Car buyer's market still has problems

It's a car buyer's market all right, but if you think you're going to have everything go your way when you walk into a showroom, forget it.

Problems facing car buyers
  • Buyers are usually sellers
  • Average credit's not enough
  • Leasing deals vanishing
  • Prices up on small, used cars

Yes, 2009 is likely to be a lousy time to be an auto manufacturer. Sales will be abysmal, credit probably tight, and dealers won't have buyers lining up to buy those big, profitable sport utility vehicles.

Usually, when sellers get desperate, buyers benefit.

But it's not that cut-and-dry when it comes to the current automobile market. Uncertainty in the credit market and shifting vehicle preferences will likely impact you if you're going to be shopping for a new or used car in the next year.

Here are some of the problems buyers face and how to possibly mitigate them:

Buyers are usually sellers

Since most people move from one vehicle to another, at some point they are faced with having to get rid of their current cars so they can get the new set of wheels. Usually that means trading in the old vehicles for the new ones, but dealers, facing a huge backlog of some types of vehicles -- mostly big pickups and SUVs -- are getting picky about what they will take in trade.

Even if they take that 2003 Suburban, you're not likely to get anywhere near what it would have been worth last year. The key to getting top dollar is to try to sell the vehicle yourself. But that means engaging in some sharp marketing -- cleaning the car up, advertising it far and wide, and pricing it below what else is for sale. And if you owe more than the vehicle is worth, your best bet is to stand pat until the loan balance falls.



Average credit's not good enough

Because of the mortgage mess and the tightening economy, more car loans are going into default, and banks and finance companies are ramping up their standards for borrowers, especially on large loans with terms of more than 60 months. Borrowers who put substantial amounts of money down as part of the deal will be more likely to get favorable credit terms. While the days of zero-down, sign-and-drive deals are not gone, far fewer people will qualify.


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