Road Trip Season: Buying a Car in PA

Summer is the season for family vacations, and with travel opening back up and airlines struggling with delays and cancellations, many people might opt for a good old-fashioned road trip. Depending on your current set of wheels and your final destination, you might be in the market for a new or used vehicle. Here’s what you need to know about buying a car in PA, especially in the wake of COVID, the supply chain crisis, and, yes, rising inflation.

Buying a Car Has Probably Changed Forever

Yes, in Pennsylvania and every other state, car shopping has gone through a forced and rapid evolution. First, it was the pandemic – everyone was staying home, no one was going anywhere, and cars were sitting idle in driveways all over the country. Then, life slowly returned to semi-normal. Now, the problem was manufacturing playing catch up and the ramifications of shut-downs all over the world.

Now, car makers and dealers had to deal with a supply chain crisis, especially the infamous computer chip shortage. This crisis was compounded by rising consumer demand for new cars. In one year, inventory dropped 60% and prices rose 28%.

With all this going on for the past two years or more, dealerships had to find different ways to sell cars, and some of these ways are probably here for good. The CEO of Ford has publicly noted the cost incentive for manufacturers to reduce inventory at the dealerships and shift more buyers online. For electric vehicles, he wants this to be a total digital experience with no dealer markups or price negotiations. 

We’ve got to go to non-negotiated price. We’ve got to go to 100 percent online. There’s no inventory (at dealerships), it goes directly to the customer. And 100 percent remote pickup and delivery.” 

Virtually Buying a Car 

On that note, the market has largely adapted to long-distance, online shopping for cars. This has grown way beyond just browsing through a manufacturer’s various specs and pics and videos, or scrolling through a dealership’s current list of new and used vehicles.

Now, from start to finish, you may never actually have to step foot on a lot. Virtual test drives are now an option, and many services, dealers, and makers are offering to bring the model you’re interested in straight to your door. You can test drive it at home and even buy it right there in your driveway. 

Tips for Buying a Car in PA

Before purchasing a car though, there are some due diligence steps that you need to go through – supply chain crisis or not:

  • To Trade-in or Not to Trade-In?

Used car prices have jumped 50% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes a used car might be even more expensive than its newer model. People are finding that their current car has more value now than when they first purchased it. Check out your current car’s trade-in value. You might be happily surprised – and it could go a long way toward lowering the cost of your brand new vehicle. 

  • Just Sell Your Old Car Outright.

Because of the crazy used-car market, it might do you some good to sell it vs trading it in. Shop around. See if you can get more for selling your car outright before agreeing to the trade-in offer from the dealership.

  • Set a budget.

Know your limits. Know what you can afford monthly – including auto insurance and estimated fuel costs. Also, factor in taxes and registration in your area of Pennsylvania. (Another bonus for trading in your old car? You’ll only pay taxes on the difference between the trade-in value and the new car purchase price.)  

  • Research, research, research.

Knowledge is power. Compare models, read up on consumer reports, watch videos from owners, remember to check on important factors like mileage, maintenance, and consider what you’ll use it for. Do you need lots of cargo space for outdoor adventures? Do you need less space and more miles to the gallon for frequent city driving? 

Plus, in this dealer’s market (and expanded online options) it may do you some good to broaden your research beyond your little corner of PA. Since many sellers will deliver to your door, it may literally pay to shop 20, 50, or even 100 miles outside your zone.

  • Be Flexible. Be Fast.

Limited inventory and the widespread changes in buying a car mean that you need to be prepared. One way is to adopt an attitude of flexibility. Experts suggest having more than one choice of model and definitely being flexible on trim options like color, etc. The other is to be ready to move fast. Once you find the vehicle that matches your wants and needs, you have to quickly seal the deal or risk losing your pick.

  • Get Pre-approved Before Buying a Car.

The best way to be ready to sign is to get pre-approved for a car loan. Note: You will usually get a better deal from a community credit union – like Discovery FCU – than from the dealership. 

Our auto loans can be accomplished completely online – from start to finish – and same-day approval is even available. We also offer:

  • Low-interest rates – even still!
  • Terms up to 84 months
  • Same rates & terms for new and used auto loans model year 2013 and newer (other rates apply for older models)
  • Make no payments for 90 days
  • Electronic signatures accepted for loan closing

So, make the most of your summer. Apply for a new or used car loan with Discovery FCU, and hit the road for that vacation you’ve been waiting for!


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