Survey: Independent Repair Shops View Vehicle Data Access as Top Issue

Survey: Independent Repair Shops View Vehicle Data Access as Top Issue

Auto Care Association survey shows 84% of independent repair shops view vehicle repair and maintenance data access as the top issue for their business.

The Auto Care Association has released results from a new nationwide survey of repair shops highlighting the challenges that independent repair facilities face when servicing vehicles, often forcing them to turn away business. These new survey findings, the Auto Care Assocation believes, reiterate the immediate need for the bipartisan REPAIR Act, which would ensure that vehicle owners and repairers of their choice have access to the vehicle data, tools, and software required to maintain modern vehicles.

Results indicate:

  • 84% of independent repair shops view vehicle repair and maintenance data access as the top issue for their business, surpassing other timely considerations, like technician recruitment and retention and inflation. 
  • The majority (63%) of independent repair shops experience difficulties making routine repairs on a daily or weekly basis. 
  • Half of independent repair shops (51%) report sending up to five vehicles per month to the dealer due to vehicle data restrictions. 
  • Vehicle data limitations cost independent repair shops an estimated $3.1 billion each year.

“This research sheds new light on the stark reality facing the 273,000 shops and 900,000 technicians in in the United States if Congress fails to take action on federal right to repair legislation,” said Bill Hanvey, president and CEO, Auto Care Association. “Without change, local repair shops will be forced to turn away more and more business, leaving car owners with no choice but to foot outsized bills at the dealership. The REPAIR Act is critically needed to protect America’s vibrant network of local, independent repair shops that offer trusted service, convenience and choice to millions of American drivers during the car repair process.”

Vehicle data restrictions disproportionately hurt small independent repair businesses by making it harder for them to offer certain repair services and parts to their customers – which can leave some car owners with no other option than the dealership for some repairs, as seen in the Auto Care Association’s new survey. This growing trend is particularly concerning when considering that consumers prefer independent repair shops to dealerships for vehicle repairs, according to separate research from Consumer Reports.

These new findings elevate the first-person stories of independent repairers featured in the Auto Care Association’s new video campaign highlighting the impacts of unfair repair restrictions, and builds on growing momentum for federal right to repair legislation to protect independent repair businesses and consumers. Just last fall, the REPAIR Act (H.R. 906), which has 50 bipartisan co-sponsors, unanimously advanced out of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce.

In March, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing how vehicle repair restrictions can “disadvantage” independent repairers relative to dealerships.

The Auto Care Association’s new survey was conducted by Hanover Research, an independent market research firm, from February 1-14, 2024 among 407 individuals who work at independent auto repair shops. The study has a margin of error of 5%.

Read the in-depth research memo here.

NOTE: In a separate, nationwide survey conducted by Babcox Media, independent repair shops reported concerns with vehicle data access at comparable levels. Notably, Babcox Media found that the average amount of labor hours spent on each vehicle ultimately sent to the dealer is two to four hours. This includes the amount of time that an independent repair shop spends trying to resolve the issue before referring the vehicle to the dealer due to data access restrictions — which can leave independent repair shops uncompensated for their labor and time.

To join the Auto Care Association in calling on Congress to take action on the REPAIR Act, visit repairact.com.

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