How Does the COVID Pandemic Impact Car Maintenance and Repairs?

The vehicle repair and aftermarket industries are affected by parts and labor shortages, shipping delays, increased wait times and rising repair costs caused by the pandemic. The car maintenance and repairs are likely to come at a higher cost.

COVID-related challenges set off a domino effect: New-car production delays led to decreased supply that couldn’t meet customer demand; When shoppers couldn’t get their hands on the new vehicle they wanted or could afford, they turned to the used-car market. Among car owners who were either priced out of buying a car or couldn’t find the right vehicle due to the inventory shortage, many chose to hold onto their current vehicle. Industry consultancy IHS Markit reports that the average age of vehicles on the road reached a record high of 12 years, partially due to the effects of the pandemic and adjustments to driving behavior. This sparked a rise in demand for repair and maintenance services to keep current vehicles on the road.

Car owners are also willing to spend more on those repairs to keep their current vehicle running. Pete Rudloff, owner of Pete’s Garage in Newark, Del., is experiencing increased demand for auto repair services at his shop. The inventory shortage “has greatly increased the demand for fixing autos due to the cost of new and used auto shooting up pretty high, The chip shortage seems to have been significantly beneficial for repair shops.

According to automotive market research firm IMR’s 2021 survey of 500 independent repair shops, the average vehicle turnaround time has increased by a day and a half since the pandemic began. Of the shops surveyed, 50% reported frequent disruptions in getting the parts they need to service vehicles, and 34% reported occasional disruptions. The causes of the disruptions ranged from delays in parts deliveries and distribution to shortages of drivers and qualified technicians.

According to Hardegree, most routine maintenance and repairs at his shop can be completed the same day or the following day, but there are some exceptions. The most common delay in parts that his shop has experienced are “brake pads, brake rotors, batteries, filters and some tires. Again, these parts are very common repairs. Typically, when these parts are out of stock, [we] can usually find a source that can get it to us in a couple of days — not terrible, but not great, either.” Hardegree noted that the worst delay he’s had was waiting for a replacement turbo for a Land Rover, which took almost three months.

Electronic components are also proving to be troublesome, Any repairs or parts involving electronics — things like infotainment systems, temperature control systems, onboard computers (e.g., powertrain control modules, body control modules, etc.), heated and/or power seats — are the most challenging to find.”

As demand for vehicle maintenance rises, so do the costs for those repairs. the consumer cost of motor vehicle parts and equipment is up 20% compared to 2021. whether it’s new tires, wiper blades or oil changes, consumers are paying significantly more.

A lot of shops are overwhelmed with work because demand for repairs is at an unprecedentedly high level, many shops are working less efficiently because of parts supply shortages. Like all other industries, we are facing unprecedented, COVID-related, workforce shortages. The irony of it is that it’s one of the greatest boon times for auto repair and many shops are working short-staffed because technicians are not available to hire. In an effort to slow down the deluge of requested auto repairs and to make up for the dead time waiting for parts, many shops have raised their rates.

As vehicle repair wait times increase alongside the costs, vehicle owners should plan ahead for routine maintenance and repairs and also budget for unexpected repairs. This is especially important for older used cars that aren’t covered under warranty.

Shoppers holding off on a vehicle purchase due to low inventory and elevated prices should do their best to ensure their current vehicle can outlast the worst of the inventory shortage. Planning ahead and budgeting accordingly for vehicle maintenance and repairs can go a long way to prevent a more costly and stressful experience down the road.

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