EMMAUS, Pa. - The pandemic has been a challenging time to buy and lease cars. With continuing supply chain issues and now hurricane season, the process is getting even more difficult.

"Whether that was Hurricane Ida that hit us a couple of weeks ago or the wildfires out west, most people don't realize but those events are claiming quite a few vehicles," said Andrew Wright, the managing partner at Vinart Dealerships.

Entire fleets of vehicles have been wiped out by natural disasters, making the last couple of months even more challenging for Lehigh Valley and New Jersey dealerships, already hit hard by the pandemic.

"The chip shortage along with all the other disruptions in production as well as logistics, shipping and transport, it's just kind of the perfect storm," said Wright.

This comes as those who lost their cars in flooding are seeking vehicles as soon as possible.

For family-owned Vinart Dealerships in Emmaus, new-car inventory is about 10% of what it would be, while used-car inventory is closer to 35 to 50%.

It hasn't slammed the brakes on all business, but it's certainly changed how it's done.

"We still delivered as a group 543 cars last month, so what's happening is, we're selling into our pipeline, as the cars are coming in, people are picking up," said Wright.

Vehicles are on and off barren lots in a flash.

Certain brands are being produced faster than others, given the COVID conditions and restrictions in the countries they're coming from.

People are putting money down on vehicles that won't be delivered until next year. When they finally come in, instead of getting two sets of keys, some drivers are being sent the second in the mail, because of the lack of parts.

That parts shortage is causing longer wait times for repairs and maintenance, too.

"Things as simple as oil filters are in short supply," said Wright.

Vinart is notifying leasing customers months earlier than it normally would to give them time to plan.

"Our traditional lease retention process would start at six months," said Wright. "We might be nine, twelve, even fifteen months out, just to give people the heads up that, 'hey these are what the market conditions are. You might want to start thinking about your next car.'"

Trade-in values remain higher than ever.

"If you have a vehicle that you currently own that you're thinking about trading or that you're on the fence about trading, there has never been a better time with used car values where they are," said Wright. "As I tell people any time, if there's any doubt, trade your car in."

Some experts don't think supply conditions will improve until mid-2022, but the situation remains fluid.

Vinart recommends starting your search for a new vehicle at least three months ahead.

"If you're thinking a new car's in your future by the end of this year, you want to start thinking about it now and start your shopping process now," said Wright.

Vinart has 373 employees, and operates Acura, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche franchises, plus a collision center.

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