Northwest Indiana drivers face some of the highest fuel prices in the country, but according to a new report, they pay among the lowest for car repairs.
In 2011 Indiana ranked as the state with the lowest car repair costs. The average cost for car repairs in the state last year was $283.95, according to CarMD, which analyzed more than 160,000 repairs made on vehicles with “check engine” light problems.
Indiana’s ranking is 15 percent less than the U.S. average ($333.93) and 27 percent less than Wyoming ($389.18), which ranks No. 1 for expensive repairs.
Illinois ranks 19 in the report with an average cost for car repairs at $335.42.
“Motorists in Indiana paid the least in the nation for 'check engine’ light-related car repairs last year, including 18 percent less for parts and 9 percent less for labor than the U.S. average,” said Art Jacobsen, vice president of CarMD. "Indiana is home to several major automotive production plants where parts and expertise are more readily available, which we believe helps keep their costs lower, but we also credit Indiana consumers for being more proactive in repairing their vehicles and heeding warning signs as evidenced by a smaller percentage of severe repairs compared to the rest of the nation.
"Vehicle owners and the automotive repair professionals throughout Indiana are clearly doing their part to quickly and efficiently service vehicles with proper repairs and maintenance," Jackson said.
One local repair shop owner said another reason is that some states, unlike Indiana, require a vehicle inspection every year, which can result in added costs.
The negative of not having that requirement, said Joe Feller, of Valparaiso’s Heinold and Feller, is that if something is not right with the car it may not be getting fixed.
Feller said a lot of states require emission testing statewide, whereas in Indiana it’s only in Lake and Porter counties. Emission testing could lead to the burden of car repair costs.
“I think all of us in this industry are trying to be pretty competitive with our rates when trying to go after the business that’s out there,” Feller said. “So I believe it’s a good time for the consumer. We’re all trying to give a good value and provide good service.”
Another thing that happens sometimes, Feller said, is when people are out of work or struggling in the economy, they might take their cars to someone “who is working out of their garages doing some side repairs.”
“If done right, it saves someone money. But you have to be sure quality is there,” he said.
Some people simply don’t have the money to have their car undergo necessary repairs.
“There’s a pent-up demand that hasn’t been taken care of,” he said.
Feller said what else helps them with their rates is that the regulatory environment is not nearly as bad as Illinois or other areas.
“That helps us as independent dealers and repair facilities in not having to pass those costs off to the consumer,” he said.
CarMD releases its state-by-state car repair data annually in June.