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As sweet spot swells, delayed maintenance offers ripe opportunity for repairers

IMR report forecasts that 45.8 percent of drivers intend to have delayed maintenance completed within the next two months as miles driven increases

Naperville, Ill.—Each quarter, IMR interviews 25,000 households about how they’ve serviced and maintained all the vehicles and what service, maintenance and repairs they know their vehicles need but intentionally have not performed.

Delayed maintenance increased to 20.1% in Q2 2020 or 2.5% from 17.6% in Q1 2020.  While 2.5% may be a small number, according to the study, it represents approximately an additional 8.5 million vehicles from the prior quarter that have knowingly put off a service or repair.

Since IMR began tracking delayed maintenance in 2016, the rate has slowly declined quarter over quarter from nearly 23.6% of vehicles reporting one or more service or repairs delayed to 17.6% in Q1 2020.  That steady decline in delayed maintenance was interrupted as the repair industry entered Q2 2020 with the shelter-in place orders and miles driven dropped. 

Aftermarket sweet spot and delayed vehicle maintenance

According to Experian Automotive, as of the March 30, Q1 US VIO data release, the aftermarket sweet spot — vehicles between 6 and 12 years old — grew year over year for the first time in more than five years.  That sweet spot represents 31.5% of vehicles on the road and Experian expects continued growth among that vehicle cohort over the next four-plus years.

With that sweet spot of vehicles growing, coming out of the shelter-in place orders, while businesses begin to reopen and miles driven increase, there’s ample vehicle repair opportunity as households with those vehicles delayed maintenance at a rate of 19.7% in Q2 2020, up from 16.8% in Q1 2020, according to IMR.

Delayed maintenance by state

Compared to the Q2 2020 national rate for delayed maintenance of 20.1%, consumers in some states reported a higher rate of delaying maintenance than others.

The chart below shows the percentage increase in delayed maintenance by state from the prior quarter. Some of the states with the highest rate of delayed maintenance (above) also saw some of the largest increases (below).

Top 10 delayed maintenance categories

The Delayed Maintenance Tracking Study tracks 100 parts, services, and chemicals.  Each can be evaluated on its own to garner category-based insights. When looking at the consumer intention regarding being a DIYer for the part/service they’ve delayed versus having their vehicle professionally repaired, 31.4% say they’re opting to be DIYers when the time comes to make the repair/perform the service. However, that number is typically driven by the categories which are experiencing the most delays, IMR reported. Some categories have seen a substantial pickup in DIY intention versus others.

The following categories are the top 10 categories for delayed maintenance, in order of highest percentage of vehicles delaying to lowest:

  1. Oil changed
  2. Tires (New)
  3. Battery (Car)
  4. Scheduled maintenance
  5. Brake shoes/pads
  6. Brake discs/rotors/drums
  7. Air filter
  8. Other collision, paint or body repairs
  9. Major/minor paint work
  10. Wiper blades

Coming to market for delayed vehicle service and repairs

For those households that plan on having the delayed service/repair performed on their vehicle, their time to market is shown, below, in aggregate, by region of the country.  In total, 45.8% plan to come to market within two months. However, that changes slightly by region.  52.3% of New Englanders plan to be in market within two months compared to 41.1% in the Pacific region.

Why vehicle maintenance was delayed

Historically, the top three reasons for consumers delaying maintenance has not changed position.  However, there were significantly more “other reasons.” 59% of the “other reasons” cited in the study were related to the pandemic, shelter-in place orders, stores/shops being closed, etc.

Unemployment, miles driven, consumer confidence and other factors affect how consumers behave when making choices about maintaining their vehicles. As 2020 moves forward, IMR stated it will continue to monitor changes in delayed maintenance, the consumer demographics most effected as well as monitor price sensitivity as well as DIY intention.

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