Survey Reveals Car Repair Trends During the Pandemic

by Richard Counihan

COVID-19 has disrupted how consumers interact with businesses in several industries, and auto dealerships are no exception. The industry has had to adapt to how customers get repairs and shop for cars.

With economic uncertainty looming, car owners are opting to make repairs to current vehicles now more than ever, both to keep it running for longer as well as increase the trade in value. Though fewer people are heading into work or school during the pandemic, cars are still being driven because people are avoiding public and mass transportation in favor of road vehicles. 

Bottom line: People still need reliable transportation during a major public health emergency. How they prioritize their auto-related purchases — new or used vehicles, repairs, maintenance, accessories — continues to evolve. Similarly, dealerships need to evolve to be strategic and agile in communicating with their customers because of nerves associated with their health. 

To get a better picture of consumer habits around vehicle repairs, DigniFi recently surveyed 401 dealerships and auto repair shops across the country. The survey revealed some insights that can give auto marketers a new perspective on customers. Highlights include:

  • 57.6% of dealerships and repair shops say customers are deferring car maintenance because of the pandemic 
  • 60.8% of dealerships report more customers need financing due to COVID-19
  • Dealerships and auto repair shops indicate a 62.3% increase in car maintenance in areas where shelter-in-place has been lifted


Auto repair shops and dealerships shared some specific insights about customer behavior during the pandemic. The survey isolated five particular trends, which include:


  • Financial hardship is big on people's minds  — "A lot of customers are holding off doing repairs or maintenance due to being furloughed."
  • There are fewer collisions because there are fewer people on the road – "I deal with collision. Fewer vehicles on the roads mean fewer accidents. Also, with fewer tourists, fewer rental cars to repair. Business has dropped noticeably."
  • Customers need to know that a shop has clear safety protocols – "Customers are much more concerned about COVID-19 cleaning processes and PPE while at the shop."
  • People aren't using their cars as much, which leads to maintenance issues – "We've noticed more minor repairs, probably from cars just sitting and more issues like battery failure due to vehicles not being driven as much."
  • Consumers are reassessing when to get repairs  — "Routine maintenance is up. However, they appear to be putting off the larger repairs, even tires."

Health officials have been warning of a possible surge in COVID-19 cases this winter, with local authorities loosening restrictions under public and political pressure to return to normal as the holidays approach. With more people gathering indoors, experts anticipate a spike in cases. All of this might lead to local or even statewide lockdowns designed to curb the number of cases that might overwhelm hospitals. If that happens, dealerships and auto repair shops will have to be agile enough to work with customers on their own terms, providing safe experiences, reliable services, and multiple financing options. Repair shops are going to continue to have a steady stream of business, and operators should be prepared for customers' current financial challenges.




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