How to Navigate Today’s Car-Buying Market

Prices on both new and used cars have soared since the beginning of 2020, and experts aren’t expecting them to fall anytime soon. But you can save money with a loan through a credit union. The most recent data shows that auto loans at credit unions are a full two points lower, on average, than auto loans taken out through banks. 

Here’s what you need to know about the current auto loan market and how to navigate it successfully.

Why are car prices so high? 

When the pandemic hit American shores, demand for new and used cars shot up. This was the result of many people avoiding public transportation for safety reasons. The mass exodus from big cities and their high rates of infection also boosted the demand for new cars.

At the same time, supply of new and used cars dried up, thanks to:

  • The pandemic halted production of new vehicles for a bit, drying up sales and their subsequent trade-ins.
  • The production freeze prompted a freeze in the manufacturing of chips for automobiles and auto parts.
  • Business and leisure travel paused for months, leading to a steep decline in car-renting travelers. This led to rental agencies holding onto more of their cars instead of selling them to used car dealerships.

The rise in demand and shortage of supply naturally triggered a steep increase in prices of both new and used vehicles.

Rethink your auto purchase

If you’re in the market for a new car and the price tags are scaring you, finding a different type of auto loan (like Pillar Credit Union’s Driver’s Choice lease-like loan) might be a good option. If you still want to hold onto your car for a little longer until the market stabilizes, you can make it last longer with these tips:

  • Use a trickle charger to keep the battery in excellent condition.
  • Change your filters regularly.
  • Follow the service schedule.
  • Keep all fluid levels high.
  • Avoid sudden braking.
  • Replace spark plugs when they begin showing signs of wear or melting.
  • Check your tires regularly and rotate and inflate them as needed.
  • Pay attention to all warning lights.
  • Have your car rust-proofed.

Tips for buying a car in today’s market

If you’ve decided to go ahead and buy a car, it’s best to adjust your expectations before starting.

First, a seller’s market means many dealerships won’t be as eager to close a deal as they have been in the past. This can mean unwillingness to budge on a price, or a refusal to even negotiate.

Second, expect to pay much more than usual for your new set of wheels. If you’re looking for a new car, plan to pay about $40,000. A used car can run you $23,000. You’ll also have slimmer pickings when making your choice than you may have had in the past.

Follow the tips outlined above to help you navigate today’s car-buying market successfully.