Buy This Not That: When You Need a New Car and Want it All, But Your Dream Car is Out of Reach

2021 Ford Bronco Outer Banks Review

You can get everything you want at a price that makes sense.

Whether you’re shopping for the car of your dreams or simply something to replace your decade-old clunker, there’s never been a worse time. Competition for popular cars is fierce and dealers are marking up even the most mundane models.

That doesn’t mean you have to settle for less than what you want or need, nor do you need to over pay. Just shift your thinking a bit and widen your field of consideration. You can have everything you want and need in a car; here are our tips for narrowing the field and some great alternatives to popular models.

Related: Buy This, Not That: The Best Cars To Consider If Your First Choice Isn’t Available (or Attainable)

Get the Right Car: Identify Your Needs and Wants

Decide exactly what you need in a new car—all wheel drive? Seating for 6? Leather (or leather alternative) seating? Rear seat vents and USB ports? 

Then decide what you’d like in your new car: Premium sound system? Wireless Apple CarPlay? A design that makes you heart skip a beat? 

And separate them into ‘wants’ and ‘needs.’ From there, set a budget, get your financing in line and find a relaxing place to sit and research your next car. 

Related: Want More Luxe for the Buck? Sedans Should Get Your Attention: 2022 Audi A3 and Audi S3 First Drive  

Buy This Not That: Great Alternates for Popular but Hard-to-Find Cars 

To get the ball rolling, here is a look at some popular cars on the market that be pricey or hard to find right now, alternates that will give you everything you need without overpaying.

The Toyota 4Runner In Lime Rush With Black Details

The Toyota 4Runner in Lime Rush with black details give this SUV a rugged look and feel. Photo: Jill Robbins

Toyota 4Runner:

We love this classic SUV for its rugged good looks, reliability and 4 wheel drive that gives it the ability to conquer any terrain. But it’s one of the most popular cars on the road and so often can only be had at a premium.

  • Honda Passport: Similarly sized and capable, the Passport is essentially a 2-row version of the Honda Pilot. It’s reliable and capable off road and has more than enough passenger and cargo space. 
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee/L: This 2 row or 3 row SUV also has rugged good looks that convey the idea of capability, and inside it’s filled with luxuries, probably more than you’ll get in the 4Runner. 

Related: Luxury On the Inside, Rugged on the Outside, The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee May Be the Best Jeep Ever

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 392

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 392. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Jeep Wrangler:

Long the iconic loner in the field of true off road capable SUVs, winner of countless rallies, races and hill climbs, the Wrangler is designed to do it all. However, with no competition and high demand, it’s become one of the most marked up and expensive cars on the market. So you can see why all its alternatives are also expensive, but possibly a bit more attainable — depending on the marketplace. 

Buy This: 

  • Land Rover Defender: The price of the base model is about the price of a mid-level Wrangler and you’ll get many of the features you want: 4 wheel drive, customizable features and interior comforts. A bonus is that the Defender is more comfortable for on road driving. 
  • Ford Bronco: A relative newcomer that has become an instant icon, the Bronco has received incredible reviews and as a result, is in high demand. But if you shop them both, chances are you’ll find the one you want. 
  • Honorable Mention: Jeep Renegade, an almost equally capable 4WD compact SUV, and the Ford Bronco Sport, a smaller, less versatile but still rugged SUV

Related: Land Rover Doubles Down On More Seating With The 2023 Defender 130

Using Different Drive Modes In The 2022 Ford Bronco. Photo: Emme Hall

Using different drive modes in the 2022 Ford Bronco. Photo: Emme Hall

Ford Bronco:

This was an instant icon when it was introduced and its popularity has only grown. Know for its “GOAT” modes, or goes over any type of terrain, the look, shape and commanding size of the Bronco has buyers lined up to get one. 

Buy This:

  • Land Rover Defender: The return of the iconic Defender brings many modern features, commanding 4WD capability and creature comforts as well as customization ability so it can be the SUV you need.
  • Jeep Wrangler: Another hard to get SUV with legendary capability, but if you shop both the Wrangler and the Bronco, chances are one will be in your driveway soon.
Tesla Model Y. Photo: Tesla

Tesla Model Y. Photo: Tesla

Tesla Model Y:

This mid-size electric SUV does it all: all wheel drive, a long-range battery option, seating for 5 (though there is a third row option) and innovative Tesla tech that makes owning and driving an electric car fun and easy. 

Buy This:   

  • Hyundai Ioniq 5: the winner of numerous awards, including the World Car Awards Car of the Year for 2022, the Ioniq 5 is roomy, innovative and fun to drive. Plus, it still qualifies for federal tax incentives.
  • VW ID.4: Introduced in 2021 and also winner of multiple awards (including Car of the Year), the ID.4 has up to 280 mile range and single and dual motor options (dual motor is also AWD and delivers 94 more horsepower).

