal if that offer is too low. All good bargaining comes from being willing to say no. 

Tip #3 for buying a new car: Do your research

An empty Ford dealership shows that now is not the best time to buy a car. Buying a new car right now will be tough.
Empty Ford Dealership | David Paul Morris Getty Images

This one is a no-brainer, but many people are intimidated to research cars on their own. Don’t rely on the dealerships to inform you of car prices. If you have a general idea of what the car you want costs, as well as the value of your used trade-in. 

The more you know about what you want and what that should cost, the less a dealership can manipulate your fears and anxiety about buying a car. This goes double for 2021 and the lack of inventory. Arm yourself with knowledge. 

Tip #4 for buying a new car: Be flexible

This is more of a mental tip than anything having to do with negotiations. Since there are so few models consistently available, you may do well to make a list of the cars you are interested in. If you go in with only one model in a specific color, you may find buying a car in 2021 nearly impossible. 

Aside from the mental aspect of car hunting, the more flexible you are, the better chance you have of finding a deal. 

Tip #5 for buying a new car: Avoid the known shortage models

If you are trying to buy a 2021 Ford Bronco right now, you’ll quickly find that you might as well be trying to buy the Taj Mahal; it ain’t going to happen. Set your sights on realistic cars that are actually available. This may be a long road until the chip shortage, and other production delays get worked out. You don’t want to get discouraged and burnt out looking for a car that was never going to be available. 


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