Bad Economy, Good Business for Auto Repair Industry

Bad Economy, Good Business for Auto Repair Industry
RICHLAND --When was the last time you brought your car into the shop?

If your car has a blown gasket, worn brake pads, or even a dying engine, it's not just your old clunker filling up garages anymore.

These days a shaky economy has drivers opting for fixed on cars they already have. That means car repair companies are cashing in.

"We see everything from basic maintenance to major repair," says Perfection Tire and Auto Repair technician Shaun Maestas.

Maestas explains that people who used to put off normal maintenance are now frequently updating their vehicles, hoping they’ll last longer.

"Couple years ago you wouldn't see a person put $6,000 into an engine when you could put $6,000 on a down payment for a new car," Maestas said.

Many repairs aren't minor either. They often require several days of work and can cost thousands of dollars. One driver recently dropped $2,500 to fix a head gasket on a decade-old car.

"This happens every time we have a recession," Tri-Cities Battery and Auto Repair Technician Douglas Wilson said.

Wilson’s shop has repaired dozens of cars with rumbles, squeaks and rattles -- considered secondary repairs -- as people stretch the miles as far as they can.

"We see a lot of vehicles between 130,000 and 200,000 miles that you wouldn't normally see," Wilson said. "This time, I'm probably going to keep my pick up longer."

“Because of the economy?” we asked.

"Exactly."

Another factor: while dealerships are hoping to get you in the door, many customers with bad credit are struggling to get a loan.

"They're the ones that are going to have a little more trouble. We're seeing us have to work a lot harder to get car deals approved," says Honda Finance Manager Jesse Arriaga.

There's no denying the big boost all this gives auto shops. Sales at Perfection Tire and Auto Repair are already 54 percent higher than this time last year.