Shop owners: More car owners squeezing out extra miles

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Ray Dodge of No Hassle Muffler and Auto Service replaces a valve cover gasket Monday on an 1996 Plymouth Neon.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Local auto service and repair shops operators said business is up as vehicle owners opt to repair and maintain their rides rather than spend money on another car.

John Kuchta, who co-owns No Hassle Muffler and Auto Service with his cousin Cliff Kuchta, said he has seen job orders increase in the last two months. The Kuchtas have owned and operated the shop for 20 years.

“You hear it all the time, ‘I can’t afford a new (car), I want to keep the old one going,’” Kuchta said. “They don’t want to have a monthly car payment so they’ll pay $1,200 to $1,500 to do their cars and pay that in a couple of weeks instead of having to pay $500 to $600 a month to pay for a new car.”

With a slow economy and tight lending market, John Kuchta said customers have told him they are putting money aside for car maintenance instead of buying a new car.

According to a Department of Commerce report, vehicle sales in the country have fallen this year from $75 million in January to $58 million in November. Last year’s monthly numbers averaged roughly $77 million.

John Kuchta said the vehicles coming to his garage average 100,000 miles or are at least three years old, the time average vehicle owners trade in their cars.

He said orders vary from regular maintenance jobs to installing new engines – anything that keeps owners keeping their vehicles a little longer.

Last December the shop performed 104 work orders. Midway through this December, that number is 80, said John Kuchta.

Cliff Kuchta said the costs of work orders have gone up by 24 percent because vehicle owners are choosing more maintenance options.

Richard Mares, owner of Richard’s Auto Service, said he has seen new faces come to his shop in the last two weeks. He said vehicle owners want to make their vehicles last at least one more year, with hopes the economy stabilizes by then.