Fewer over 50s are doing basic maintenance on their own cars than ever before, according to Saga’s survey. Instead the majority are paying mechanics to do simple jobs. So who or what’s to blame?
As someone not a million miles away from the big five-o, I’m hugely disappointed to hear that older people are giving up on doing their own basic car maintenance.
That’s the verdict of Saga’s analysis – its survey of 9,000 customers found that the number of over 50s doing car maintenance has dropped from 17% to 10% in the past five years. That’s 77% of older drivers getting garages to do minor work, such as replacing a battery or changing an oil filter.
So, I may be in a minority, but I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty repairing the constant niggles that plague my four-year-old Renault Modus. As a single parent with a young family, I found it virtually impossible to do work on my car without a garage or driveway to do it on. Instead, I had to do it on the roadside, which just isn’t safe.
However, when the car got a puncture last year, I enlisted the help of my 12-year-old son to help remove the wheel nuts and fit the spare tyre. It gave him a huge sense of achievement that he’d be able to do what – to him – had seemed like a daunting task.
And now that my children are older I’m doing lots more car DIY. In fact, a Haynes manual for the Renault is on my next birthday list.
Paying for simple car maintenance jobs
It seems very wrong – especially now that the driving test includes a section on car maintenance – to waste money paying a garage to do simple things like replace a bulb or battery. DIY also gives the car owner a sense of pride. Perhaps this would mean you’d be more likely to actually notice when a bulb blows or a tyre’s tread gets lower, resulting in safer, more roadworthy cars.
My colleague Rob Hull has argued that modern car design has put car maintenance out of reach for most people. And while I agree that many of the electrical units fitted to modern cars are too complex for a DIY-er to attempt, there are still lots of jobs we can and should be doing.
If we do take on basic car maintenance ourselves, then we’d have the right to demand car makers to make engine bays more accessible, instead of covering them in plastic jackets. And we would be able to rely less on car mechanics to fix many tiny problems, with car servicing being one of the most complained about things by Which? members. Surely doing it ourselves would give us less cause to complain!