Car Shopping During a Global Chip Shortage

OK, so way back in 2017, my family stepped into the greatest club we didn’t know we wanted to be a part of…minivan life! We welcomed Winnie the Mini into our lives one warm sunny afternoon. She was a beautiful blizzard white, loaded with the latest technology, and had that beautiful clean car smell. My daughter was through the roof about getting to be queen of the back seat temperature. Winnie the Mini took us on many adventures—she was my pride and joy!

Then on one fateful day this spring, when my wonderful husband was taking Winnie in for an oil change, he had the unfortunate luck of running into a horrible driver. In total, this delightful motor vehicle operator totaled not only my van but another vehicle belonging to innocent bystander as well. Thus, Winnie perished on a hot April day. (No people were harmed, only beloved cars.) 

So we thought simple replacement, right? WRONG! Due to COVID, there is a semiconductor chip shortage, which means a whole host of things are unavailable right now—PS5s, washing machines, computers, and cars. Which also means a new minivan can’t be located in the tristate area!

Given our recent experience, here are some pro tips that may be helpful even if you’re not car shopping in a post-pandemic chip shortage.

  • Unrelated to actual car shopping: Don’t forget to take a lot of pictures at the crash site. My sentimental emotions about our bumper stickers actually saved us with insurance when the tow company damaged our van further and tried to blame it on us.
  • Most dealerships are partnered with others and will ship for free or a small fee—So widen your search!
  • Don’t forget to take your insurance card and driver’s license with you to test drive.
  • Before you begin, make a list of things that are necessities so you know what you can and can’t live without. My list of things I “need” in a car now come pretty much standard, so having a list didn’t help narrow down my search. Even so, don’t head into the dealership and have no idea what in the world you’re looking for. They can sense indecision, and they will eat you alive!
  • Always call the dealership before you go. Inventory online sells out before they update the online base. You’d hate to drive 45 minutes away only to find out the car you wanted sold already!

After weeks of car shopping, another minivan slowly turned into a pipe dream, so we began to focus on the possibility of other car options (tear!). Which opened Pandora’s box of 400 different types of cars, trucks, and SUVs. It’s too many! I was overwhelmed. As moms, we make millions of decisions every day, and picking a car is a full-time job. Test driving takes at least 45 minutes for just one car, even if you know the make, model, and year you want!

We spent weeks fighting and arguing and searching. After every test drive my husband would ask, “How did that one drive?” Um…all cars drive the same to me. Then the salesperson asked if I wanted all-wheel or front-wheel drive…again, I want it to drive. I don’t care what wheels it uses. One of the SUVs comes with sports mode, snow mode, eco mode, and comfort mode. Yeah, every day is sports mode when I drive so that matters not at all. 

I’m also cut from the cloth (albeit a much cheaper cloth) of an Ariana Grande song, “I see it. I like it. I want it. I buy it.” I hate window shopping and reading reviews. There are only about five opinions I trust in the world, and they’re not randos online. I’m the girl who will just buy it. I don’t look for coupons or the best deal, I don’t have time! If I drive one car and love it, then the search should be over.

But apparently that attitude makes me, “Just the worst!” —direct quote as we left yet another dealership empty handed. My husband did not at all feel the same way. We actually had to come up with a code word so that he knew if I really liked the car without actually saying that I really liked it in front of the salesperson because the hard sell is so hard to get away from and also adds time to the haggling.

Now, as my best friend would say, this has been a very “first-world problem” style rant. I understand that we are blessed beyond belief because we have insurance, no one was hurt, and this car frustration does not impose a dire financial hardship for the family. But ughhhhh. 

I am happy to report that since first writing this piece, I am no longer carless. While we did have to drive to Lincoln, Nebraska, to get it (at one point, we almost drove to Texas), we are now the proud owners of a Hyundai Palisade. A vehicle that is not a minivan.

My exit from minivan life may be worthy of another post entirely…

“I’m Marsha, the devoted wife of a Nebraska Husker fan, mother to a sweet laid back 11-year-old boy named Kellen and a 9-year-old spunky know-it-all named Rowen. I am a Kansas City native, proud Northwest Bearcat Alumni, and enthusiastic 4th grade teacher! I enjoy stolen moments where I can read in peace, indulging in chocolate chip cookies whenever possible, tending to my vegetable garden and finding new ways to annoy my daughter! My goal in life is to be my authentic self, follow the motto of ‘She did what she could,’ and share that with other moms!”

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