Where Are People Waiting the Longest to Buy a New Car?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Nobody should envy car shoppers right now. With production shortages ongoing, there’s never anything you want on the lot, and what is there is likely to be grotesquely overpriced.

This has encouraged consumers to wait longer before replacing their current ride, which is statistically likely to be far older than years past. But not everyone has the same level of patience or financial wellbeing, meaning certain parts of the country are seeing longer intervals between cars than others. There are also regional inventory disparities to account for, encouraging analytics firm Growth from Knowledge (GfK) to conduct an investigation into which parts of the United States are waiting for the longest to procure a new automobile.

The only caveat to the study was that the surveyed customers had to be aware of the global semiconductor shortage, indicating that they were at least partially aware that what’s happening on the market is unusual. GfK found 17,000 of them to ensure a meaningful sample size.

Shared by Automotive News, the survey found that 33 percent of respondents would change their purchasing plans because of the shortage, and half of those said they would sit around indefinitely until the exact vehicle they wanted became available. Income also played a major factor, with households making less money overwhelmingly willing to wait the longest. Meanwhile, 29 percent of those making over $150,000 said they would be willing to wait longer than 12 months for a new car.

Regionally, Midwestern shoppers seemed the most likely to steel themselves for prolonged purchasing delays. Of those surveyed, 43 percent said they would wait over 12 months to get a vehicle of their choosing at the price they wanted.

Northeastern Americans were among the least patient, with only 30 percent willing to wait a full year for a new car.

Growth from Knowledge attributed regional differences to socioeconomics and the unique needs of residents. Though the Midwest was given additional credit due to how deeply intertwined it is with automotive manufacturing.

“That is where the bulk of employee sales are happening, and clearly people who are using an employee discount are much more aware of the chip shortage and better understand the impact,” Julie Kenar, GfK’s senior vice president of mobility consulting, told Automotive News.

From AN:

While it is not as clear why the fewest number of people who would wait over a year were from the Northeast, it likely has to do with a lifestyle difference. Many of those consumers likely did not need cars in the past, but as there is a shift in the number of people moving to the suburbs from major metro areas, they will likely need them now, Kenar said.

Jason Olesnavage, a division manager for Midwest dealership group Fox Motors, said the vehicle shortage has forced his branch to come up with new ways to sell cars, especially because there aren’t enough to fill lots, he said.

While there are different pools of customers willing to change their purchasing plans, he deals with many who will not compromise and will wait for the exact car they want. He said his customers will typically wait the longest periods for newer models of the Ford Bronco, Ford Bronco Sport and electric vehicles.

But waiting for the car you really want isn’t feasible for everyone. Many are simply waiting in the hopes that prices will soon come down. Unfortunately, the industry isn’t signaling that as a priority, even after it sold several million cars than anticipated for two years running.

Automakers have been dumping more affordable models for years and I’m getting worried they’re going to stay the course here. Having grown accustomed to higher-margin products, a lot of companies don’t want to risk playing the volume game with inflation becoming an increasingly relevant factor. Manufacturers are universally expressing concerns about an uptick in production costs and very few are prepping economical options for customers that are likewise feeling the money pinch.

Instead, we’re seeing automakers continue to ax small, affordable products for larger alternatives yielding higher MSRPs and juicier margins. For example, General Motors just decided to eliminate the Chevrolet Spark from its lineup. While unlikely to be anybody’s dream car, it’s a functional runabout that’s ideal for rental fleets or anybody who needs reliable transportation on the cheap. It also happened to be GM’s least-expensive offering and its absence will represent a nearly $7,000 increase in the minimum amount of cash one is required to spend to take home a brand new vehicle from Chevrolet.

Chevy is also said to be readying a larger replacement of the Bolt EV. While the current theory is that it’ll cost slightly less than the vehicle it’s replacing, it’s customary for larger cars using newer hardware to be more expensive. My guess is that GM will champion the new Ultium-based model as costing roughly the same as the Bolt and then bump up the price ahead of launch. But I would absolutely love to be wrong here because the sub $30,000 space needs more products, regardless of whether they’re running on gasoline, diesel, or stored electricity.

[Image: Gretchen Gunda Enger/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • FreedMike FreedMike on Feb 06, 2022

    Off topic, but anyone have any experience using Turo? The GF and I are going to Disneyland in a few weeks and we're going to take a day and roam L.A. How is the experience? Any better services out there? Thanks...

  • Akear Akear on Feb 07, 2022

    The future seems to be in dedicated professional run used car dealerships. There is one down the road from me, which resembles a typical brand dealership. The main difference of course is that they sell various used brands under the same roof. How can you beat a 2018 Camry with 40,000 miles selling for $14,000! You know you can get at least another 160,000 out of this car. This dealership also keeps records of the cars repair history, which is something CarMax does as well. The average price of a car is now $30,000+ and it seems logical customers will flock to well-maintained used cars. Mainstream dealerships are so desperate for used cars they even offered $13,000 for my 2014 Ford Fusion with 122,000 miles on it.

    • See 1 previous
    • SPPPP SPPPP on Feb 07, 2022

      I am not seeing comparable deals for used "Camries" in my area. From what I see, they are selling at $20k, and up. To me, a much better deal is a 2022 Camry, with 0 miles, and 3 years less road salt on it, for $27k.

  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.
  • Jalop1991 I just read that Tesla's profits are WAY down "as the electric vehicle company has faced both more EV competition from established automakers and a slowing of overall EV sales growth." This Cadillac wouldn't help Tesla at all, but the slowing market of EV sales overall means this should be a halo/boutique car. Regardless, yes, they should make it.