Car sales may be down, but car repairs have been a growth industry in the past year.
Drivers are sticking with their cars longer – putting off trade-ins and trying to squeeze another year out of their rides, local mechanics say.
“People are holding on to their cars,” said Rick Rielly, general manager of Foothills Lincoln Mercury Mazda. “The service side of things has been good this last 12 months, whereas the sales side has dipped.”
And while dealers typically are servicing newer cars, mechanic shops are seeing more people just trying to keep their 10- or 15-year-old cars – or older – running.
Mike Federico Sr., owner of Mechanics Pride, said his business has remained strong even as the recession has settled in. The shop at Third and Monroe in Spokane is about to mark its 20th anniversary.
“Some people are doing just the minimum to get the car back and forth from work,” Federico said. “If the tires are three-quarters of the way gone, they won’t replace them unless they’re all gone. If the brakes aren’t quite down to the metal, they may have to wait.”
It’s been a brutal year for the auto industry, and billions in federal assistance has been directed toward auto manufacturers in an effort to prop it up. Dealerships are going out of business, and the latest government money is being directed toward auto-parts manufacturers.
Eve Knudtsen, president of Knudtsen Chevrolet in Post Falls, said her dealership has seen a slight uptick in service business – nothing like the more dramatic shift she’s heard others talking about.
She said a lot of people are having their cars repaired rather than replaced – but that they’re also taking a pass on routine maintenance, something that can be costly in the long run. More people are “McGuyvering their cars together,” and trying to do repairs themselves, too, she said.
Mechanics and dealers say that skipping maintenance may be a false savings – something that costs you more in the long run. Federico said that when people skip the big maintenance points, like 60,000 or 90,000 miles, they can make it more likely that a timing belt might break, for example. On many cars, that can lead to a repair that costs several thousand dollars.