Top car trends of 2021: what’s hot so far

Now that we’re getting close to halfway through 2021, we can start to see some automotive trends emerging. Some of them were maybe already in motion before the dumpster fire that was 2020, but several have definitely arisen from ways that life has changed. Here are some of the top car trends that are going strong in 2021.

Solo car ownership

Carshares and ride sharing were all the rage until just about a year and a half ago. Suddenly, with everyone needing to isolate from people outside their households, ride sharing became a lot less popular.

Along with that, a lot of public transportation shut down, or ran on limited routes and schedules. Cities like San Francisco and New York also saw a mass exodus, as many people moved to less-densely populated areas.

All of this contributed to a massive rise in car sales, both new and used. Between the increased demand and all the pandemic-related production and shipping delays, cars became a very scarce commodity. Dealers have had a hard time keeping new or used cars on the lot, and used cars are in tremendous demand. It seems people are embracing car ownership at a far higher rate than they have in the last few years.

Van life (and camper life)

Sprinter. Airstream. Transit. Econoline. Akuna. 

Vans and trailers were trendy before the pandemic, and now they’re really hot. As more and more people are able to work remotely, nomadic life is becoming an option. For some, it’s a temporary opportunity to see the country while working from various locations.

Top car trends: van life
Van life gained even more popularity in 2020 and continues this year, as more people are going remote.

For others, it’s a movement—a conscious change toward living a less wasteful, more intentional and minimalist lifestyle.

Whether it’s a short or a long-term choice, those who decide to embrace life on the road have no shortage of options. There’s the basic Ford Econoline, which can be as spare or as basic as its owner wants. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are ultra-luxurious and highly customizable Sprinter, Akuna, and Transit vans, and Airstream trailers.

Other than budget, the only limitation is supply—vans and trailers have become increasingly hard to find for sale in the past year.

A few of the other 2021 trends had no direct ties to the pandemic (and were in fact set in motion before our world took a turn for the ‘unprecedented’).

Retro SUVs

Resurrecting classic models and styling for new SUVs was definitely the thing to do 2020, and continues to be in 2021.

The Ford Bronco made its highly anticipated debut in July of 2020, with a massive number of preorders. The 2021 Bronco was the first model to wear that moniker since 1996. That’s when the last OJ-style Bronco rolled off the assembly line.

Top car trends: retro SUV styling.
The Ford Bronco is one of the recent reboots of a much-loved classic SUV, complete with retro styling cues.

The new Bronco digs deep into the pages of Ford history to borrow many styling cues from the much-loved classic Bronco. It may not be quite as rugged as Ford is trying to position it, as Forbes calls it ‘a crossover built for outdoorsy types’. But it definitely looks the part.

Following along in the retro groove is Land Rover, releasing a totally redesigned version of its iconic Defender.

And Jeep isn’t far behind; their re-launch of an all-new Grand Wagoneer and (less fancy) Wagoneer. Remember those wood-sided family wagons they used to make in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s? The new Wagoneer looks maybe the least retro of these three (anyone else see an Escalade resemblance?). Maybe putting wood on it would help.

Electric cars

Electric cars have been on the rise, taking over more and more market share each year. Tesla, for example, continues to break records, and other makers are beginning to electrify more and more of their lineups.

As ranges increase, EVs are starting to look like a viable option for more and more drivers. Even Porsche released a high-performance all-electric entry, the Taycan. Audi recently announced that it has stopped developing new gas-powered engines.

This trend will definitely continue, and probably continue to accelerate, as many states are starting to consider or enact mandates similar to California’s, which as of 2035 will require all new cars and trucks sold in the state to be electric.

Online car buying and selling 

Just as many of us started working from home, and everyone—from employees to managers to executives—discovered that working remotely actually works extremely well…the same holds true for buying and selling cars. It’s safe and convenient, and there are a lot of advantages even in a post-pandemic world.

When no one could go anywhere (and didn’t want to) to buy a car, everyone adapted by buying and selling online. That way, they could find just the car they were interested in, from home, and with some sites—like TRED—they could meet the buyer or seller safely, and even avoid going to the DMV to transfer title. It’s a better way to buy and sell, that a lot more people have discovered by necessity in the past year.

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