Car Buying During Pandemic Conditions

Unless you are in a big hurry, I think this is the way to go right now. It’s going to be a while before inventory catches up.


might have said this, but at KIA (and my son with Toyota), we told them what we wanted and when it came in, you had the right of first refusal if it doesn’t have cost, features, color…

neither of us actually took the vehicle

Yeah, around Chicago, the inventory is so low that the dealers that actually have a car or 3 are doing either explicit markups (like a $3000 market adjustment) or implicit markups (“we added pinstripes and door edge guard protectors for $3000”) or forcing mandatory paint and exterior protection for a few thousand extra.

I knew 2022 was a poor time to be needing to buy a car, but market conditions are even more bleak than I had anticipated.

Glad I traded my F-150 for a Hybrid Accord.this winter when gas was $3.00/gallon. Got a better deal on both ends than I would now.


Is it an option to look further out? Fly or drive a few hundred miles to a dealer that might actually have a car? I doubt you’ll get much under MSRP anywhere though.

I’m considering a new car and the inventory here is thin, but it seems (based on browsing new cars at there are some options available in a 250 mile radius.

The idea is a good one… and it is one that I have thought of.

The issues surround these observations I have made:

  1. Dealers are definitely NOT keeping their websites up to date. They refuse to take inventory off their websites because they still want to say they have several cars when they have very few cars, to keep buying flocking into the dealership.
  2. Dealers are not forthcoming over the phone or over the web with their TRUE pricing practices. I had to get my arse into a dealership to be told verbally that their pricing was sticker + $3900. If they published that on their website, then people who see their website wouldn’t bother going there.
  3. There’s a sunk cost fallacy that a dealers will use to squeeze you. “You drove 4 hours to our dealership to see what we have, well then I can inflate my prices even more because you must be desperate”

It seems to boil down to the fact that it is harder to walk away from a dealer that doesn’t have a car you want to buy at a price you want to pay, when you invest in many hours of travel to & fro.


Jeez. So it’s just a shark tank right now. I wouldn’t go anywhere out of my way unless and until I had a signed purchase agreement.

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Interesting. Mr aj wants to replace my car next spring, but I’d like to go another year. If nothing changes I might do the order thing. Seems like I could wait 6-9 months (from next spring).

You make valid points. However, the MSRP (and invoice) do not vary for the same exact car across multiple dealerships. Regionally, there may be additional fees (such as SE Toyota) that cause their region to have higher prices. And there are varying “doc fees” (other BS fees) by region and dealer on top of the car price. My point is that you can negotiate a purchase (that includes every cost on a signed purchase order) over the phone/email with the fleet manager or online sales manager such that when you go to the dealer, all you need to do is sign a few forms and take your car. Going this route STILL takes longer than you would like. Have your own financing arranged ahead of time. If the dealer financing is better when you go to pick up the car, then take it.

I do this even when the dealer is <10 miles away. For new cars, I only go to a dealer to either test drive prospective cars or to pick up the vehicle. Everything else is asking for a bad time. For used cars, good luck.

“I am here to test-drive only. I am comparing the BMW 5-series to the Mercedes E-class to see if either car is an option. No, I will not be trading in a vehicle.”

I’ve done this for the last 5 or 6 cars I have purchased. In those times, I was in the power position. If a dealer told me something I didn’t like or asked me to pay more than I wanted to pay, then I had the ability to say “sayonara” and move on to another dealer.

Today, it is not the same. The dealer who has a car on his lot is in the power position. There are likely multiple people willing to bid on that car, auction style.

The point is ultimately moot. I put a deposit down on a car for flat sticker price on a vehicle that won’t be delivered for at least 6 months. Over the phone and negotiated. I just am at the whims of Toyota who may elect to gouge me on the sticker price for the 2023 version of the car.

Thankfully, it seems the manufacturers aren’t jacking up MSRP. Well, Tesla sure did. But so far the legacy car companies are being reasonable.

