2020 changed our lives. We placed many goals and dreams on hold. We changed how we shopped, worked, and traveled. One big purchase you may have put on hold in 2020 was a new vehicle. That wait may have been worth it as 2021 brings changes that may make this a good year for you to think about buying a new vehicle or refinancing an existing loan.
1. Interest rates are lower
The Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates low to assist the economy impacted by the pandemic. This means that auto loan rates are at historical lows. For new vehicle buyers, that means you may save on your purchase. It’s also a good time to see how much you can save if you refinance an existing auto loan.
How SAFE can help
- Check out our latest vehicle loan rates, including a special discounted rate for members.
- Apply quickly and easily online for a new vehicle loan or to refinance an existing loan.
2. Total online experience
Social distancing increased awareness and use of virtual vehicle shopping in 2020. It’s now easy to research and find the car you want online. You can purchase it online and even have it delivered to your door.
How SAFE can help
- Use our online vehicle search tool to explore cars available in your area and at your favorite dealer.
- Apply for a loan with SAFE on safecu.org or on the Mobile App before you shop so you know your budget and what you can comfortably afford.
3. Your life changed drastically
The pandemic, economy, and political factors may have changed the way you live. You may no longer be commuting so you can downsize your vehicle or consider a compact hybrid. Maybe you moved from the city to the burbs and need a car now that your public transportation options are limited. Or maybe you now have a larger, blended household and need an SUV or van to get everyone around. Have you become a do-it-yourselfer for home projects and find that a pickup to haul supplies would be helpful? Did 2020 inspire you to finally get that dream car?
How SAFE can help
- If you need a new car to fit your “new normal,” learn expert tips about car buying in our video series.
4. Take advantage of last year’s unsold deals
Many auto makers did not sell out of their 2020 inventory, and there are deals to be had on these models. And keep in mind that SAFE considers 2020 “new” when it comes to our auto loan rates.
5. Technology and safety improvements
This year brings standard features once considered luxuries. These features include automatic emergency breaking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automatic high beam headlights, lane-departure warnings, blind-spot warnings, and three rear-cross path detection sensors. These features are often bundled in packages such as Honda Sensing© or Nissan Safety Shield 360.
For an additional cost, some automakers now offer automatic parallel parking technology in all sorts of models, from smaller cars to pickups. In fact, the Ford F-150 (2020 model) was rated as the best self-parking vehicle by US News & World Report.
6. More electric options
While the California initiative to phase out gas-powered vehicle sales by 2035 is a ways off, many buyers are purchasing electric cars now to save gas and the environment. Entrants from the big brands as well as small upstarts are joining the electric car market in 2021. The biggest improvements will be speed and battery life. The cars mentioned below will accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds or less.
- Starting at $40,000, the Mustang Mach E (available in summer 2021) will travel 300 miles on a single charge.
- Hummer, long associated with gas-guzzling large vehicles, will introduce in fall 2021 its EV Hummer. This electric pickup truck has 1000 hp, a range of up to 400 miles on a charge, and starts at around $80,000.
- The startup Lucid Motors is releasing the Lucid Air, a fashionable luxury sedan that can go up to 517 miles on a charge and carries a 1080 hp engine. This first edition is the most powerful at starts at $162,000.
- Another upstart company is Rivian, offering a truck (R1T) and SUV (R1S). Both models travel up to 300 miles on a single charge. The R1T is available in June 2021 and starts at $75,000, while the R1S is available for delivery in August 2021 starting at $78,000.
7. Improved performance and handling
From affordable autos to luxury vehicles, performance is improving across the board.
- The 2022 Corvette, to be released in late 2021, will have a model that rivals the Ferrari V8 in terms of performance.
- Looking for something more affordable? The 2022 Ford Fusion (available in fall 2021) will be inspired by the Subaru Outback with a price point starting at $23,000.
- The Jeep Grand Cherokee (starting at $34,000) plans to be a completely new model on an Alfa Romeo Giorgio platform.
- In the luxury category, the 2021 Alfa Romeo Tonale is a luxury sub-compact crossover with the brand's first-ever hybrid model, priced under $40,000.
- BMW also plans to release its 2021 BMW M3 ($42,000) and M4 ($47,000). These are four- and two-door versions of BMW's 3 Series that provide speed and a smooth suspension.
8. 2021 has inventive colors
While the most popular car colors in the U.S. are white, black, and silver, more shades are reaching the market, especially for luxury brands. The BMW 8 series (from $88,000) will introduce “birch green” this year, a cross between green and yellow. The 2021 Porsche Taycan (from $80,000) comes in Frozen Berry, rose with a hint of silver.
9. Front seats become more comfortable
Front and driver seats are always undergoing improvements. Out of all 2021 new cars, the 2021 Subaru Outback was voted best front seats over high-end Mercedes Benz and BMW. Other front seat winners included: the Kia Soul (small cars); Mercedes Benz C-Class (Luxury Compact Sedan); and the BMW X5 (Midsized Luxury).
10. New design features add to the driving experience
According to JD Powers, three cars received a major or complete redesign for 2021.
- The Kia Elantra (from $21,000) has gone from two to four doors, a single LED strip on the dashboard, an 8-inch center touchscreen display for apps, and multiple driver-assistance features.
- The newest Nissan Rogue (from $27,000) has LED headlights, standard leather in the SL/Platinum models, a new 2.5L, 4-cylinder at 181 hp engine, three-zone automatic climate control, 8-inch or 9-inch (SL/Platinum) touchscreen display for apps, and the Nissan Safety Shield 360 package.
- The sporty Lexus IS sedan (from $39,000) has cat-eyed headlights, round, outboard air vents, a touchscreen infotainment system, an updated center console, and the Lexus Safety System + 2.5.
11. Car audio has never been better
In the past, huge woofers, tweeters, bass, a CD player, or even a cassette player were the formula for an awesome sound system.
But now, apps and connectivity allow you to navigate, be entertained, and informed with music, text, maps, phone connectivity, and audio books on your car receiver.
Sound systems now integrate speakers into the dashboard, ceilings, door panels, windshield frame, and center consoles. High-end audio companies such as Bang & Olufsen, Burmeister, and Bowers & Wilkins produce sound packages for Audi, Mercedes, and Maserati. Continental Automotive’s Ac2ated sound system uses smaller speakers that use interior surfaces as “actuators” to create a concert hall sound. The car interior becomes a speaker itself.
Ready for a new ride or to refinance an existing loan?
Check out SAFE’s auto loan rates.
Continental Plays with the Future of Car Audio