MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – If you’ve been shopping around for a new car, you’ve probably noticed empty car lots. It’s become the new norm as car dealerships across the Tampa Bay area continue to see shortages in new car inventory.

At Gettel Toyota of Lakewood, General Manager Ryan Fischer says the new car inventory challenges have presented new opportunities over the last year.

“New car inventory is a challenge right now and it stems from all of the supply chain shortages, not necessarily with Toyota, but the secondary market and what not,” said Fischer. “Used car inventory is awesome. People’s car values are awesome and we have new cars coming, so that is a positive,” said Fischer.

Pre-pandemic, Fischer says it was typical to have 300 new cars on the lot and about 100 used cars. Right now, there are about 10 new cars on the lot and around 150 used cars.

“The tsunami was about as close to what it looks like how it looks now. When you look out there, it is scary at first glance, but knowing what we know, knowing that we have cars coming, knowing that Toyota is very well prepared and knowing that we have had to pivot a little bit and keep high-quality used cars, the panic has kind of left us and now we are just trying to make the best of the situation,” explained the general manager.

If you’re in the market for a new car, you’re going to want to start shopping early. There are plenty of new cars coming onto lots, but most of them are spoken for. Fischer says most deals right now are happening on paper and sight unseen.

“New cars are for the most part spoken for if they are coming in within the next few days. We have hundreds of cars coming to us. It is easy to put your name on one, you just can’t go and literally pick one out on the lot right now. That’s what makes it a little challenging,” said Fischer. “The turnaround time if we don’t have something on the lot is usually somewhere around a couple of weeks so if you were trying to get that Christmas present for your wife or husband, don’t wait till Christmas Eve,” he continued.

Some consumers like the current buying situation because they can pick exactly what they want, while others want to look at cars and drive them before taking the plunge and purchasing.

“It is obviously a little bit depressing when you are going to look for a car because you’re coming in and you are like well, I don’t have a lot to choose from,” said Philip Gause of Bradenton.

Fischer says there is a silver lining to the current market situation.

“It is a unique opportunity. It really is because cars have always been depreciating assets, for the first time ever, cars are appreciating assets. You buy a car now, and it may be worth more money a year from now which is the most awesome thing for people right now. It is crazy,” said Fischer.

Used cars in good condition and with low mileage are in high demand. Many dealers are actively looking to buy to add to their inventory.

Gause told us the car he traded in didn’t depreciate at all since he bought it earlier this year. “I just traded in my Jeep Gladiator. I just got the same amount of money I paid for that truck seven months ago after I put $10,000 miles on the truck. They just gave me the same amount on a trade-in,” said Gause.

For those who might have a lease coming up, time is on your side.

“If you are wanting to get into another lease, you have to be prepared. I would say probably instead of waiting until the last month or two months, probably try to do that six months out maybe even up to a year out,” said the general manager.