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Used car buyers face years of shortages as Chinese Covid lockdowns and a dearth of microchips hammer manufacturers, Auto Trader has warned.
The company said a global shortage of semiconductors, which are a crucial component in vehicle manufacturing, had resulted in a lack of new cars being made, causing a rush among drivers to snap up second-hand models.
It added: “Furthermore, the current new car shortage is likely to result, in the coming years, in a reduction in used car stock.”
Average car stock on Auto Trader's site slumped 11pc to 430,000 in the year to March 31 compared with a year earlier.
The online used car retailer said demand for second-hand motors caused profits to almost double to £301m during the same period as revenues surged 65pc to £433m.
Profits were also 20pc higher compared with 2019-20, before the pandemic struck.
A shortage of new cars has led to a knock-on effect on second-hand prices, with Auto Trader's used car price index seeing a 22pc year-on-year increase.
Auto Trader warned that higher prices were likely to endure until at least 2024.
Nathan Coe, chief executive of Auto Trader, said: “In a more normal market used car prices would go down month by month by the level of depreciation. I think the reality is, whilst we've still got supply chain disruption from lock down in China, the Ukraine war, and semiconductor shortages, we still see demand exceeding supply.”
The result will be drivers keeping their cars for longer, he added, which is easier today with more reliable models being available which can spend more than a decade on the road.
Manufacturers are also enjoying record profits as new car prices have risen about 15pc over the past year, according to analysts at Swiss bank UBS.
The chip shortage is forecast by most car makers to ease in the second half of the year, allowing them to ramp up production, which could ease price rises.
But manufacturers have indicated that they are finding the higher margins useful in building up the reserves they need to fund the multi-billion pounds programmes they need to electrify their production lines and build dozens of new battery plants, replacing their engine factories.
Mercedes has said it plans to cut its offering of mid-market cars to focus on top end models, which are more profitable.