Survey: Consumers trust their shop for car maintenance and repair

Consumer Reports News: December 20, 2011 12:38 PM

Contrary to what you might assume, it turns out that car owners put a lot of faith in their chosen repair shops, with 83 percent of those involved in repair decisions saying they are confident they’ll get the right maintenance and repair work done for the right price. This is one of the highlights of a new survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, which also found that more than half of car owners completely trust their shop.

At a time when the average car in America is 9 years old, many motorists are dependent upon proper maintenance and repair to keep their vehicle operating properly. Based on 1,699 random, nationwide telephone interviews of adult car owners conducted from November 3-7, 2011, we found that, on average, owners plan to keep their current car for another five years, underscoring the importance of regular maintenance and having a good, trustworthy mechanic.

To keep their vehicles running reliably, three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents take their car to a shop for maintenance and repair, while 21 percent reportedly handle those duties themselves.

More respondents (37 percent) took their cars to independent shops than to other types of mechanics . These are followed by dealerships (30 percent) and repair chains (11 percent), such as Midas or Pep Boys.

The vast majority of respondents who are involved with repair decisions (91 percent) said they trust their repair shop, with women, older drivers, and those with household incomes above $50,000 being significantly more trusting. Only eight percent of interviewees said they trust their shop very little or not at all.

When asked about their shop’s quality and pricing, consumers were again overwhelmingly satisfied, with just 15 percent expressing a lack of confidence.

Even with a high level of trust, consumers do their research before bringing the car to the shop and many wish they had more information available.

Car owners agree that they... Percent
Authorize whatever work the shop recommends 73%
Research reommendations before authorizing work 68
Wish they had more information going into the shop 56
Negotiate the price of the work 46
Shop around for the lowest repair price 45
Find the repair bill is usually higher than expected 42

The responses to these questions varied by gender, age, and income. For instance, women are more likely than men to shop around for the lowest repair price and negotiate the price. Similarly, more younger owners shop around for the best price (35 percent) while older respondents are far more likely to authorize whatever the shop recommends (47 percent). Households with incomes under $50,000, which are more price sensitive, are more likely to shop around and experience sticker shock than those with higher incomes. They also crave more information in order to make a smart decision.

While consumers are mostly happy with their maintenance and repair experiences, it is clear that being better informed can lead to higher satisfaction. To help, Consumer Reports has launched a new car repair information service that can help drivers understand common problems, learn how components work, and receive a service estimate that reflects local prices.

Powered by RepairPal, the Car Repair Estimator asks motorists to enter in the year, make, and model of their car, along with a zip code. From there, users can select routine maintenance for their car based on mileage intervals and the Estimator will tally the work and parts to provide a local price range. This information can educate you on what to expect and help ensure that you get a fair deal.

Even if you only want to better understand how components or systems function, the Car Repair Encyclopedia can answer many common questions.

Survey: Consumers are running risks by postponing car maintenance or repair
Survey: Better reliability is why most consumers replace their car

Jeff Bartlett

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