Vehicle prices remain high as traditional sale season ends

Friday, September 10, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 37
By Ronald Montoya | Edmunds

If this were a normal year, dealers would be kicking off their end-of-model-year vehicle clearance sales. Consumers can often find good deals as dealerships are eager to sell their remaining inventory to make room for next year’s models.

But this hasn’t been a normal year in the car business.

Most automakers could not build as many vehicles as planned because of a lack of semiconductor chips, which are essential components of a modern vehicle. New vehicle inventory is a third of where it would normally be at this time of year.

As a result, end-of-season shoppers are facing higher prices and a limited selection whether they are shopping for new or used.

“Inventory won’t likely be back to normal levels until next year – if they ever do at all,” says Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds. “It seems as if automakers are rethinking their production and inventory strategies given they have sold fewer vehicles but at higher prices, so inventory may look different in the near future.”

Average transaction prices continue to be at record highs, Edmunds reports. In June, the average transaction price for a new vehicle was $42,331, an increase of 8.6% from last year.

“The lack of new-car inventory has created a lot of pressure on the used market as consumers are seeking out less expensive options,” Caldwell said. As a result, the average used transaction price in June was $26,457, up 27% from a year ago.

It’s a tough time to buy a car. But the good news is that we’ve combed through the latest transaction data to find five new vehicles with a combination of high discounts and above-average inventory to make your search easier. We’ve organized them in order of percentage off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

Extra-small SUV: 2021 Jeep Renegade

Average MSRP: $29,671; average discount: $4,108 (14% discount)

What our editors say about the Renegade: “Every trim, and especially the rough-and-tumble Trailhawk model, looks and feels cool. It’s shaped like a small-scale version of the Wrangler, with exaggerated lines and features that give it both a cute and rugged appearance. While it’s not especially fun to drive in most trims, the Trailhawk offers a decent amount of off-road capability that nothing else in the class can match.”

Extra-small SUV: 2021 Buick Encore GX

Average MSRP: $29,833; average discount: $3,049 (10% discount)

What our editors say about the Encore GX: “The Encore GX is anonymously styled, but the Sport Touring package gives buyers the ability to have their GX stand out from the crowd a bit. The Encore GX also wins points for its handsome interior and wide variety of safety and technology features. The turbocharged three-cylinder gives it some personality, especially with the ample low-end torque making you feel like it’s faster than it actually is.”

Small sedan: 2021 Kia Forte

Average MSRP: $21,898; average discount: $1,946 (9% discount)

What our editors say about the Forte: “The Forte is a small car that doesn’t give the impression of being an economy bargain pick. We like its handsome styling, easy-to-use tech and high fuel economy. It’s also a good value, offering plenty of features for your money, plus Kia’s great warranty. One drawback is that it doesn’t exhibit the same fun-to-drive dynamics that make the Civic and Mazda 3 so rewarding to pilot.”

Midsize size SUV: 2021 Nissan Murano

Average MSRP: $42,823; average discount: $3,671 (9% discount)

What our editors say about the Murano: “The Nissan Murano stands out for its striking exterior design and comfortable seats. But that styling comes at a cost. The sloping roofline cuts into rear visibility, making the Murano feel larger than it is. Towing capacity is also low for the class. This midsize SUV offers value and character, but it is not as versatile as competitors.”

Full-size truck: 2021 Ram 1500

Average MSRP: $53,755; average discount: $3,456 (7% discount)

What our editors say about the Ram 1500: “The Ram 1500 truck has been an ideal choice for a light-duty pickup since this latest generation debuted for 2019. It’s among the best in the class in terms of technology integration, interior materials quality and ride comfort while providing stout towing and hauling capabilities.”

Edmunds says

With higher prices and limited selection, it is even more important to shop around and search for deals at multiple locations. But be prepared to act quickly since cars won’t sit on the lot as long as they used to.

Ronald Montoya is a senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds. Twitter: @ronald_montoya8