Tight car market in Mid-Michigan means good deals for selling or trading in

FLUSHING, Mich. (WJRT) – Car dealership lots are much emptier than they used to be, which could be a boon for anyone selling in or trading a used car.

At LaFontaine Ford in Flushing, inventory is certainly low but they’re still doing a heck of a business. Normally, the new car lot has around 220 sets of wheels, but there are fewer than 60 vehicles in stock now — and that’s a lot compared to other dealerships.

“Probably the biggest thing is the trucks. The F-150′s are hot items and we still have 15 of them, and there are vehicles being shipped, just one at time,” said new car sales manager Dave Manges. “We’re kind of in a situation where we do have those vehicles available. Then we also have vehicles that are in production that are on hold waiting for computer chips.”

Despite low inventory, he was in the middle of five deals at one point on Friday. So LaFontaine is doing business, but people are snatching vehicles up before they even get to the lot.

Dealerships are just as hungry to make a deal with anyone who has a car, whether its leased or bought, and wants a new ride.

“We’re shifting to kind of a strategy of ordering vehicles for people with leases coming up,” Manges said. “Because used car values are so strong, customers can actually buy out their leases and hold them for the next few months as we order these vehicles. Probably do really well with trading them back in because values are up because of the shortage.”

Used car prices are up 6.6% since the beginning of the year, according to automotive search engine Iseecars.com. That takes the average price of a ride from $22,522 up to $24,009.

For some, that’s just enough to trade in and get something newer. That exact scenario just happened at LaFontaine with a customer that wanted to trade in her car back in January.

“The vehicle was worth — this was like a 3-year-old Ford Fusion — it was worth over $2,500 more now, months later. It made someone really happy selling them a new car,” Manges said.

The higher prices are likely to remain for a while longer. Manges said the market currently hinges on microchips, because some Detroit Three auto plants remain shut down due to a shortage.

He said it could easily be a year before inventory returns to normal.

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