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Valley consumers have options – even in a tight car buying market

Consumers who have shopped for gas, groceries and just about any other good these days knows that everything costs more. Inflationary pressures, supply chain bottlenecks and shortages of critical products are driving prices higher.

The new car market is no different. 

The global microchip shortage has sharply cut vehicle production and reduced dealership inventories to 40-year lows. That, coupled with strong consumer demand, creates temporary upward pressure on new vehicle prices and makes it more difficult for consumers to find the exact vehicle they want.

Fortunately, San Joaquin Valley consumers still have plenty of options in this tightened market to get the vehicle they desire at the best possible price.

If you are looking to purchase a new vehicle, consider the following tips:  

Shop around at multiple dealerships. With more than 1,400 new car dealers throughout the state, consumers have plenty of options to shop, compare and compete close to home. In the San Joaquin area, there are more than 100 new car dealerships with experienced representatives who can point would-be buyers in the right direction. Consumers who are in the new car market should expand the list of dealerships they visit and consider driving a bit further from home to broaden the selection of available vehicles.

Broaden vehicle options. The more specific the make, model and custom features, the more difficult and time-consuming it will be to find the exact car you want during this unprecedented time. Consumers who expand their vehicle pool to include other manufacturers and vehicles will increase their options, improve negotiating leverage, and increase the likelihood of getting the vehicle at the price you want in a timely manner.

Consider an electric or alternative-fuel vehicle. With fuel prices approaching $6/gallon in the San Joaquin Valley, now’s the time to consider trading in your gas-powered car for a zero-emission (ZEV) or low-emission vehicle. New car dealers are all in on ZEVs and most dealerships have a number of electric and low-emission vehicle choices that fit any budget. Local dealerships are the place where consumers can ask questions, take a test drive and kick the proverbial tires.

There’s never been a better time to trade in your used vehicle. Used car prices have increased dramatically over the past year. According to J.D. Power, used-vehicle prices increased by 41% in 2021 meaning that consumers are getting more than ever for vehicle trade-ins. This more than offsets the increase in new vehicle prices.

Be patient. Historically, consumers have paid well below the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). While it’s tough to predict how long the supply and demand imbalance will persist, experts forecast that higher prices will gradually ease as chip manufacturing and vehicle production improves. According to Edmunds, California consumers paid about $2,300 below MSRP on average between 2016 – 2021. 

Pricing for new cars is totally transparent and there are very few other buying experiences where the consumer knows the exact price that the manufacturer recommends and can leverage that information to negotiate the best price. Imagine going to the grocery store, finding out how much the dairy recommends for a gallon of milk, and using that information to negotiate a lower price at the checkout stand.

At the end of the day, the San Joaquin Valley new car market is highly competitive, and new dealers exist to get consumers the car they want. Shop around. Be patient. Expand your options. Customers still have plenty of choices, and conditions will only improve.

Brian Maas is the President of the California New Car Dealers Association. CNCDA represents over 1,200 franchised new car dealers in the state.