It has been exceedingly difficult to buy a new car at retail prices over the last several months. Dealers struggled to keep new car inventory, and many marked up the few cars they did have to help recoup some of the losses. The situation is slowly changing now, as dealer inventory levels are significantly more robust than they were a year ago and almost 100,000 units more than in September 2022.
Cox Automotive and the Automotive News Research and Data Center found that dealer inventory shows a 42-day supply, the most since June 2021. Inventory levels are up for both mainstream and luxury brand dealers, though certain vehicle types are still hard to find. Automotive News noted that small cars, minivans, and EVs are still hard to get, while full-size trucks and luxury vehicles tend to offer more selection. Even so, overall inventory is still 2 million units behind where it was just before the pandemic started.
What this means for you
If you need to buy a car now, it’s finally possible to find a few deals scattered around. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to walk into a Ford dealer and buy a new Maverick or Bronco, but it does mean that many mainstream models are becoming easier to find as new car inventory rebounds. Automakers may loosen their purse strings a bit and begin offering incentives again. The chances of finding a desirable model without a markup are better than in the last few months.
That said, car shopping today is a different experience than before the pandemic, and you may need to put in a little more effort to get the deal you want. If you have a trade-in, it’s a good idea to check car shopping and pricing tools like CarGurus, Kelley Blue Book (KBB), and TrueCar to get a feel for where you stand before heading into the dealership. If you’re shopping used, sites like AutoTempest can be a great resource because it aggregates results from several search engines.
It’s also important to shop around. You may be better off buying a car remotely and having it shipped than paying an exorbitant markup or having thousands of dollars in added-cost “features” tacked on at the finance desk. You’ll want to test drive the car first, which you can do locally, but don’t feel bad about shopping out of state if you can’t get around paying a “market adjustment.”