Why are drivers ditching garages for DIY repairs?

Since the beginning of time UK motorists have moaned about the cost of vehicle repairs. This is none more prevalent than the cash-strapped times we currently find ourselves in.

A recent survey found that more than a third of owners are willing to try carrying out their own repairs rather than a professional do it in order to save money – despite modern vehicles now being far more complex than ever.

Those statistics, compiled by eBay, reveal that last year, along with the 35% of private motorists fixing their cars at home, 34% are also delaying having MOT advisories sorted (a further 10% ignored them).

This was backed up by an East London MOT inspector, who wished to remain anonymous, who told CAT he frequently sees vehicles presented for testing in pretty much the same state as the previous inspection “as if they will have magically repaired themselves”.

Small wonder then that the fail rate has soared from 23% to 37% (for cars, vans and passenger vehicles with up to 12 seats) already for 2024 according to rapidcarcheck.co.uk.

Worst still, a good percentage of private motorists assume that an MOT check constitutes an annual “service”; a point not lost on the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) who told CAT: “While crucial to road safety, vehicle owners should not rely on the MOT alone for vehicle maintenance and they should regularly inspect their vehicles to ensure they are safe to drive all year round.”

The DVSA believes that “a large proportion of MOT failures are likely down to poor maintenance and if vehicles are maintained well, there is a good chance that the MOT pass rate will be higher”.

While fully sympathising with the predicament cash-strapped motorists face, the IGA’s CEO Stuart James regards the current situation of car owners turning to conducting maintenance work themselves “concerning” and warns against attempting certain repairs without proper training or qualifications.

He’s equally worried about the fear of fitting cheap low quality replacement parts, perhaps purchased online, to save further money: “With household budgets tightening, there’s also the worrying prospect of drivers resorting to acquiring parts themselves.

“This presents a significant concern and the IGA emphasises the importance of only obtaining quality-approved parts purchased through reputable garages, especially safety critical components. We urge drivers to engage with professional technicians at reputable garages to address advisory items promptly and avoid putting themselves and others at risk.”

IGA’s head of member services Jon Douglass added: “Our collaboration with the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) involves running educational campaigns to inform consumers about the risks of counterfeit car parts and unqualified repairs. Recently, we shared a video from the IPO demonstrating the significant difference in braking performance between fake and quality-approved BMW brakes.”

This video highlights the importance of choosing reputable garages for vehicle maintenance, says Douglass, who strongly advises workshops not to fit spare parts supplied by customers both for safety and reputation reasons.

Mechanic and proprietor of fixmyrideessex, Kevin Bradley AIMI, couldn’t agree more and only fits components that he sources. “It should be regulated to stop novices touching things they have no idea on,” he said.

The current problem is largely down to the general cost of living crisis. Car ownership has always been the soft underbelly in hard times and there’s never been a golden era of happy motorists enjoying cheap motoring.

A recent chart produced by the RAC Foundation makes this more transparent. Its rolling 10 year Motoring Price Index shows that while motoring costs have indeed risen by just under 50% since 2014, the overall cost of living has soared at least four times as much.

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