The vehicle market continues to be inflated for both new and used cars in the United States. As a result, buying an affordable vehicle may not really be in the car(ds) right now, but money expert Clark Howard says it’s possible that you could still get a deal.
“Shopping the country for a model you want instead of just local is key to saving money,” he says.
In this article, we’ll explore how to expand your car-shopping process so that you can find cheaper vehicles. We’ll also go over some key strategies from Clark.
But before you start shopping, consider the following question.
Do You Absolutely Need To Buy a Car Right Now?
New vehicle prices are currently hovering around $48,000. “It’s not for the faint of heart if you’re thinking about buying a vehicle right now, particularly if you’re a new vehicle buyer,” Clark says.
The average price for a used car is $34,227, according to a report from car research site iSeeCars. With vehicle prices being so high, Clark wants you to think long and hard about your circumstances. Do you really need another car?
“If you’re just tired of what you have, I will tell you what I’ve been saying for a good while: Keep driving what you have due to the problems in the marketplace.”
A trustworthy mechanic can help you keep that vehicle on the road longer by taking care of the periodic maintenance your car needs. That includes:
- Rotating the tires.
- Getting an oil change.
- Checking the fluids regularly.
If you don’t have a car to maintain or it’s absolutely time to get another one, cue Clark’s unusual advice for buying a car in this weird market:
Consider Widening Your Car Search
“What you do is you shop and even be willing to go farther to buy a new vehicle than you would have in the past,” Clark says.
Yes, Clark is saying you should do some traveling to shop for a better deal.
“So many people are getting on airplanes, making a deal somewhere else in the country, flying somewhere else, taking delivery of the vehicle somewhere else in America and driving it home where they’re not having to pay the big differences,” he says.
Clark says he surprised his wife back in December 2021 with a new car for her birthday.
“The differences in price in an area that was about 100 miles in diameter were unbelievable,” he says. “The prices that I was quoted on a vehicle ranged — the difference from the cheapest to the most expensive for the same vehicle equipped virtually identically — $23,500 difference.”
How To Shop Around for a Cheaper Vehicle
The key to finding a cheaper vehicle elsewhere is to let your fingers do the walking on your smartphone or computer.
“What’s great with so many dealers’ online ability now is you can get an actual real quote online,” Clark says.
In addition to browsing dealer websites, here are ways you can reduce the hassle out of shopping for a car while saving money.
1. Use Car-Buying Services
Take an inventory of your memberships to see if an organization you belong to offers car-buying services.
Costco’s Auto Program (also members only) gets high marks from Clark. “The one from Costco is one of the most powerful of all of them. It’s really, really clean,” he says.
2. Check Out Your Local Credit Union
If you find the vehicle you love via a car-buying service, Clark doesn’t want you to use that company’s in-house financing, Instead, finance your car through a credit union, which typically offers lower interest rates.
“I also really like credit unions for car-buying services. You’re going to get a good price on the car, and they’re going to finance it for you.”
3. Arrange To Pick Up Your Car
With the average price to transport a vehicle being more than $1,100, you may save some money by traveling to pick up your car yourself, flying one way or road-tripping with a friend.
“I was able to shop around and make a huge difference in what I had to pay,” Clark says. “The place I had to drive from was about an hour and 15-minute drive, one way, to get the vehicle and save over $20,000.”
“In summary, the new vehicle market is rationalizing and normalizing, but it’s a process,” Clark says. “It’s a trend line, it’s not where it needs to be, so if you have a vehicle that’s working OK and you can stall on buying one, be on buyer’s strike until the dealers wise up.”
If you can’t do that and really need to buy a vehicle, here’s Clark’s advice:
Car-shop far away from where you live to see if you can save. “And you decide your pain point. Is it a 500-mile radius of where you live? Is it 1,000 miles? Is it 2,000 miles? For most people, it’s 500 miles.”
Want more money-saving advice? Check out the fastest-selling new and used cars.