Buy a car in a boiling market without getting burned

Illustrations by Michele Marconi

Supply chain issues make it difficult, but not impossible, to strike a deal on the vehicle of your choice. Here are the new rules of the road when buying a car.

Anyone who’s ever been to a supermarket is probably familiar with the concept of “facing,” which means putting all inventory forward on a particular shelf so that it appears fully stocked. The same principle is now applied at new car dealerships, with vehicles lined up along the street and virtually vacant land behind them.

That’s because a confluence of forces, including the continued shortage of semiconductors, has created a reduction in the number of new vehicles not seen in the United States since automakers shifted production to military equipment during the Second World War. And with consumer demand remaining strong throughout the pandemic, prices have surged.

The average new car transaction crossed the $47,000 mark at the end of 2021, according to industry sources, and grew nearly 14% in the one-year period beginning in December 2020.

Auto inventories are expected to remain low through 2022, meaning consumers will have to ignore conventional car-buying wisdom to drive away in the vehicle of their choice. Here’s how to come out a winner on a car deal without getting caught for a ride.

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