By day – Auto repair shops take advantage of drivers keeping aging vehicles

On a recent weekday at Jay’s Auto Repair in Detroit, cars filled the dozen bays and spilled into the parking lot as mechanics worked to fix the backlog of vehicles needing repairs.

It’s become the new normal as customers try to hold on to their aging cars, SUVs and pickup trucks during a period of soaring prices for new and used vehicles, said Jay Salaytah, owner of the workshop. service in the east of the city.

“This past year has been nonstop,” he said. “We’re surprised at how busy it has been and how crazy it has been. We’ve been so understaffed trying to get enough help that we can’t keep up with the volume. He did not go out.

There are reasons for this. The average age of vehicles in the United States has hit a record 12.1 years, according to data provider IHS Markit. Cars and trucks stay on the road longer, experts say, in part due to improvements in vehicle quality over the past 15 years.

At the same time, the global semiconductor shortage has crippled auto production just as demand is picking up again from pandemic lows, pushing up prices for new and used vehicles and leading some consumers to spend more to keep their cars. current trips on the road.

That means more business in the repair shops – if they can find help.

“For the most part, we find that many mechanical repair installations are successful,” said Ray Fisher, executive director of the Texas-based Automotive Service Association. The reason? “I am thinking of the price of cars. People are hanging on rather than buying new.

The average price of a new vehicle totaled $ 40,948 last month, up 5% from $ 38,967 in June 2020, according to Edmunds. Used car prices have risen even faster: The average price for a 9-year-old used car was $ 13,252 last month, up 29% from $ 10,226 in June 2020.

“There are a multitude of factors,” said Ivan Drury, senior director of Insights for Edmunds. “If we look at the year, people don’t drive as much, naturally we would increase that age of vehicles on the road even more. You combine that with (the fact that) the durability of the vehicles has improved so much over time. Instead of those old clunkers, you actually have these older, nicer vehicles at the same time. “

Gone are the days when owners worried about their vehicles going over 100,000 miles, he added. Drivers became more comfortable keeping a higher mileage car during the 2008 recession, when job losses and the housing crisis forced many people to keep their cars longer.

“They saw that the average age of the exchange has increased – as have the kilometers,” he said, in part because the quality of the vehicle improved dramatically in the mid-2000s. people have learned this lesson that “hey, these cars last longer than we thought. “”

At Jay’s Auto Repair, most of the vehicles they service are from the 2011 to 2017 model years, Salaytah said: Road, and people are still putting money into them. “

“Where 10 years ago, a 10-year-old car, people wouldn’t have put two, three thousand dollars in it,” he added. “Now they are doing it. You get a 2011 Equinox, to replace an engine, rebuild an engine costs three, four thousand, and they spend it. “

Salaytah said he believes people are putting money in their vehicles thanks to the $ 1,400 federal stimulus payments given out this spring. The increase in wages resulting from the labor shortage also helped.

One of Salaytah’s customers, Blair Hilson of Detroit, says he’d rather invest in his 2011 Chevrolet Malibu than buy a new one. The Chevrolet fan says his car has around 150,000 miles and has no plans to get rid of it.

“I worked two jobs and paid him full,” said Hilson, 22. “It is my most precious possession.”

Hilson said he spent more than $ 2,500 on his car over the past two years, including a new transmission and new wiring. His family also surprised him with new rims and tires. It cost $ 1,200.

“It’s great to have a new vehicle, but it’s not profitable for everyone because the insurance is so high,” he said. “Depending on the nature of your ticket, you pay $ 300 or $ 400 or more, and so does your insurance. “

Hilson said he noticed the impact of the chip shortage on inventory and vehicle prices.

“This scarcity makes a huge difference in that price and in that value,” he said. “For someone looking to buy a new vehicle, I wouldn’t recommend it at this time because it’s so difficult.”

Bret Row, owner of Auto Lab in Plymouth, Michigan, said people who keep their cars for longer are great for business, a trend he attributes to high selling prices.

“We’re definitely noticing that older cars are coming on average,” he said. “People are ready to fix that old car where in the past they might not have fixed it.”

A recent customer with a 2003 Ford Taurus helps get Row’s point of view. The car was in good condition but needed a $ 3,200 repair, which the owner decided to do.

“This person spent quite a bit of money replacing the transmission, where sometimes in the past someone would say, ‘I’m not fixing this car,'” he said. “They would have moved on.”

Mark Sullivan, auto repair manager at the Plymouth shop, says some jobs are taking longer these days due to delays in getting parts: “If everything was normal, it would take a few hours; now it’s like the same day if you’re lucky.

It has been more difficult to get parts quickly since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and businesses began to reopen, he said, with braking work among repairs being delayed. Pent-up demand is a factor.

“The cars sat for almost a year,” Sullivan said. “Now you’re doing another year of work because the cars still needed it, but (the owners) didn’t. Now all of a sudden everyone needs their car to go to work next week instead of all year round.

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Sylvia F. Hernandez

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