Forget New Cars, Americans Can’t Even Afford Repairs

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — In this current economic crisis, it should come as no surprise that Americans aren’t in the market for a new car, but according to AAA, many owners can’t afford the necessary repairs on the cars they own either.

A new survey from the automotive group found that one in four American drivers could not pay for a car repair of $2,000 if faced with one today, while one in eight would be unable to pay for a repair bill of $1,000.

AAA also found that more than half of American drivers also said they are holding on to their older vehicles because they don’t want the financial burden of a new one (which is unfortunate considering some experts believe car prices and interest rates will remain low). 

Additionally, a quarter of drivers said they have neglected repairs and maintenance on their vehicles in the past 12 months due to the economic woes.

“Economic conditions have taken their toll on many Americans, resulting in them neglecting their cars and leaving them at increased risk for very expensive repair bills,” Marshall L. Doney, AAA’s vice president of automotive and financial services, said in a press release. “Many Americans rely on their cars for their livelihood and losing access to them could be financially devastating during an already troubling economic time.”

AAA’s findings are in line with what other studies have revealed about what’s in (or not in) our bank accounts. In May, the National Bureau of Economic Research discovered that a majority of Americans would be hard pressed to come up with $2,000 on short notice.

This lack of funds can be problematic, since car repairs with that price tag can pop up unexpectedly. AAA said that while repair costs can vary greatly by make, model and type of repair, a broken transmission can set car owners back $2,000 to $4,000, while an engine repair can exceed $5,000. Major brake repairs can cost between $350 and $1,000, and a new set of tires can cost anywhere from $300 to more than $1,000.

According to the survey, while 38% of American drivers could pay for a $2,000 repair bill with funds in a savings account, 20% would need to pay with their credit cards. Another 11% said they would have to borrow money from their friends, family, retirement or home equity loan to pay for a the repair.

“It’s important for drivers to not only continue to maintain their vehicles, but also have a financial emergency plan in place should they be faced with a sudden unexpected auto repair bill,” Doney said.

Is your old jalopy a big mess? MainStreet found 10 ways you can save on car repairs.

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