Long wait times at SWFL car repair shops
Jul 13, 2023
CAPE CORAL, Fla — On top of inflation and the high cost of housing, this might be the most expensive time ever to own a car.
And that's causing a traffic jam at Southwest Florida car repair shops.
"We’re super busy, about two weeks behind right now," David Rosario, owner of Leading Edge Auto Care in Cape Coal, says. "I know a lot of shops are even farther out. We’re doing the best we can to get them in, get them fixed and get them back to our customers as quickly as possible."
The same thing is happening at shops all over Southwest Florida and a few things are causing it.
Let's start with the price of a new car.
Edmunds.com says the average price of a new car is up almost 24% in the last three years, and 54% since 2018. The average price is now nearly $48,000.
That means most people will need to get a loan to buy a new car. And with the interest rate hikes, the typical new car rate is 7%. That makes the monthly payment for the average new car $729.
With prices like that, more people are keeping their old cars, instead of buying something new.
"Between the price of rent around here and the price of cars, people are definitely fixing what they have," Rosario says.
In fact, S&P Global Mobility says the average age of a vehicle on US roads is 12.5 years. For sedans, it's 13.6 years. And those cars eventually will have problems and need to be repaired.
But it's not just an increase in older cars or an increase in population that's making the wait so long at Southwest Florida shops. There's also a worker shortage.
"I have 12 lifts here and I only have three guys," Rosario says. "I’m the only service writer right now, I’ve got two other technicians working, but we have more cars than we can handle most days."
He says preventative maintenance is the key to avoiding long waits and expensive repair bills.
"If you can prevent it, that's going to be your best bet."
Rosario says to have a professional change your oil, check your coolant, and flush your transmission fluid.
"People think, 'Oh, my transmission is fine. I don't need to service it.' Of course, you do. No fluid lasts forever," he says.
He suggests following your manufacturer's guidance on checking your brakes, tires, steering, and suspension components.
These things cost money but consider this. AAA says doing maintenanceon an average car cost $1,452 last year. But making a year's worth of payments on a new car costs $8,748.
"You know your vehicle is going to need service," Rosario says. "Service it, before you have to tow it. Tows are more expensive sometimes than your basic oil change and just a vehicle inspection."