Car shortage leads to big dip in new car deals in December

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Consumers who need to buy a vehicle will want to be flexible to get the best price

Remember when the December airwaves were filled with commercials for new cars with big red bows on top as automakers urged you to buy your husband or wife a new set of wheels? You’re not seeing that this year.

The shortage of new cars continues, and, if anything, it’s worse at the end of the year than it was back in the summer. That means there will be almost no end-of-the-year deals on new cars.

“The automakers have figured out it’s not smart to spend money marketing cars that aren’t available on dealers’ lots,” Karl Brauer, executive analyst at told ConsumerAffairs. “The term I’m using now is ‘least-bad deal,’ there are no good deals in today’s car market.”

What to do

Brauer’s advice to car shoppers is to put off a purchase for a few months, if possible. He predicts that the computer chip shortage that has slashed auto production will continue for another 6-12 months. He says those who must buy a car or truck in the immediate future should be prepared to pay a premium because the average new car is selling for 11.1% over the sticker price. 

Brauer says you’ll get closest to sticker price by visiting your Acura dealer. The MDX is averaging 2.6% above MSRP, and the average RDX is selling for 3.1% over sticker. Acura also appears to have the most attractive December incentives, including a $1,500 loyalty incentive for existing Acura customers with a 2011 or newer Acura vehicle.

Consumers might also save some money by widening their search. Instead of just visiting your local dealers, try to include searches within 100 to 200 miles. 

“That way you can greatly expand your options to buy a vehicle from a lot of different dealers,” Brauer said. “If you end up spending six hours in the car making that trip but you save $1,200 you’ve earned $200 an hour.”

Flexibility on vehicle selection might also save money since some vehicles are in higher demand than others. Buying from a dealer with a larger selection of a particular model may make it easier to get a price that is closer to the sticker price.

“People should consider how flexible they can be, not only on the model they want but how far they are willing to travel to get it because flexibility is your friend in a market like this,” Brauer said.

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