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How to Shop for a Car When Inventory is Low

October 25, 2021


Shopping for a car has always been difficult due to the many choices like make, model, color, and all the available bells and whistles. Yet these days, you may find there are far fewer vehicles for sale which can make the process frustrating!

There are a variety of reasons for the lack of inventory: supply chain disruption, more people buying cars to avoid public transport, etc. etc. But if you’re in the market for a car, you may not be interested in learning the reason why there are no cars…you just know that it’s harder than ever to buy one. Here are some tips to help you shop for a car when inventory is low.

1. Get creative about where you look.

Your first step is almost always to call or visit local dealers to see what they have, but you might be met with a relatively empty parking lot. Fortunately, there are more options online and now that we’re used to buying just about everything online, it no longer seems as scary as it once did. Here are some places to look:

  • Start on Valley Strong’s Auto Finder, an all-in-one service that can help you search available cars from dealer partners, read ratings and explore finance options in one place.
  • Search your local buy/sell sites (Craigslist, Facebook, etc.). Your neighbors might want to sell their car without the interference of a dealer. However, remember you should always be wary when buying a car from a private party. One smart option is to have a trusted mechanic look for hidden issues before you purchase. .
  • Post on your own social media that you’re in the market for new (to you) vehicle... You never know when a friend of a friend might have just the deal you’re looking for.
  • Branch out to aggregator sites that list cars for sale from lots of different places, like Autotrader,, etc. Here is a great list of some sites where you can start.
  • Try car rental places. While they used to be a tried-and-true outlet for a low-mileage car, many currently are dealing with their own inventory woes. However, it can be worth a call to see if they have anything available.
  • Call dealerships in other towns. Your own dealership might do this for you, but they could be hesitant to lose the commission, so it’s worth your own research. Try big cities that might get more inventory, or out-of-the-way places that might be easily overlooked. If they have a car, they may be willing to ship it to you, or you could find it’s cheaper to get it yourself than pay higher prices locally, depending on where you live. And what could be a better way to break in your new car than a road trip?

2. Have your financing lined up.

You might be tempted to wait to discuss your plans for financing until you have settled on your car. But a better strategy is to have a preapproval all lined up before you start car shopping so you can quickly secure your vehicle when you finally come across the one you want to buy. Talking numbers before shopping also allows you to consider which vehicles are within your budget so you make sure you’re looking at cars within your price range. Valley Strong can help you get preapproved, and also offer a variety of payment options and loan terms so you can find the one that fits your budget.

3. Be willing to compromise.

By compromise we mean choosing a red car rather than a silver if that’s what’s available, not “commit yourself to twice the car payment.” While you might not get the optimum deal you’d hoped for, you never should get yourself in a situation where you’re overpaying for a car in a way that would put the rest of your budget or your credit score at risk. Talk to your auto financing specialist about ways you can make your payment a little lower so it fits into your budget, such as smaller payments with a longer-term. While you might need to dial back some of the features you were hoping for, make sure you never end up driving away with a hefty car payment that’s going to cause your budget to crash.

And then don’t delay…the deal won’t wait so be prepared to head over immediately to check out the car and make sure it’s the right one for you.

Ready to get in the driver’s seat with auto financing that fits your budget? Whether you are interested in a purchase, refinance, or a lease buyout, Valley Strong has a competitive auto loan program that will work for you. Stop by any of our conveniently located branches or apply online today to begin the pre-approval process.