03 Mar 2023

Rising cost of living puts car maintenance into reverse

  • Close to half put off essential vehicle repairs to save money during cost-of-living crisis
  • More than one in three say they are worried their car will breakdown due to not being maintained
  • 59% have needed breakdown support, with ‘failure to start’ the top reason for callouts

Around half (49%1) of have admitted to putting off repairs to their vehicles due to the rising cost of living, research2 from Nationwide Building Society shows.

The Nationwide FlexPlus poll of 2,152 vehicle owners reveals more than a third (39%) are worried3 their car will breakdown due to neglect while nearly six in ten (56%) are worried3 how they would afford any repairs if their vehicle had a breakdown.

And while most repairs are non-essential to the safe running of the vehicle, one in five drivers (20%) admitted to putting off potentially essential repairs such as worn brakes (23%), broken or missing window wipers (19%), bald tyres (18%) or cracked window screens (17%).

Vehicle repairs can be costly, with the average owner spending £437 in the last year, with one in 20 (5%) having to spend £1,000 or more. This is on top of costs of running a vehicle such as fuel, insurance and road tax.

These cost pressures mean more than half (54%)4 have started to try and use their vehicle less in a bid to save money. Other ways people have tried to save money include buying cheaper tyres (32%), forgoing breakdown cover (30%), forgoing a service (23%), doing their own repairs (23%) or buying second-hand tyres (22%).

While this may help in the short term, it can be a false economy as it can lead to larger vehicle maintenance bills further down the line and an increased likelihood of the vehicle breaking down. The poll showed that 59 per cent of those surveyed needed breakdown assistance with the top reasons being their vehicle not starting (32%), an electrical fault (18%), needed to change tyre (17%), a red warning light coming on (10%) and their car overheating (9%).

While it’s important for motorists to take steps to maintain their vehicle, one additional way they motorists can avoid a hefty breakdown bill is to obtain reliable breakdown cover. Nationwide’s FlexPlus packaged account offers UK and European breakdown cover provided by the AA.

FlexPlus, which costs £13 a month, is the UK’s top-rated packaged account5, also offering worldwide family travel insurance, worldwide family mobile phone insurance and commission free usage abroad when withdrawing cash or making payments.

The AA backed breakdown cover includes:  

  • Accident Assist - a 24/7 service fronted by AA’s fleet of 2,550 breakdown specialists.
  • Cover for any vehicle the member is driving plus any named driver using their vehicle.
  • Access to the AA’s app, enabling breakdowns to be reported and tracked.
  • Vehicle recovery and replacement vehicle to be arranged by AA.

James Broome, Head of Current Accounts at Nationwide Building Society, said: “As our poll shows, many people are putting off car repairs due to the cost of living – a problem that is demonstrated through one in five people worried about their vehicles breaking down. Keeping on top of car maintenance is a key step to avoiding the nasty surprise of a large one-off expense.  Also having a reliable breakdown cover in place will mean that you won’t be left stranded. Our partnership with the AA forms part of our top-rated FlexPlus packaged account which offers peace of mind for the family across breakdown cover, worldwide travel insurance and worldwide mobile phone insurance for £13 a month.”

 Vicki Butler Henderson, Fifth Gear host and motoring journalist, said: “The most important thing when I drive is to arrive safely at my destination, even if it’s racing fast around a track and ending up exactly in the same spot. From supercars to first cars, it’s vital we give them some TLC because if we look after them, they’ll do the same for us. Small levels of maintenance, such as topping up oil and checking tyre depths will save you bigger bills down the road. And in a time where we’re all feeling the pinch, we can’t really afford to skimp on our cars.”

- Ends   -

Notes to editors

1 Covers respondents who said either they were putting off making non-essential repairs or both essential and non-essential repairs because of the current pressure on household finances.

 2 The research was conducted by Censuswide with (2,152 people who own/whose household owns a vehicle) between 01.02.23 - 03.02.23. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles and are members of The British Polling Council.

3 Includes those who said they were worried or somewhat worried.

4 Includes that those who agree or who somewhat agree.

5 Source: Best packaged bank accounts - Which?