What does the national car shortage mean for buyers in Tampa Bay?

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Small auto dealers in the Tampa Bay area say they are struggling to find enough inventory to fill their lots due to a national car shortage. But it’s not just affecting dealers – it could also be hitting your pocketbook.

According to the Florida Independent Automobile Dealers Association, a nationwide shortage of cars due to manufacturing and an increase in buying has many brand-name dealers hanging on to used cars. That makes it hard for smaller “mom and pop” lots to fill their inventory as well.

Hillsborough Auto Sales on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa went several weeks with a nearly empty lot, unable to buy new cars. They were finally able to buy 16 at an auction on Friday.

Cintron says small dealers often have to fight other buyers from other states who are buying cares online and taking what little inventory there is out of Florida.

“You can see we have a big lot right here. We’re starting to fill it back up, but people are still buying cars,” Edwin Cintron with Hillsborough Auto Sales said. “Nowadays, it doesn’t matter what the price is. If the price is right, the car is in good condition, good mileage, they’re still buying cars.”

On one hand, dealers say it’s good they’ve seen a spike in sales thanks to stimulus money encouraging people to buy. But on the other hand, a lack of replenishment is driving the prices of used cars up at least 10 percent.

That increase in price is then passed on to customers who end up paying more for used cars than ever before. The dealers say they can barely break even.

“I think everybody suffers, because if you’re looking at ‘can I afford it?’ now, if you’re looking at lower income families who may have a vehicle that’s on their last leg and looking to go get another vehicle, it’s going to cost them more,” Lissette Mariner with the Florida Independent Automobile Dealers Association said. “It’s costing dealers more.”

Leaders in the auto industry say now is the best time to sell your car for a max price. But you should also expect to pay max price if you need to buy right away.

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