Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

How the United Auto Workers Strike Could Affect You and Your Car

Higher prices, scarcity of parts are looming if the work stoppage drags on

spinner image striking united auto workers members carrying signs in detroit

​An expanded strike by autoworkers could impact car buying and vehicle repairs for consumers — depending on how long it lasts. ​​​

The United Auto Workers (UAW) first went on strike Sept. 15 against three large domestic automakers — General Motors, Ford and Stellantis (which owns Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram). But the targeted walkouts it staged at production facilities at the start of this action only impacted a few popular models, and dealers reported having plenty in stock. ​​

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership

Join AARP for $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal. Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine

Join Now

​​​On Sept. 22, the UAW expanded the strike by organizing walkouts at more than three dozen additional sites, including those that store and distribute parts for a broad range of cars and trucks. ​​

​​The union argues that autoworkers provided concessions to the Big Three automakers during the global economic downturn 15 years ago, allowing those companies to survive bankruptcy and return to profitability. Now that companies are seeing record profits, workers deserve to share in the windfall, the UAW says. ​​

​​It’s unclear how long the strike might last. ​​​

Should a strike continue for weeks or months more, there could be direct impacts on auto buyers and owners. Strikes “are intended to cause some economic discomfort,” says Daniel Clark, a labor historian at Oakland University, near Detroit. ​​​

Could the cost of new cars rise?

Car buyers saw the effect of a disruption of the supply chain during the pandemic. It was hard to get key parts for new cars, which affected the automakers’ ability to build and supply vehicles to the buying public. ​​​

“As we saw during the pandemic, when you have supply issues, prices go up,” says Ed Kim, president and chief analyst of AutoPacific, an automotive research and consulting firm. ​​​

close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

AARP Auto Buying Program Powered by TrueCar

Shop for a car with safety features you want. Buyers can get a free AARP Smart Driver course.

close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

Please Select Make

Please Enter ZIP Code

Please Select Make

Please Enter ZIP Code

However, there is unlikely to be a similar and immediate effect from the UAW’s actions. “Right now, I would say the impact on the new vehicle market from the strikes is probably pretty limited,” says Joseph White, a veteran auto industry journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Thomson Reuters. ​​Companies have a “decent” inventory of the vehicles affected, White says: “So right now, at this stage, the impact isn’t that big.”​​

If the strike goes on for months, that could change. ​​​

See more Insurance offers >

There are reasons to be concerned about prices in the short term, but they are not related to the UAW’s activities, White says. It’s possible car dealers may engage in price gouging, actions that caused some of the price increases on new vehicles during the pandemic. ​​​

“For consumers, the thing to watch is, what are the dealers doing with prices and who are they trying to take advantage of?” White says. “The dealers may read the headlines and tell consumers, ‘We’re charging $1,000 or $2,000 over list because, you know, strike.’ That’s not the union’s fault. Unions are not doing that. That’s the dealer.” ​​​​

Will the cost of used cars go up? ​​

When new car prices and interest rates rose during the pandemic, many consumers who couldn’t find new cars — or who couldn’t afford them — looked to the used car market, which elevated prices and contributed to scarcity of those autos. ​​​

But this escalation happened over the course of years, amid supply chain issues that impacted the entire global auto industry. The current situation is different, White says, at least for the near future.​​​

“I’d say it shouldn’t really have a direct impact on used vehicles. This doesn’t mean that people won’t try to take advantage of the situation — dealers, that is,” he says. “But there’s no particular reason why used vehicle prices should go up because there’s not yet a big shortage of new vehicles.”​​​

What about auto repair and maintenance?​​​

​The UAW expanded its strike last week to include dozens of centers that distribute automotive parts for the assembly of new cars, as well as for maintenance of vehicles on the road. This could be where consumers see the most impact. ​​​

“Dealers don’t carry a ton of inventory on parts, so if you have a new vehicle or a vehicle that you’re still taking to the dealership for warranty repairs or recall repairs, the chances that you might not be able to get the part you need because of this, that seems fairly high,” White says. “That could potentially become a problem a bit quicker.”​​​

Customers who need to have upcoming service completed at an official manufacturer franchise might consider scheduling in advance. “I would probably make that appointment right now with the dealership,” says Brian Moody, executive editor at Cox Automotive, a firm that tracks vehicle pricing, sales and service, and includes brands such as Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader. ​​​​

When are consumers likely to feel the effects of the UAW strike? ​​​

​Direct impact from the strike probably won’t be felt by consumers in the short term but may sting if it continues for a month or more. “With the caveat that it’s hard to predict these things, I will say that if this situation doesn’t get resolved for another 30 to 45 days, at that point, definitely there is going to be impact,” White says.​​​

Pricing pressures may begin to be felt first on some new cars, an effect that might culminate around the winter holidays. ​​​

“Typically, automakers do lots of year-end sales and incentives,” Kim says. “If the strike is prolonged towards the December time frame, that’s certainly going to impact people who are holding out in the hopes of good year-end deals.” 

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?

close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

AARP Auto Buying Program Powered by TrueCar

Shop for a car with safety features you want. Buyers can get a free AARP Smart Driver course.

close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

Please Select Make

Please Enter ZIP Code

Please Select Make

Please Enter ZIP Code