About 40 percent of respondents to a recent Consumer Reports (CR) poll said they are postponing car maintenance or repairs on their primary vehicle.
Those in lower-income households were more likely to delay necessary work, and the youngest drivers, aged 18 to 34, were more likely to delay work on wear items, such as brake pads or tires, according to the survey.
Survey results also showed that older drivers, residents of western states and lower-income vehicle owners go the longest before replacing their vehicles.
Many of the respondents bought their cars used and have owned them for five years with the intent to hold onto that vehicle for another five, according to the phone survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center involving 1,699 adults who owned at least one vehicle.
Forty-four percent of those who deferred work in the past year admitted that they felt the value, safety or reliability of the vehicle would suffer, with some saying the car was becoming an embarrassment, according to CR.
Among those surveyed, the types of non-warranty work most commonly postponed were minor manufacturer-recommended scheduled service (22 percent) followed by wear items (17 percent) and body or other exterior damage (15 percent). Interviewees stated that a major repair bill, costing an average of about $2,000, would become a serious financial burden.
Respondents said they had a lot of faith in their chosen repair shops, with 37 percent using independent repair shops, 30 percent choosing car dealerships and 11 percent repair chains.
CR said with the age of vehicles on the road averaging nine years, and given the tough economy, motorists are driven primarily to replace an existing vehicle because of poor reliability (82 percent), safety concerns (67 percent) or repair costs (47 percent).
Other factors respondents cited as very important in their decision were: vehicle no longer meets their needs (41 percent); poor fuel economy (35 percent); uncomfortable (27 percent); outdated technology (10 percent); and being bored with the styling (6 percent).