EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Buying a car is a bit tricky right now.

Brand new ones are a little hard to come by, and used cars are way more expensive than normal. So why is that?

5 things you need to know:

  1. It’s because of chips — and there’s a shortage due to the pandemic and a strong bounce-back economy. You may have even gotten a call from your car dealer asking to buy back your vehicle. The price of new cars and trucks are up by 5%, and used cars are even up by 45% since 2020.
  2. Basically, automakers — fearing they’d be left holding expensive inventory while people were in lockdown — shut down production and cancelled orders for parts with chips in them, thinking car sales would stall.
  3. Meanwhile, many of us sat at home buying more and more personal electronics: computers, phones, televisions — and guess what? There are tons of chips in those.
  4. People were soon buying cars again — the ultimate social distancing device on wheels — and dealers had, well, deals. Factories suddenly restarted and couldn’t keep up with demand. Plus, there are only a few global suppliers of computer chips. There was even a fire at a plant in Japan, which made a massive dent in chip production.
  5. Economists estimate the chip shortage meant 1.28 million fewer vehicles being created, which will cost the auto industry $110 billion this year. Production will eventually normalize, but for now, you may find some new cars with less of the features you might expect — such as automatic stop-start — because manufacturers are making cars with less chips in them in order to catch up.

One possible solution to the shortage is reinvesting in homegrown chip production.