What Should I Do if I Need a Car Right Now?

Supply issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic have drastically affected demand — and the prices — for both new and used vehicles.

The average used car list price at the end of November 2021 topped $27,000 for the first time, according to Kelley Blue Book. That's 27% more than the same period last year and 41% higher than the same time in 2019.

Given the state of the marketplace right now, what does money expert Clark Howard recommend if you really need a car?

What Should You Do if You Need a Car Right Now?

Clark acknowledges that the car market is a rough one right now, but he sees hope on the horizon.

“The vehicle shortages are going to lessen through 2022, but right now it is impossible,” he says.

If you really need a vehicle right now, Clark suggests that you buy an inexpensive used car that will hold you over until better pricing returns to the market.

“You can just buy something older and use it as a placeholder until prices and supplies become more in sync,” Clark says. “Then later … you’ll be making a second purchase. That’s the only good strategy.”

How To Choose a Used Car Right Now

Comparison Shop

When it comes to buying a used vehicle. remember to comparison shop to find the best deal.

These days you don't have to go into a showroom. You can download an app or visit a website and start car shopping. Sites like Autotrader, CarMax and Carvana make it easy.

Stay Within Your Budget

Don't wreck your budget for a used car right now. You might not be able to get a vehicle with all the bells and whistles you desire, but the point right now is to get something that will take you from A to B. Set a budget.

When it comes to pricing, keep in mind these points:

  • Try to come in under budget or right on it – but definitely not over.
  • Dealers typically have some wiggle room on price and may lower it, but you have to bargain with them.
  • Know the difference between sticker price and total price (which includes taxes and fees).

Get the Vehicle Checked Out First

As reputable as the seller may be, Clark always suggests that you get your car examined by a licensed mechanic who is independent of the dealer.

  • Ask people you know if they have a mechanic they would recommend.
  • Make sure the mechanic has an ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification, which means he or she has undergone proper training.

“The mechanic’s not going to catch everything,” Clark says. “They may miss something, but you will avoid so many problems.”

Final Thoughts

For those interested in buying a car right now, Clark suggests a two-fold approach that will not only buy you some time but allow you to take advantage of your hard-earned money.

“Buy a very old vehicle to nurse you through the months until the vehicle market gets back into some form of equilibrium,” Clark says. “And that will happen in 2022 as the automakers, one by one, seem to be getting better at dealing with the supply chain issues.”

More Resources From Clark.com:

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