HOUSTON - Be prepared to wait if you're buying a new car or need to repair the one you have. A shortage of microchips and auto parts is slowing down both manufacturing and mechanics. And it's putting the accelerator on prices.
When the world shut down for the pandemic, production slowed for many auto parts and microchips that are needed to make cars run. Now auto manufacturers are competing with the growing demand for computers and gaming consoles that use the same microchips.
In the market for a new car? You might notice fewer on the lot. Or order one, and you may wait a couple extra months.
"We just saw this past month a drop of about 17% of new car inventory," said Karl Brauer, Executive Analyst for iSeeCars.com.
"A good portion of them are having to scrub meeting their delivery schedules to dealerships," added Grant Feek, CEO of Tred.
It's affecting a wide array of makes and models.
"Ford has had shutdowns for the new F150 productions, which is really one of their most important vehicles. General Motors has shut down for the SUV's. Nissan, I think, is scheduling a shutdown for the month of May," said Brauer.
"If you're looking to get a Ford Bronco right now, you just can't get one no matter what you want to pay," said Feek.
That has drivers turning to alternatives: used cars, and paying high prices for them.
"We see the values shooting up considerably, more than 10% in a matter of the past few weeks," said Feek.
The shortage of auto parts is also slowing down repairs. Customers say they're waiting 15, 20, 30 days for both mechanical and auto body parts.
"It is lengthening the time that you're having to wait, depending on the part you need for your vehicle," said Brauer.
Some drivers are finding luck searching for their own auto parts online on Amazon or eBay, or through local salvage yards.
"Maybe you need a new alternator according to the dealers, but you can locate a used, fully functioning alternator for your vehicle through some kind of a salvage or second-hand market," explained Brauer.
The shortages are expected to last into next year.
If your car needs a part in short supply, call a few mechanics to see who might have it and how long the repair will take.
You can also ask a dealership for a loaner car while a repair is being made, usually at no cost.