Family Car Advice: What If You Have To Buy Now?

May 23, 2011

Looking at the news reports, it’s no secret that buying a new or used family car today is much less attractive than it was a few months ago. But if your car is about to expire or your current lease is up and you have to get into another set of wheels, that’s not comforting at all.

What can you do? Here's how you can approach a purchase and still spend less:

 Consider the big picture

If you believe you have to buy something now, take a few minutes to reflect on the big picture. That is, consider what’s available in the marketplace, how willing you are to shell out the big bucks (or buy a vehicle that no longer has any incentives), plan for a long hunt for a reliable used vehicle, lease a vehicle in the meantime (until the market improves), or hang on to what you’ve got.

Tough scenarios, all of them, right? The lingering cascade of effects caused by the earthquake in Japan decimated production for most Japanese automakers, resulting in shortages of product in the U.S. for some of the more popular vehicles, including hybrids. Some analysts estimate that as many as 700,000 vehicles will never be built because of the quake.

Meanwhile, Korean, German and domestic automakers, mostly unaffected by the earthquake ripple effect, are cutting out or cutting back on incentives. And, even though they want to, they can’t just ramp up production to fill in the slack because it takes time to get the behemoth parts to assembly line process up to speed to meet this unexpected demand.

 See who’s got what

Even so, there are some manufacturers with inventories of vehicles they want to ditch. Maybe it’s a car that’s being replaced for the 2012 model year and dealers need to clear the lots. This may be the case with the Hyundai Azera family sedan, which has a current dealer inventory of 133 days, according to TrueCar. Or, check out the Volkswagen CC, now with a 143-day inventory. You might find a great deal on a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu mid-size sedan, since the 2013 Malibu is all-new and coming out in the first quarter of 2012.

But if you’re looking for a Chevrolet Equinox or GMC Terrain crossover SUV, be aware these two hot sellers have a 20- and 18-day inventory, respectively. The compact Hyundai Elantra and mid-size Ford Explorer crossover SUV are two vehicles with the shortest day’s supply, at nine and eight days, respectively. Only the compact Lexus CT 200h luxury hybrid is less, with a seven-day inventory.

You’ll have to do some digging, but you could find what fits your budget and your needs.

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