Related: Can a Race Car Driver Make the Electric Car Switch? Annika Carter Takes the VW ID.4 On the Road to Find Out

Me With The 2022 Honda Civic Si

Me with the 2022 Honda Civic Si. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Honda Civic:

Redesigned for 2022 and also the winner of a number of awards, the Civic is a driveway staple for so many. Except those who can’t find one at their local dealer. But don’t fret, there are many good alternatives to this fun and economical sedan.

Buy This: 

  • Mazda 3: Available in a sedan or hatchback, Mazda fills its cars with premium touches and refined design, as well as a fun to drive experience. Plus, you can get it in Crystal Soul Red, the most stunning automotive paint color in the business.
  • Nissan Sentra: Another good alternative, the Sentra is dependable and delivers a solid set of features and comforts.

Kia Telluride:

Oh, the lovely, elegant, impossible to get Telluride (and its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Palisade). Filled with Range Rover vibes at a Kia price and reliability, it boasts premium features, comfortable seating for 6 or 7, top drawer technology and all wheel drive capability. 

Buy This: 

  • Land Rover Discovery: If you’re shopping near the top of the line, why not go ahead and buy the Land Rover? The Discovery seats 7 (the Discovery Sport  seats 5) and has all the features and capability, plus Land Rover has made huge strides in reliability, backed by a solid warranty.
  • VW Atlas R Design: The Atlas is another great 3-row alternative and in the R design, filled with all the luxuries and capabilities VW has to offer. 

Related: Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL Premium: A 3 Row Family SUV for the Rockstar Mom

Toyota Rav4 Prime

Me with the Toyota RAV4 Prime. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Toyota RAV4:

Gas or hybrid, this is one of the most popular compact SUVs on the road. And that means it’s almost never a bargain. But you don’t have compromise; get the versatile seating, premium details and great fuel economy, possibly at a lower price maybe even a faster delivery date: 

Buy This:

  • Kia Sportage: redesigned for 2023, the Kia Sportage has a distinct new look, an elegant new interior and great off-road capability with a new 4 wheel drive system. And in Kia tradition, it delivers top drawer technology, premium features and a hybrid option at a very approachable price.
  • Hyundai Tucson: Redesigned in 2022, the Tucson is the first to carry the brand’s new look, in which the headlights are integrated into a metal-link grille. It also boats a more spacious cabin, a redesigned multimedia system, standard wireless Apple CarPlay and a hybrid option.

Related: I Traded My Hyundai Santa Fe for a Week to Drive the 2022 Hyundai Tucson

2022 Ford Maverick Xlt

Check out those pretty wheels on the XLT! Photo: Erica Mueller

Ford Maverick:

Returned to the market to capture the hearts and minds of millennial buyers—it’s smaller, less expensive, more customizable and comes in a hybrid version that gets 30+ MPG—the Maverick is one the hardest to find trucks in the market. But don’t let that stop you from wanting a compact pickup truck. You have options.

Buy This: 

  • Hyundai Santa Cruz: One of our favorite new introductions, the Santa Cruz is built on the same foundation as the Hyundai Tucson. While it’s not available in a hybrid— yet—it decent MPG for a truck, about 23MPG combined. We like the novel design, the built in retractable bed cover and all the great tech it comes with.
  • Honda Ridgeline: This slightly larger, more capable and slightly pricier truck option is an under-the-radar pickup with high reliability and capability.

Related: The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is the Sports Adventure Vehicle That Wins My Heart

Mini Countryman Jcw

Mini Countryman:

This is the 4-door Mini option for those who want the iconic looks and roadster drive feel that Mini delivers. This crossover, with SUV-like flexibility and all wheel drive, is the largest in the Mini family giving owners both distinctive design and engineering and space for all their people and things. 

Buy This: 

  • Fiat 500X: Similarly sized, the Fiat 500X is also a 4-door all wheel drive SUV-like option. Inside you’ll also find novel design details that deliver an iconic look and feel. Like the Mini Clubman, the Fiat 500X is unique and distinct, yet delivers what we need in a compact crossover.
  • Volvo XC40: This diminutive version of Volvo’s larger SUVs, the XC40 is distinct, agile and beautifully designed. It’s less iconic and more elegant than the Mini, but worth considering if you want a car that doesn’t look like all the other cars in the parking lot.

Related: 2019 Volvo XC40 Review: This Compact Luxury SUV Is A Girl’s Best Friend

Don’t let the tight car market and dealer premiums get you down. There are so many great cars out there right now that every buyer can score the car she wants with the features she needs at a price that fits her budget. As long as she’s clear in her thinking and willing to buy this, not that.

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss