Directions: The Price of Neglect – UnderhoodService

Directions: The Price of Neglect

While it's good for independent repair shops that more than half of American drivers said they are holding onto their older vehicle because they do not want the financial burden of a new one, about 25% of car owners today admitted to neglecting repairs and maintenance on their vehicles in the past 12 months due to the economic climate.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has released results of a recent survey that’s not good news to shop owners — that one in four American drivers could not pay for a car repair of $2,000 if faced with one today.

The AAA survey also found that one out of eight would be unable to pay for a repair bill of $1,000.

While it’s good that more than half of American drivers said they are holding onto their older vehicle because they do not want the financial burden of a new one, about 25% of car owners today admitted to neglecting repairs and maintenance on their vehicles in the past 12 months due to the economic climate.

According to the survey, 38% of American drivers could pay for a $2,000 repair bill with funds in a savings account, while 20% would pay with their credit card. Eleven percent said they would have to borrow money from their friends, family, retirement or home equity in order to pay for a $2,000 repair.

As shop owners and technicians, you understand firsthand how putting off routine vehicle maintenance can greatly increase the likelihood of their car needing a costly, major repair down the road.

The question is, how to we get car owners to do something about it?

The Car Care Council (http://carcare.org) has done a good job of promoting preventive maintenance to car owners. And, the industry has seen spikes in aftermarket service during Car Care Months.

Next month, there again will be a flurry of Car Care attention. Since 2005, October has been deemed Fall Car Care Month in an effort to promote readying vehicles for winter driving.

We expect this promotion will help increase shop traffic in some shops.

The problem is, while drivers know their vehicles need attention, it sounds like they just don’t have money available for service.

Couple that with the fact that dealerships are moving aggressively to bring in new or retain current customers to perform routine scheduled maintenance is only making your job harder.

So what are you doing to help your customers keep their vehicles good running order?

Does your shop offer gift certificates for service work? It might be something to promote to your customers, especially around graduation time in May or the gift-giving holidays in December.

Or, do you think your state should become more involved in mandating better vehicle inspections and fine drivers of unsafe vehicles (broken signal lamps, worn tires, cracked windshields, worn wiper blades, missing/broken fuel caps, etc.).

Maybe these fines could be waived if the drivers provided proof (shop receipts) for the completed service work, returning the vehicle to safe operating conditions.

Or what if Congress initiated an annual tax credit to all vehicle owners for automotive service up to $1,000? That could spark aftermarket sales and service and would benefit not only millions of car owners, but businesses that perform service work and the companies that make and sell parts.

And, the government would recoup some of that money back through gasoline taxes, since owners would be purchasing more fuel to drive their fixed vehicles.

If Congress was willing to do a Cash for Clunkers program, why not an annual tax credit for the next five years for vehicle maintenance?

We’d like to hear your ideas or comments on this issue. E-mail us at [email protected]

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