In the last two years more than four million car owners have had to keep their car off the road because they couldn’t afford repairs needed on their vehicle. With 21 million owners saying they have needed repairs in the last two years, this could mean that one in five (19%) have been forced to go without their car while they got their finances in order.
That’s according to Kwik Fit, the automotive repair and servicing company, who also revealed half of these motorists (2 million) had to keep their car off the road for a month or longer.
A shortage of money has driven many drivers to make some risky decisions. Over 1.2 million drivers admitted to having driven their car in an unroadworthy condition because they couldn’t afford repairs with men twice as likely as women to have done so.
Many drivers carry out repairs themselves, which is obviously not a problem in itself. However, a third of car owners who either carried out a repair themselves or had a friend or relative do it for them say they were concerned about the quality of that repair. In a cautionary tale for second hand car buyers, nearly half a million motorists say that although they were concerned about their DIY repairs they didn’t do anything about it as they sold the car soon afterwards.
The study also gave an indication that the policy of prevention being better than cure is as relevant to our cars as it is to our bodies. More than three quarters (77%) of those skipping their car’s annual service had to get repairs carried out on their car in the last two years. The equivalent figure for those who maintained their car’s annual service record was 56%, suggesting that regular servicing helps keep the need for repairs at bay.
Increasing the age at which vehicles require an MOT from three to four years, as spelled out in the budget, could be a red herring says Warranty Direct. Moving away from the traditional three-year MOT test to a fourth birthday safety check will mean essential maintenance is postponed, while motoring costs could actually increase.
The first MOT failure rate is also set to rocket from the typical 20%, with more components likely to be identified as requiring attention.
David Gerrans, Warranty Direct managing director, said: “Three years of age is generally a landmark age for a car. In most cases, it stops being covered by the manufacturer’s warranty and things start going wrong and wearing out.
“Whilst adding another year before an MOT is due is a nod to manufacturer build quality, it could be viewed as detrimental to road safety, as the average driver will need to replace tyres and brakes before the four year mark.
“Extending the deadline for the first MOT of new cars from three to four years, will only encourage motorists to postpone necessary maintenance work for anything up to an extra year, potentially putting the driver and other motorists at risk.”
Most drivers (47%) spend more disposable income on their car than anything else according to new figures well ahead of holidays (21%) and socialising with friends (13%). As a consequence, 1 in 10 continue to cut back on car maintenance in a bid to save money (equivalent to 2.8 million cars), with 41% placing the reliability and safety of their car last on the list of motoring concerns.
The findings are in a new report from Halfords Autocentres, which show despite the economic upturn motorists’ behaviour hasn’t changed and they continue to make some ill-advised compromises to car maintenance and safety.
Rory Carlin from Halfords Autocentres explains: “Despite a rise in personal earnings, stable inflation and fuel prices that are at a three-year low, drivers feel that they are already paying a high enough price for their motoring and are unwilling to spend more on anything they feel is unnecessary.
“However, car maintenance isn’t just necessary it is essential and we have uncovered some shocking admissions that are likely to be a hangover from the recession.”
Of the drivers that admitted to cutting back on maintenance to save money, 60% are no longer servicing their cars in line with manufacturers’ guidelines – a figure almost unchanged from the more austere financial times of 2012.
A worryingly high percentage (43%) also reported waiting to replace tyres until they are at or below the legal minimum (1.6mm), 32% are not investigating fresh noises or dashboard warning lights and 25% said they had avoided replacing brake pads.
Commenting on the findings, Maria McCarthy author of The Girls’ Car Handbook added: “A lack of technical know-how and the complexity of modern cars can make maintenance a daunting prospect.
“Find a garage you trust, or get a friend to recommended one, and build a rapport with them that will enable you to discuss which repairs are essential and which are advisory – then budget for on-going maintenance.”
A useful way to save on car maintenance costs is with an extended warranty covering the costs of repairs. This includes those repairs identified during MOT or servicing. Click here to get a quote via Warranty Direct.
Let’s state the obvious shall we? Shopping around for servicing could save families hundreds. What Car? analysed costs for 10 of the most popular cars in the UK across eight regions and found an average gap of £126 between the cheapest and most expensive services.
Apparently Scottish and Welsh motorists enjoy the cheapest prices in the UK on average (£210 and £217 respectively), while the South East is the most expensive region, with an average cost of £244.
According to What Car? Magazine Scottish and Welsh motorists enjoy the cheapest prices in the UK on average (£210 and £217 respectively), while the South East is the most expensive region, with an average cost of £244.
Table showing average service costs by region
|Region||Average service cost|
What Car? analysed the cost of the first service (including VAT) for the 10 most searched-for cars on its website.
In some cases, the difference in costs by region meant that car owners willing to shop around and travel could make significant savings, equivalent to slap-up lunches in a three-star Michelin restaurant, nights in four-star hotels or family days out.
Emma Butcher, consumer editor of What Car?, said: “The cost of running a car is often a strain on already stretched household bills. That’s particularly the case with servicing because it is one of those items that could be sacrificed to save pennies.
“It pays in peace of mind to have your car serviced yearly, and it needn’t be such a bitter financial pill to swallow if you put in a little time.
“Just remember that nearest can also be dearest – just because your local dealer is more convenient doesn’t mean it will be most cost-effective.”
Among the 10 models analysed by What Car?, even different vehicles built in the same factory, or with the same mechanical underpinnings, generated varying service costs.
The Audi A3, Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf share many components, including engines, but What Car? found that it costs almost two thirds (62%) more on average to service an A3 over an Octavia. In Wales, that increase in cost leapt to 93%.
Table showing service costs for 10 popular models
Emma Butcher said: “When you buy a car with a premium badge you pay up front on the cost of the car, but it’s worth remembering that the additional outlay is transferred across the life of the car.”
For great MOT & servicing prices visit MOT Angel to benefit from a network of vetted garages as well as engineers dealing with the garage for you to prevent unnecessary repairs. If you have an extended warranty in place you will need to get it serviced annually and this is a cost efficient method of validating your warranty.