Cutting back on car servicing

A fifth of drivers neglect their cars according to new survey

A fifth of drivers neglect their cars according to new survey

A fifth of drivers neglect their cars according to new survey

A fifth of drivers in the UK are storing up potentially costly car repairs by cutting back or not having their car serviced, according to the AA.

An AA/Populus survey* of 21,510 AA members found that eight per cent do not get their car serviced at all, only fixing faults as they arise; and a further 12 per cent have either put off or missed a service to save money. In addition, around a third (30%) potentially miss important service items by opting for a ‘standard’ annual service.

  • 8% of drivers don’t service their car at all; and 12% have delayed or missed a service
  • Drivers in Wales and South-west (9%) most likely to forgo car servicing
  • Regular servicing helps prevent breakdowns and maintain car’s value


Respondents in Wales and the South-west (9%) were most likely to gamble on not having their car serviced and the Welsh (16%) also came top for either delaying or missing a service.

Drivers in Northern Ireland are the most conscientious at keeping their car properly serviced (54%) closely followed by the Scots and those in the North-east (53%).

Age and gender

Women potentially put themselves at greater risk of a car breakdown with only 42 per cent heeding the manufacturer’s servicing schedule compared to more than half of men (54%); and not ever getting it serviced (10% vs 7%). Unsurprisingly, young (18-24yrs) drivers most feel the pinch with almost one-in-five (19%) never servicing their car.

Survey response - car servicing

18% – Car still covered by a manufacturer’s warranty and serviced according to its schedule

32% – Car out of warranty but still serviced according to manufacturer’s schedule

30% – Car out of warranty and annual ‘full’ service only

5% – Car out of warranty and service interval stretched a little (0-3 months)

4% – Car out of warranty and service interval stretched a lot (3-6 months)

3% – Car out of warranty and completely missed a service

8% – Car not serviced – faults fixed when they occur 

Getting a professional to check over your car can identify minor defects before they become more serious, expensive ones

Tony Rich, AA patrol of the year

Preventing breakdowns

Tony Rich, AA patrol of the year, says: “Getting a professional to check over your car can identify minor defects before they become more serious, expensive ones.

“There’s more to servicing a car than just renewing the oil and filters once a year and it’s important to pay attention to the manufacturer’s schedule to ensure that things like coolant or the timing belt are renewed at the right time – it costs £270 on average at an independent garage to have the timing belt changed, compared to around £3,000 for a replacement engine if it fails.”

AA figures show that up to half of all car breakdowns are preventable through proper servicing and maintenance. A full service history also helps the resale value of the car.

Motoring scrimpers

The research also looked at other ways drivers have trimmed car maintenance costs in the past two years.

Close to a third (30%) of respondents have changed to a cheaper garage for servicing; and around half (47%) have neglected car repairs, bodywork damage or windscreen chips.

Drivers in the North-east, Yorkshire and Humberside and West Midlands (32%) came top for switching garages; and, perhaps unsurprisingly given its crowded streets, more than half (54%) of Londoners put off minor repairs and bodywork damage.


Tyres appear to be considered an easy way of saving the pennies. Almost a quarter (23%) have switched to budget brands; a further 13 per cent have let tyres wear down to the legal limit rather than change at a more conservative 2mm or more tread; and one-in-twenty (5%) have bought part-worn rather than new tyres.

Gender differences

Although they are more likely to ignore minor repairs and cosmetic damage, women put greater value on tyres than men. They are less likely to switch to budget brands (21% vs 24%) or let them wear down to the legal minimum (9% vs 14%).

However, men are more likely to pick up the spanners for some DIY servicing (11% vs 6%).

Survey response - cutting maintenance costs in last two years

30% – Changed to a cheaper garage for car servicing eg. main dealer to independent

30% – Neglected bodywork chips or other damage

23% – Bought budget rather than premium-brand tyres

18% – Bought non-original car parts

13% – Let tyres wear down to legal limit rather than change at 2mm or more tread

9% – Serviced the car myself rather than at garage

9% – Put off car repairs or maintenance eg. minor accident damage, replacing blown bulbs or wiper blades

8% – Neglected windscreen chips/cracks

5% – Bought part-worn rather than new tyres

4% – Bought lower-grade engine oil for top-ups

36% – None of these

A necessity not a luxury

Tony Rich says: “Cars are a necessity, not a luxury, for many people, so it’s a concern that many are forced to cut corners to keep themselves mobile.

“The trouble is that cars are very complex so sooner or later your luck will run out. Neglecting your car not only risks a breakdown but also potentially compromises its safety – it’s a gamble too far.”

(19 June 2013)

* Source: Populus interviewed 21,510 adults aged 18+ on The AA/Populus online panel between 15-19 April 2013. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.