It’s the Wild West out there in car buying country, but you can still go home with a good one.
Anyone who’s gone to a car dealership recently knows that a car buyer is in for a wilder ride than they are probably planning. Because of chip shortages and production issues, many of the best cars are unavailable or have lengthy wait times. And, buyers are paying more for cars right now: It’s not unheard-of that some are paying more than sticker price.
But, lucky you: we are here to help. Even if you have your heart set on a particular car, there is an alternative that will make you happy – maybe even happier.
Favorite Model: Toyota 4Runner; Alternative: Subaru Outback Wilderness or Honda Passport
Oh, the Toyota 4Runner: these were going for top dollar even before all the shortages and craving for off road activities. Now they are just impossible to get. However, Honda has an answer for that: The just as large, just as off-road worthy, just as roomy Passport. And the Subaru Outback? Well that one has surprised just about everyone with its true overlanding chops.
Favorite Model: Kia Telluride; Alternative: VW Atlas or Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Kia Telluride was sold out from the day it was born. Its beefy, sporty looks make us think of classic 4x4s – like Land Rover. It has a luscious interior and room for everyone, and that makes people fall in love. And that price tag! Well, except for the markups, bidding wars and MSRP+ that actually drive the price up. When you crunch the numbers you find that you can actually end up with the top of the line VW Atlas or a lower trim level Land Rover Discovery Sport. Not bad choices!
Favorite Model: Ford Bronco; Alternative: Land Rover Defender
Both of these models have been much anticipated and are not letting any grass grow under their wheels. Ford Bronco buyers, pining for the heritage days of this glory SUV, are getting their orders… after a bit of waiting. But those who don’t want to wait may be in luck with the also heritage-driven Land Rover Defender. Both are equally capable off road and overlanding, and have great details and capability.
Favorite Model: Ford F-Series, Ram Pickup, Chevy Silverado; Alternative: 2021 Toyota Tundra
These three pickup trucks dominate the top seller lists year after year; they have the great tow and off road capacity that you expect in a full-size pickup. But it should also surprise no one that they’re hard to come by. Maybe take this opportunity to look to Toyota? With the celebrated redesign of the 2022 Tundra, all eyes are focused on the new whiz-bang technology and creature comforts. But the 2021 model is solid on all fronts and less in demand.
Favorite Model: Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue; Alternative: Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and Volvo XC-60
The compact SUV category is the most popular and has a solid following. The Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue are among the most popular usually this time of year you’ll find cash back offers and discounts. Not this year; and you may not find any for sale. If that’s the case, check out the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson, both redesigned this year. You might even be surprised at how much more you get for the money with these cars; both brands are on a mission to wow you. And if you’re dreaming of the high-end trim of any of these cars, round up the sticker price just a bit on a nicer trim level. That will take you to the base price of the Volvo XC-60 – and it may not seem that far a stretch.
Related: A Refreshed Volvo XC60 SUV Adds Something You Didn’t Know You Could Have (or How Much You Needed It)
Favorite Model: Honda CR-V- Alternative: Subaru Forester
Oh Honda CR-V, how we love thee: Reliable, practical, resalable. But the same can be said for the Subaru Forester: it has the ground clearance, the AWD, and availability on many lots the CR-V may not have right now.
Favorite Model: Chevrolet Blazer; Alternative: Jeep Renegade
Made in North America and easy on the budget, the Chevy Blazer has been in demand for its sporty good looks and all weather ability. But if you can’t find the one you want, look to the Jeep Renegade. It has many of the same features that the Equinox does, and we like it’s distinctive style.
Favorite Model: Toyota Camry; Alternative: Nissan Altima
The Toyota Camry continues to be a best seller – reliable, stylish and comfortable. But, it can be hard to come by. Look at the Nissan Altima: One could make the case that the Altima looks a bit more exciting than the Camry. It’ll look better sitting in your driveway than that imaginary Camry you can’t get.
Favorite Model: Honda Civic; Alternative: Volkswagen Jetta, Subaru Impreza
Again, we get the loyalty thing here with Honda Civic–and we understand! But if you can’t find the one you want, or it’s not in your budget, look at the VW Jetta or Subaru Impreza – both great alternatives. Jetta, which was just updated for 2022, delivers a solid drive experience and cabin edit. And the standard all-wheel drive on the Impreza will help with resale.
Related: 12 Things I Love About the VW Jetta Premium: Luxe Details That Make This Cute Sedan a Huge Bargain
Favorite Model: Toyota Corolla; Alternative: Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte
Among our favorite cars for new drivers, those who are downsizing and those who just need a budget friendly ride is the Toyota Corolla. But … we’re not the only ones who think that, apparently. So, we are saying it: The Elantra looks good (and is available in a stick shift!). The Kia looks good. The models are remarkably similar, which means they are all small, sporty, and affordable. Don’t overthink this one.
Favorite Model: Honda Accord; Alternative: Acura TLX
Yeah, it seems like a stretch to move to an Acura TLX from a Honda Accord. But given the TLX is the same size and from the same lineage, it’s worth looking at. You can get all wheel drive and some solid power in the TLX. That doesn’t feel too much like compromise, does it?
Favorite Model: Toyota Tacoma- Alternative: Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon
All pickup trucks are fun. Don’t miss out waiting for a Toyota Tacoma to pop on on a lot 250 miles away. Get your hands on a GMC Canyon and start packing for your camping trip today!
Favorite Model: Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot; Alternative: Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Pathfinder
The 3 row SUV segment is hot, hot, hot, especially right now, and the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot continue to lead. But you there is a lot of competition, and there are some great vehicles that deserve your attention. Even if you can find that Highlander or Pilot that you’re dreaming of, you may want to look at the newly redesigned Nissan Pathfinder (slide and tilt center seats!) or at less obvious brands like Mitsubishi and Subaru. It’s delightful to see just how much more bang for your buck is out there. Oh, and available models, too.