AAA survey: More people failing to take care of their cars

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Rusted hulk of a 1949 Ford on a hillside.

People aren't caring for their cars as much anymore. (CC BY/Don O'Brien/Flickr)

A down economy has forced many consumers to abandon ideas of driving a new car. As a result, the average age of cars on the road is older than it has ever been. The average age of 11 years means that used car maintenance and repair should be prevalent. However, as a summer survey by the American Automobile Association indicates, proper auto maintenance and car repair is beginning to fall by the wayside.

Neglected vehicles mean neglected maintenance

The AAA survey noted that approximately 25 percent of all used car owners have neglected their vehicles over the past 12 months in order to save money. Considering that such vehicles are typically no longer under warranty, that means that car repair costs more out of pocket, notes RepairPal CEO Art Shaw, whose service out of Emeryville, Calif., offers repair estimates and gives users recommendations for the best available repair shops in their local area.

A few tips to avoid being ripped off

Since more people than ever are driving used cars and waiting past the time when maintenance fees become repair fees, it pays to shop around for the right mechanic. Word-of-mouth referrals are valuable, as is information gleaned from social networking and review sites. Service listing aggregators like Angie’s List can also be helpful for finding the right local mechanic for the job. Round out the search with everything from the Better Business Bureau, AAA and Edmunds to RepairPal.

You want to know that mechanics have the proper qualifications. Are they AAA-approved? Do they adhere to the code of ethics set forth by the Automotive Service Association? Have they passed their Automotive Service Excellence exams? Look for the blue and white ASE logo to know for sure.

It is also important to look into a shop’s equipment. Today, a good repair shop should have computerized diagnostic equipment and access to online systems where the latest repair manuals and instructions are available.

Focus on cost and service

When it comes to pricing, consumers should opt for a repair shop that is willing to prepare a detailed written estimate. If work is going to exceed pre-approved totals, the mechanic should consult with the owner first. Check for what kind of warranty the shop offers – parts and labor should be guaranteed for a period of time or number of miles. For instance, AAA-certified shops offer at least 12 months or 12,000 miles.

Labor should cost somewhere from $50 to $100-plus per hour. Simply shopping for the cheapest garage is likely not worth the potential headaches of needing repeat repairs because the mechanic wasn’t competent enough to get things done the first time.

Talk to the mechanic to get a feel for how the company operates. A consumer should consider having simple, relatively inexpensive work like an oil change done first to see how the mechanic treats customers. Plus, pay attention to whether the shop uses vehicle manufacturer parts, as parts that aren’t can vary wildly in quality.

When personal problems become mechanical problems



Detroit Free Press


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