The Latest Safety Problem – Deferred Auto Maintenance?

The latest pernicious problem of the flagging U.S. economy comes in the guise of drivers who deferred auto maintenance at the potential cost of their safety. According to a new survey, 40% of respondents who are involved in repair decisions said they are postponing car maintenance or repairs on their primary vehicle.

The delay in servicing items such as brakes, tires, light bulbs, or other internal mechanical parts has consumers running the risk of larger, more costly problems down the road. 

Of those who deferred maintenance in the past year, 44% also admitted to the Consumer Reports National Research Center that they felt the value, safety, or reliability of the vehicle would suffer; with some saying the car was becoming an embarrassment.

Not surprisingly people in lower-income households were more likely to delay necessary work, and the youngest drivers, aged 18 to 34 years, were more likely to delay work on wear items, such as brake pads or tires. Twenty-one percent of this age group admitted to not attending to a wear item in a timely fashion, compared to 14% of those aged 55 or over.

Drivers also said they are holding onto their vehicles longer. Many of the respondents bought their cars used, and have owned them for five years with the intent to hold on to that vehicle for another five. Survey results showed that older drivers, residents of western states, and lower-income owners go the longest before replacing their vehicles. On average, owners have 78,000 miles on their current vehicle.

Types of non-warranty work most commonly postponed were led by minor manufacturer-recommended scheduled service (22%); wear items (17%); and body or other exterior damage (15%). Interviewees stated that a major repair bill, costing an average of about $2,000, would become a serious financial burden. Lower-income households ($1,418 average), women ($1,601), and younger adults ($1,749) were shown to be most vulnerable.

About Kenneth Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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