The decline in the price of oil – and, therefore, the price of gas at the pump – over the past few months has been nothing short of shocking to those consumers who have assumed it would only go higher in the future. Many Americans have long resigned themselves to more bad news when it comes to anything gas related, but have altered their lifestyles to cope with the additional expense. However, with the current U.S. cost of a gallon of regular gas being, on average, $2.13 compared to $3.31 a year ago, some shifts in the market may occur.
For auto repair shops over the past six years the price of gas has lead to increased business as people put off buying new cars and concentrated instead on keeping their older models on the road and running. In 2013 the average age of vehicles on the road hit an all-time high at 11.4 years. This was an increase of 11 percent over five years. Industry experts believe this number will continue to rise over the next half decade, but at a much slower rate as the auto industry and the economy recovers. For auto parts manufacturers and retailers, this has also been a win.
According to Investor’s Business Daily the market for light vehicle auto care – which includes auto repair – in the United States is expected to reach $254 billion in 2015 and will only continue to grow, even if the price of gasoline remains low or even falls further. This is a function of several factors, including increased long-term performance of more recently manufactured vehicles, technology that allows for easier diagnostics, and the likelihood that Americans will continue driving their older vehicles, at least in the short term.
Auto repair shop managers can expect that the lowered gas prices we are seeing will have at least two consequences for the number of vehicles they can expect in their bays: that Americans will be driving more, and traveling farther away, and that the money they are not spending on gas may be freed up for car maintenance, some of it long delayed. Consumers who both put more miles on their cars and have more money to spend if and when repairs are needed will be seeking out the services of professionals more and doing for themselves less. And that’s good news.