April 21, 2011, 1:14 PM

More consumers turn to the web for auto repair information

The weak economy is driving consumers to make their own repairs and price shop.

Internet Retailer
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U.S. Auto Parts runs AutoMD.com, a repair information site.

The wider availability of online auto repair information, combined with the struggling economy, is leading more consumers to buy parts and attempt their own vehicle repairs, according to a survey from AutoMD.com. Consumers also are using online repair costs estimates to save money when they go to repair shops.

Greater access to online repair information, such as pricing data and how-to guides, is making car owners feel more confident about auto repair compared with a year ago, the AutoMD.com Online Repair Information Report found. The report is based on a series of online surveys conducted among 3,000 car owners in the fourth quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011.

Nearly half (48.7%) of those responding to the survey said they are more likely to do their own auto repairs today than a year ago, with nearly 31% of those who usually go to a repair shop saying they are more likely to do their own repairs this year than last.

When respondents were asked why they are more likely to fix their own vehicles, 59% cited the combination of the greater availability of online repair information and the weak economy, according to AutoMD.com, a subsidiary of U.S. Auto Parts Network, No. 91 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

When asked how the economic challenges of the past two years affected their approach to car repair, 38% said they’re now more like to perform research online about repairs and pricing, while 35% said online research makes them smarter about car repairs.

Between January 2010 and February 2011 more than 3.5 million consumers have visited AutoMD.com to seek help with vehicle repair issues, the company reports. Nearly a half million viewed “how-to” repair guides, nearly a million sought “fair cost” estimates for auto repairs and nearly 2 million checked technical service bulletins and recall information.

In addition to auto repair information, AutoMD.com provides state-by-state listings of 400,000 AutoMD-approved repair shops. Consumers can contact individual shops and have auto repair estimates returned by e-mail.

The site also features auto repair videos.

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