Car shopping in a tight market: low inventory, microchip crunch, flood-damaged lemons explained

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Car shoppers are frustrated by new models held up in cargo ship delays off the California coast while second-hand scammers in the used-car market create nightmares for bargain hunters.

But the market is set to right itself soon, says Rick Ricart, president of Ricart Automotive, who gave tips to NBC4 on what to look for in a used or new car — and avoid scammers.

Low inventory and delays for new cars

“Luckily, I think we’re finally on the uphill climb back to supplies normalizing at some point in the future” with vehicles are stuck off the coast, Ricart said. “We are having a very difficult time getting some of our imported vehicles to the lot. We know that there were a lot of vehicles that were built in Korea, Japan, and the like that are on container ships, and on they’re on their way — and we are waiting for them to arrive at port.”

Don’t pay over sticker price on new cars

Some dealers have taken advantage of the lack of availability in the market by putting the sticker price over manufacturer recommendations, but Ricart said his operation doesn’t work like that.

“We’ve always been a volume dealer. Especially with the new way this marketplace is turning, which is to go online and preorder, and a lot of the new product we have coming in are [for] people that went online months ago, they placed their order, they placed a deposit. That locks in the selling price,” Ricart said.

Don’t waste your money by paying over sticker prices on popular brands.

Car shopping in a tight market: low inventory, microchip crunch, flood-damaged lemons explained
Rick Ricart, president of Ricart Automotive Group, with a new Ford Shelby.

Where Ricart does allow over-sticker-price in his showroom is on vehicles that are rare, high-performance, and likely to become collectible, such as the new Ford Shelby GT500 Carbon Track Edition, which sells for over $100,000 — on a good day.

Microchip shortage affects cars in the shop

While the average iPhone has 15 microchips in it, the average Ford truck has over 1,700 microchips in it. “So it’s not like they are just a few microchips short and they can deliver the vehicles. There are thousands of them in every vehicle.”

Microchips control all of the new technology in cars and trucks, Ricart said: touch screens, GPS navigation, cruise control, mirrors that fold in, and rain-sensing wipers — even seats. This has led to more lower-trim models that don’t require as many microchips being more available.

Lock in a used-car sale online, and get a price for your trade-in

Some used car lots are online, which allows the car owner to enter trade-in information as well as reserve the car they want. That holds the vehicle and the deal until the used-car buyer gets to the lot.

Online trade valuation allows the vehicle owner to upload photos of the car, its condition, and the VIN. Then when the vehicle arrives, if the trade-in information is truthful, the value received online should match the money a car lot will credit for the trade-in.

Flood-damaged cars and scammers in the second-hand market

The Better Business Bureau recently released 10 tips to avoid buying flood-damaged cars coming onto the market from weather-hit states.

Used car dealers should make sure that every car gets an inspection by a trained mechanic, who will look at the frame, new fabrics, and rust points.

Buyers should ask dealers to provide the service inspection paperwork, Ricart advised. Carfax is also a reliable source of information for the car’s history.