Now a Paper Shortage Is Causing Car Buying Headaches

If you’ve purchased a new car recently you probably noticed how long it took for the title or “pink slip” to arrive. Maybe you’re still waiting. Yes, it is just one more impediment to new car buying. It’s because the special paper that titles are printed on is in short supply. Supply chain issues have now come to the registration end of car buying if you can believe that.

Nobody expected car buying to be like this

new plate
Employee affixes a number plate to a new Nissan Juke | Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty

The pandemic changed a lot, as you already know. Just as with microchip manufacturers, when demand for cars dropped off in 2020, the two (and only two) paper companies making special security paper switched to products more in demand. With the rise in production, the need for titles rises, too. So the two companies must now try to shoehorn security paper production. With the rise in production, the need for titles rises.

But that is not very easy. That’s because every state needs its own specific document. So the paper manufacturers aren’t just running off one type of title, but at least 51 (which includes Washington D.C.). And most of them have unique security features. The slow transition is leading to major delays for buyers to receive their new car titles.

How long has car buying been affected by the paper shortage?

registering car
Standing in line at the DMV | Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty

Though this first became more publicized recently, this goes back almost to the beginning of 2022. “If you want your title just because you’re used to having your title, they are asking you to wait the eight to 12 weeks,” said Peggy Sparks, office manager for Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, Tag Agency. 

This was back in June, as she spoke with Yahoo! News. “If it’s a used vehicle, we can’t do it without the title. They have to wait for the title, and the dealer would go to the website, request that the title be printed faster so that way they can get the title to the customer,” Sparks said. Dealers wanting to sell a used car can’t until they have a title to go with the new owner. So a quick turnaround is almost impossible. 

And Oklahoma actually has three completely different titles. “Green titles are a regular Oklahoma title. Anything that’s not green would be a salvage title, a rebuilt title, or a boat title,” she said. So that’s four titles. 

Does it really take that much paper?

NY DMV
Department of Motor Vehicles in Medford, New York | John Paraskevas/Newsday RM via Getty

Some states, like Oklahoma, were able to place orders soon enough that there haven’t been any disruptions. There have even been rumors that a few of them have been hoarding the paper, Though that seems unlikely as each state’s title is different. 

In South Dakota, its average monthly title need was around 35,500 in 2021. This year it stands at almost 34,000 titles a month. So even in a small state like this, it goes through a lot of titles in a year. 

While we slowly felt relief that the auto world’s supply chain crisis was easing, here’s another, unexpected wrinkle prolonging the potholes along the road to buying cars these days.