Buying a new or used car in 2021 is an experience, to say the least. According to, there is a global chip shortage that is crippling the inventory at dealerships across the country. So making an already challenging process even more difficult as dealership inventory is roughly a third of what it was pre-covid pandemic. It may seem like a very daunting task if you are in the market for a new car. You might be unsure what to do or where to even start. If you are an inexperienced car buyer or just simply don’t like the process, I have some tips on what to do when you begin your new car search. 

Earlier this year, I went through the new car buying process. Even with all of the inventory shortages, I was able to find the right car for me in what was a relatively smooth overall process. Of course, not everybody will have the same experience. Different people have different tastes, so my personal experience will be very different and may not apply to some people. I hope for some though, it does help make this process a little less scary.  

Compared to just a few years ago, there are many nuances when looking for a new vehicle in 2021. First, there are so many options of what kind of car you can get. The make, the model, the color, the features all come into play when you begin your search. That brings us to my #1 tip, have an idea of at least the make or brand of the car you want.

Tip #1: Know what brand of car you want

Narrowing down and focusing on just one or two car brands is the first key in helping you gain clarity in your car search. There are just so many brands out there it is easy to get lost and overwhelmed. The best bet would be to start with a car brand that you have previously. It could be the car you are looking to move on from or one from earlier in your driving past. If you loved your experience in that type of car, you know a new car from that brand will be a smooth transition. If not, obviously, you have to think of another brand you can see yourself in. 

To me, I knew I loved my experience in Toyotas. I had a Toyota Corolla that lasted me six really great years of driving. To keep it simple and not overwhelm myself with options at the beginning of my search, I only focused on Toyotas. 

Tip #2: Are you looking to upgrade, downgrade, or stay about the same

After zeroing in on the brand of car you want to pursue, next is deciding on your budget. Having your budget intact before looking at the options is an excellent way not to overspend and make spur-of-the-moment decisions on something you can’t afford. First, think of your current car payment and realistically think if that is a reasonable price for you, a little too steep, or you can even afford a little more. Having a precise number in mind before you step into the car dealership or look online is critical. 

To me, I knew what I was paying for my previous car was just about the right price I could pay for my next one. Having that clear benchmark number in mind, it was a lot easier to weed out what types of cars I definitely couldn’t have chosen. 

Tip #3: Do your homework online before going to a dealership

After you have your car brand and budget number secured, now is the time to start looking up vehicles available. Look up different car dealerships under that brand near you. Then browse through all the cars in your budget range to gather what types of vehicles you like. Looking over the dealership inventory is key before heading into the location. If you like what you see online for that particular dealership, then you can plan your visit there. However, if you don’t like what you see online, you know you won’t like what you see at the actual location. So this really saves you hours of the in-person search. 

Knowing what brand and my budget, I first looked online to see what models I would like at dealerships around my area. Some locations didn’t have what I was looking for, and some did, which is what you want. I found the exact car I was looking for before I went into the dealership. You want to be able to really decide on which place, so you don’t waste all this time at different dealerships.

Tip #4: Build rapport with the salesperson, be up-front and honest

Alright, now you are ready to head to the dealership! You know the exact make and models that will be at the location, and you are prepared to see them first hand. It can be overwhelming to think about having to go talk to these car dealership salespeople. They often get a bad rap that they might be trying to take advantage of you or sell you something you don’t want. But truly, they are there to help you, and the best way for them to do that is to be very honest with them and tell them you have everything mapped out right away. You did your research and knew the exact cars you wanted to look at that day.

I built a really great rapport with my salesmen, so it was a very smooth experience and never overwhelming. I told them exactly what I was interested in seeing that day, and they didn’t try to push me into any direction I didn’t want to go. 

Tip #5: Test drive the cars you are interested in

Get behind the wheel of your prospective car! This is the last huge tip. You really have to know for sure you will enjoy driving this new car every day. Test driving the vehicle is the best way to do so. 

I’ve always test-driven my cars before pulling off the lot with them. Sometimes the fit wasn’t right, and that is good to know. My experience this year was fantastic. I knew right away the car I researched, and test drove was the one for me. 

Now, I hope you are ready to start your new or used car search. These 5 tips can go a long way in helping you have a straightforward, smooth, and stress-free car buying process. Happy car-hunting, everyone! 


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