Many Vehicle Owners Skip Maintenance, Studies Say

by Aaron Turpen

Consumer surveys and after-sale studies are showing that many vehicle owners–as many as 25 percent or more–skip recommended service intervals. Nearly all vehicle owners surveyed in the last year have delayed routine maintenance past recommended intervals for various reasons. Could this explain some of the jalopies seen on the road lately?

The latest study is a OnePoll survey commissioned by Hyundai. It shows that over the past twelve months, one in four (25 percent) of drivers haven’t had any routine maintenance performed on their vehicle. Given the pandemic, that could be explainable, as the rest of the survey focused on what roadblocks might be stopping those owners from having service done and options for remedying that. Four out of five, for example, would like to know ahead of time what kind of health precautions the shop takes to protect customers and employees and most would like hands-free/touchless transaction options or a vehicle pickup/dropoff service.

Some other interesting results from the OnePoll/Hyundai survey were that the average person drives over 7,400 miles before getting an oil change–well beyond the industry average interval of 5,000 miles. Nearly half of those 2,000 people surveyed (47 percent) have been late or missed an event due to a vehicle breakdown. Most of the things missed were work (about half), a party/celebration (a third), or a casual get-together with friends (another third). Despite all of these missed appointments, maintenance intervals, and being late for work, though, nearly all vehicle owners surveyed still said they were “taking good care” of their vehicles. Which may offer a whole different avenue for research into people’s delusions.

The latest OnePoll survey follows on several others that have been conducted in the past. A survey produced in 2019 showed that 1 in 7 drivers ignore check engine lights routinely. Research firm Automotive Research conducts industry surveys regularly. Their latest shows that 7.9 percent of vehicle owners admit to delaying routine maintenance and the largest portion of those doing the delaying are in the “millennial” age category. Most cite not having time or prohibitive costs as their reasons for skipping maintenance. The mix of used versus new car owners in the maintenance skipping was about even, though used car owners are slightly more likely to delay maintenance intervals, according to this survey.

While the Automotive Research survey is more complimentary to vehicle owners than the OnePoll survey was, the AR survey does shed light on what automakers can do to solve the maintenance skipping. Put simply, if the service is included in the vehicle’s ownership without additional cost and if the service can be done hands-free (pickup/delivery or similar options), vehicle owners are far more likely to get their maintenance done on time. For automakers, this boosts their overall reliability ratings with the various groups who track those things and that, in turn, boosts overall sales. Nearly all new vehicle buyers list a perception of reliability as a top five reason for a vehicle purchase decision.

Currently, there are eleven vehicle brands offering free maintenance for a year or more after purchase, according to a Torque News article found here. Of those, most offer three years of complimentary service with a new vehicle purchase. A few offer concierge service (pickup/dropoff), but those are mostly premium/luxury brands.

Whatever the reasons, there is no real excuse for skipping vehicle maintenance. With so many things that could go wrong and with many vehicles having warranties that require routine maintenance to maintain the coverage, it’s imperative that maintenance be done.

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