Mark Passmore, sales manager at Hardy Chevrolet in Gainesville, used to have up to 150 vehicles on the lot before the pandemic. These days he has about a dozen.
“We’re getting them, and we’re selling them,” Passmore said. “When they get here they’re pre-sold already.”
High car prices and shortages are causing dealers to get more creative in finding vehicles, and causing some car owners to take better care of the car they have.
Demand has been high for much of the pandemic, and computer chip shortages were causing significant delays in manufacturing new vehicles. Now, dealers say that production is ramping up, but new cars are still hard to come by because of other supply chain issues and labor shortages.
“A vehicle might come down and still sit on the train for two weeks before it’s unloaded,” Passmore said.
This has caused dealers to look more broadly for used cars, which have seen huge increases in price over the past year-plus. J.T. Hartman, sales manager at Jacky Jones Lincoln, said he’s sold certain used vehicles for thousands of dollars more today than they were worth four years ago.
“I’m having to go to southwest Florida for estate sales for COVID victims and buying (vehicles) at their house,” he said. “I’ve gone down the road and seen a car sitting on the side of the road, and I’ve inquired about it and bought some that way too.”
The car shortage means that many people are trying to hang onto their vehicles longer until the market levels out. Some mechanics in the area say they’ve been busier during this time, and parts are difficult to get with long wait times.
“People are definitely taking better care of their current vehicles,” said Mark Knapp, manager at a Meineke Car Care location in Gainesville. “While they could probably do pretty well selling their car, the fact of the matter is there’s not much else to replace it with.”
Evario Sanchez of Sanchez Auto Repair in Gainesville said the last few months have been the most difficult time to get parts in his 20 years working on cars. Chevrolet and Ford parts are especially hard to come by, Sanchez said. At times customers have had to wait two or three weeks before he could get them into the shop.
Wee Tran, who co-owns Asia Auto Repair and Sales in Gainesville, said he hasn’t had as much trouble as others getting parts. “We still can get parts no problem,” Tran said.
But customers have told him lately they’re trying to take better care of their vehicles, so they don’t have to buy in the current market.
Less popular vehicles and larger trucks can be the most troublesome.
“Heavy duty trucks, those poor guys haven’t been able to get a brake job in six months,” Knapp said. “It seems like, because the vendors know they’re limited on the number of deliveries they’re going to be able to get, they’re cutting down … just ordering their most popular sizes.”
Many parts can take 8-9 weeks to come in, he said. “Everything is a little slower, a lot more expensive,” Knapp said.
Car dealers don’t expect the issue to resolve itself very soon.
“People have been saying that it’s starting to level out for over a year,” Passmore said. “We’d like to see it before we believe it.”