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Thanks for the info. Your post is still helpful for others in the market. My wife seems to think we are in the market for a new vehicle. Sounds like I will be making sure my existing cars are in good running shape for a while.

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FYI - I reached out to the Costco Auto Program just to see what is happening. I had a couple of cars in mind, but they said the nearest participating dealer for those models was over 1000 miles away! There were some participating dealers in my area for other make/models. But that doesn’t mean that the pricing would be any good.

In general (say, in the before times), anyone buy a car from Costco? How was it? Good price? Good experience? I’m curious, I’ve never seriously looked into it.

I know someone who did. Their first experience was great. The price was something like dealer cost + a few hundred. Quick and easy. The second time was a different dealer and they pulled a bit of a bait and switch, saying the particular vehicle they wanted didn’t qualify. They ended up buying the vehicle but refused to return to that dealer again as the sales experience sucked.

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My understanding is the program is supposed to get you a few hundred off. I tried this past spring (I might have even mentioned it above) and the dealer they sent me to was one of the shittiest and shiftiest I have ever dealt with.

Sure, they offered my $300 (I think) off the price after adding a $2-3k “market adjustment” to inflate the price. I bitched via email so they offered me MSRP. Sent me a spec sheet for a car that met my requirements and I said I would like to put down a deposit. They said you need to come in to do that. Ok, I can swing by in 3 days (they are about 1.5 hours away). I call before I leave to verify we are still good, and get an affirmative. I get to the dealership to sign the paperwork and “they have to check on it.” After sitting for maybe 20 minutes I start questioning what is going on and the car I was there to purchase “was sold about an hour ago.” I walked out. They chase me down so I give them a couple more minutes (my mistake). The manager tries to claim I was the one who insisted on providing the deposit in person and I should have just done it over the phone, so I give him a few choice words and drive away. Note that 95% of all communication was via email so I literally have a record of them telling me I need to come in to put down the deposit.

On my way I home I give the dealership that is close to me a call, who I had already been communicating with and who explicitly states they don’t add on the garbage “market adjustments” so are selling things at MSRP, swing by and give them a deposit (which takes me about 10 minutes). I had my car about 2 months later (I wasn’t super picky but had several very specific features that don’t seem all that common so I think we got lucky). And when we went to pick up the car this dealership offered, but certainly did not try to push financing and warranties.

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I documented my Honda Civic buying experience previously on this board. Ordered a car Aug2021 because there was no inventory at the dealership and my requirements were Blue and EX. Car didn’t arrive until Jan2022. In the meantime the selling price for my used car went up $2,000 so I ended up selling it for $400 more than I paid for it 4.5 years ago.

My son was driving a troublesome beater so I gave him an ultimatum to find something reliable, so he paid top dollar for an Accord with 120K miles. It wouldn’t surprise me if he would have paid 10% or 20% less now, but that’s life. I really don’t know how crazy the car market is right now though. Looking at the website where we bought the car it doesn’t look like they have gotten any cheaper.

I’ve bought 2 cars using Costco, but not in many years because I haven’t needed a new car. The first time (20 years ago?) there were many dealers in the program and dealers had fleet managers who competently dealt with this sort of thing. They knew the rules and would give a price of invoice + x and email me the sticker plus all itemized costs involved upon request. I would also try a few Costco dealers out of the area to get their pricing for comparison. Note: the “Doc Fee” could be $600 in one state and $40 in another. Costco had no control over these BS fees.

One time, Costco set me up with a reasonable price for a new car at one dealer and I bought lower elsewhere. In the current market, it will be hit or miss (mostly miss) that something will come from calling Costco. But when inventories are back to normal (whatever that means), I recommend trying it.

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I bought my car from the Costco dealer, but I negotiated a lower price.

I view it as a starting place for negotiations. I certainly wasn’t going to pay MORE than the Costco price. But it wasn’t all that fantastic. :woman_shrugging:

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