‘It’s bizarre’: How the pandemic is making it harder for you to buy a car

On the flip side, if you have a car to sell, now’s the time

How the pandemic is making it harder for you to buy a car
How the pandemic is making it harder for you to buy a car

ROANOKE, Va. – Buying a new car right now may be tougher than it’s ever been because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The combination of surging demand and plummeting supply are making it more difficult for you to get behind the wheel that you want.

“It’s bizarre,” said Jim Sanders, the general sales manager for Magic City Auto Group.

Car dealerships across the country are dealing with an unusual problem. In some ways, business is booming; while in other ways, it’s crashing.

“There’s been tons and tons of challenges,” Sanders said. “It’s a perfect storm, really. There’s still demand for new vehicles out there and very little supply.”

Inventory for Magic City Auto Group is half of what it was pre-pandemic. It all comes down to COVID-19.

Canceled orders from auto manufacturers and surging sales for consumer electronics led to a huge computer chip shortage. On top of that, production plants shut down globally.

“They’ve actually been building F-150s and parking them in parking lots because they’re not complete,” Sanders said.

It’s the same story just a few miles away at Haley Toyota, dealing with only a third of the new car inventory they’d normally have.

“It’s the toughest thing in the world to say, ‘We want to sell to you, but we don’t have it,’” said Chuck Baker, Haley Toyota’s general manager.

The lack of supply is forcing customers to either accept something other than their first choice, or wait.

“Sometimes we’re able to find the vehicles at other dealerships and are able to get it within a few days. That’s the best scenario, but it also could take two to three months,” Baker said.

Prices for dealers are up, translating to customers.

Supply shortages are also pushing more people to the used car market, driving those price tags up too.

The market doesn’t show signs of changing any time soon, giving customers something else to consider before springing for some new wheels.

“It’s just going to take time,” Sanders said.

Consumer Reports said it’s a great time to sell your car, with the average price of used cars up 12.5% from last year.

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