Although this summer's Cash for Clunkers (CARS) program provided the right kind of push for some owners to replace their guzzling jalopies with new cars, it's probably not so surprising that new-vehicle buyers plan to hold on to their vehicles longer than ever before. So-called "rapid replacers" have backed off on plans to get what's hot almost every year, while a growing number of buyers are keeping vehicles for six years or more. Other families hobble along with second or third vehicles that have well over 100,000 miles.
According to AutoPacific's 2009 New Vehicle Satisfaction survey, conducted this spring, about 59 percent of recent new-car buyers intended to keep their vehicle for four years or more. That's up from just 46 percent four years ago.
Though you'll likely save money by keeping your car longer, you'll be digging in for repairs more regularly. Yet with every repair or scheduled maintenance visit, frugal drivers are left wondering if they paid too much or, for instance, if they should have had their service done at an independent mechanic instead of the dealership.
For great advice on what a repair should cost for your car, in your area, we've found the site RepairPal.com a very useful starting point—and the best of several major ownership/maintenance sites. And earlier this month, RepairPal complemented that by introducing complete pricing information for maintenance.
Now, in addition to specific repairs, RepairPal lets you select a particular scheduled maintenance interval and see the estimated cost of that maintenance visit, broken down into estimated parts and labor cost, along with what's recommended and required then. With simple boxes to check, the estimate can also be updated to reflect additional services—like fluid changes or flushes—that aren't required by the vehicle's maintenance schedule but either might be required due to harder use (as part of a "severe" maintenance schedule) or just suggested by the mechanic. Maintenance intervals up to 150,000 miles are included in the new figures.
As with the repair information on RepairPal, it was compiled by real mechanics and techs and the new maintenance figures are the result of 14 months of research and analysis done by the company.
RepairPal iPhone app
RepairPal also has an excellent iPhone application, which High Gear Media's Robert Dillman recently rated as one of the three best automotive apps for the platform. This iPhone app—providing access to repair and maintenance data plus repair shop reviews and a tow-truck finder—is a must-have, especially for owners hoping to eke a few more years out an aging vehicle.