More than 90 percent of South Africans say they are keeping their vehicles for longer due to the current economy, with just over 40 percent saying they are keeping their cars for between five and ten years. These are among the findings in the Automobile Association’s (AA) latest research conducted earlier this year entitled “Going Further”.

“The purpose of the research was to determine if current economic factors are playing a role in vehicle ownership. The findings confirm anecdotal evidence that cars are being kept for longer. Just under 35 percent of people say they are keeping their vehicles for longer than ten years, which is a long lifespan for a vehicle,” says the AA.

Apart from economic reasons, more than 35 percent of respondents say they are also keeping their vehicles longer because newer models are more reliable. According to the data, more than 25 percent of primary vehicles are older than five years, and more than 30 percent are older than ten years.

“These results point to the increased need for better maintenance of vehicles, and for proper insurance. While our results indicate that more than 60 percent of the respondents have insurance, national data points to a much lower rate of 35 percent insurance. If this is indeed the case, there is a cause for concern, as insurance is part of a good maintenance plan for any car,” notes the AA.

Another interesting finding is that just under 50 percent of owners say they pay out of pocket for maintenance costs, with only around 20 percent saying they have maintenance plans for their vehicles. About 20 percent of owners say they actively save and plan for maintenance while around five percent say they don’t plan financially at all for maintenance expenses.

“These results confirm that too many people are relying on their car to never break down and, when it does, they would rather pay out of pocket than have a financial plan – such as a paid maintenance plan – in place. Having a maintenance plan, or service plan – even one which is not sourced from the original dealer – is easy to obtain and budget-friendly,” says David Chard, Managing Director of AA Warranties.

David explains that a service or maintenance plan is, effectively, a savings plan for when problems arise, and is geared solely for the proper maintenance of a vehicle. He says there are some important steps vehicle owners must take to keep their vehicles running for longer. These include:

If you are starting a vehicle from cold, allow it to idle for five minutes for the oil to circulate
Avoid excessive acceleration, turning and braking
Avoid over-revving your vehicle
Attend to warning lights immediately; don’t think these will go away in time, they may indicate serious issues
Regularly check tyre pressure. Do this when you stop to refuel. Also, check your oil when refuelling
Check wheel alignment and balancing every six months, especially after extensive travel
Replace serviceable items (e.g. brake pads, fan belts) according to the service schedule of your vehicle
Request the parts which were replaced during a service to ensure they were in fact replaced
Stick to the servicing schedule of your vehicle; being proactive about your vehicle’s well-being is part of being a responsible car owner
Consider a mechanical warranty to provide ‘medical aid’ cover for your vehicle. Check out AA Warranties at www.aawarranties.co.za for more information

“David provides some good advice, especially as we head towards the end of the year. If you are going on holiday in December you cannot gamble with a vehicle that is not properly serviced or maintained. Apart from the fact that a breakdown could ruin your holiday plans, driving in a vehicle which has not been regularly serviced is dangerous to you and other drivers, and could, in the long run, cost you a whole lot more than just the cost of a service,” concludes the AA.