Americans are delaying auto repairs, not because they don’t need them

US auto dealers performed fewer auto repairs and earned less money in July than in June. This is a surprise, and comes after several months in which the Americans made fewer repairs but spent more on them.

The figures come from a Cox Automotive analysis of Xtime metrics, which track repairs at car dealerships. (Cox Automotive is the parent company of Kelley Blue Book.)

The volume of repair orders fell 6% in July. This continues an existing trend that lasted most of 2022.

What’s new is that the average cost of repairs has also gone down, by around $4. This figure is now 10.5% lower than it was a year ago.

Why? Cox Automotive chief economist Jonathan Smoke says the problem is not a lack of demand for repairs, but the limited ability to carry them out.

“Shortages of technicians are limiting capacity and, at the same time, ongoing supply chain issues are impacting the delivery of some parts,” Smoke said. This creates wait times for drivers who need repairs.

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Today’s cars last longer than ever. The average car on American roads is now 12.2 years, but they are also more complex and expensive to repair. Windshield replacement, for example, is a reasonably affordable repair when windshields are single glass. But some of today’s windshields, equipped with rain sensors and reflectors for head-up displays, can cost upwards of $1,500 to repair.

That is, if a dealership has the parts and labor to fix it. “In talking to dealers,” Smoke says, “I’m hearing that this unexpected drop in service appointments…is likely related to their own capacity and labor issues.

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Even getting a car ready to go while yours is in the store has become difficult, he says. “This can create an additional inconvenience. Consumers can delay service and repair appointments, hoping that the situation will improve in the future.

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