Healthcare worker Cleveland Wishop landed at Baltimore-Washington International Airport last fall expecting to retrieve his car from long-term parking and drive home.
It never crossed Wishop's mind that he had fallen into one of the economic traps stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
His blue Camaro had vanished. The dealer who sold him the 2010 car a year earlier seized it after Wishop fell just 19 days behind in making his August payment.
"I was pissed, extremely," Wishop said.
In times past, auto dealers and lenders were slower to retake cars when borrowers fell behind. Finding and repossessing vehicles was often difficult, occasionally even risky. And recouping costs on seized vehicles was a losing game.
But the pandemic changed that.
Global supply chain snarls continue to cause chronic shortages in many vital products, including the computer chips at the heart of modern cars.
And that's led to an unprecedented rise in used-car prices as production of new vehicles remains constrained.
Based on government surveys, prices for used cars and trucks rose 43% in June from August 2020, when they first started to jump. For new vehicles, prices rose 17% over the same period.
This pandemic-related surge in the demand for used cars and trucks has turned the repo game on its head.