What you need to know
Dealer inventory is low and prices are high due to a global semiconductor chipset shortage as well as spiking consumer demand.
New car inventory is down to just a third of where it normally is this time of year, but it's also getting increasingly difficult to measure since inventory is going so quickly.
Dealerships are less likely to discount their vehicles, and average transaction prices continue to be at record highs.
Used vehicle values have shot up due to limited new inventory and increased shopper interest in quality used vehicles.
A global shortage in semiconductor chips, which are essential components of a modern vehicle, has slowed automotive production and caused an inventory shortage in new cars. Together with rising consumer demand, this has led to an increase in prices at dealerships, where the average new vehicle transaction price in June was $42,331, an increase of 8.6% year over year, according to Edmunds data. And the percentage of buyers paying above sticker price has risen more than 50% since 2020.
"Inventory levels likely won't go back to normal until next year, if they ever do at all," said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds. "It seems as if automakers are rethinking their production and inventory strategies, given that they have sold fewer vehicles but at higher prices, so inventory may look different in the near future."
While the chip shortage only directly affects new cars, it has also supercharged demand for used cars because customers either want less expensive alternatives or simply can't find what they're looking for in new inventory. Dealerships have little incentive to discount any of their cars as long as demand exceeds supply across the board. As a result, the average transaction price for a used vehicle in June was $26,457, which is up 27% year over year.
"At the rate we're going, it's going to be a lot tougher for car shoppers to find exactly what they want this year," said Ivan Drury, Edmunds' senior manager of insights. "You might pay above list price and drive a bit farther to get the car that you want, but if you know you're going to need a new vehicle in the next few months, definitely pull the trigger now before this situation gets any worse."
It's a tough shopping climate, for sure, but if you need a car soon, don't despair. Our experts have some suggestions about how you can navigate the current market and set realistic expectations for what a good deal might look like.