WORCESTER, Mass. — Over the last few years, many Americans have found themselves in the unenviable position of having to purchase a new car. It comes at a time when supply is incredibly low and prices are incredibly high. One of those people is my mom, who has learned from experience just how difficult it is to buy a new car right now.
For the last 15 years my mom, whose name is Mary Ann, has been driving a Toyota RAV4. Her beloved SUV from 2008 has no fancy bells or whistles but it does have more than 195,000 miles on it.
"I love this car but it has high mileage on it, I want to keep it but I'm concerned about taking it on long trips," she said standing in the driveway of my childhood home in Massachusetts.
Buying a new car is a big deal.
In May, we lost my dad to ALS. The two had been married for more than 40 years.
In the last four decades, they've bought plenty of used cars together but this will be the first brand new car my mom's ever purchased. It's an experience she won't get to share with my dad.
We started testing driving cars before he passed.
"We came home from car shopping a few months ago and he wasn't thinking about that he was dying. He said, 'How much was it? How was it? Was it a good car?' And I knew I wouldn't be going forward in this new car with him and it just broke my heart," my mom said.
Heartbreak aside, like so many Americans, my mom does need a new car right now. But finding one, as we've discovered, is next to impossible.
"I know my car is still reliable and I don't think it's going to break down but I have limited my long trips," she added.
Turns out those chip problems we've been hearing about for two years are still very real. Supply chain shortages and backups mean many Americans have been waiting up to six months to get the car they ordered.
None of this is great news for car dealers or the economy.
As we learned with my mom, you can order a new car but until it's built and a VIN number is created, you can't even begin the financing process.
Brian Moody, the Executive Editor of Kelly Blue Book, says potential car buyers need to be flexible and patient right.
"Remember it wasn't that long ago some automakers were holding off on making cars because they didn't think demand would be there and were also producing medical equipment," Moody said.
It's not just a lack of inventory facing American car buyers, he says. Price increases are also a big problem. Prices for new cars jumped 16% last month, according to inflation data. In May the average MSRP for a new car was $47,000.
"Credit is getting harder to come by at the exact time prices of cars are going up," Moody said. "Take your time and be flexible."
The good news, at least for my mom, is that we did find her a new car but it won't be arriving until the middle of August.
"I'd like to have a new car tomorrow, but I've adjusted to the fact that there's no inventory," she said.