Dick Lovett

MOTs and Auto Anxiety: The Phenomenon Affecting Millions in the UK

Posted on 27th May 2022

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Do you dread the day you have to take your car for an MOT? The week leading up to the fateful day, full of berating yourself for braking too hard that one time, and wishing you’d booked a service earlier in the year ‘just to be safe’?

Don’t worry – you are not alone.

Some call it ‘MOT Anxiety’ whilst others refer to the familiar feeling as ‘Auto Anxiety’. This newly coined term is helping people across the UK to express that sinking feeling you get when you either suspect there might be something wrong with your car in the run-up to its yearly MOT, or you don’t completely understand the value of services you’re paying for when you take your vehicle in to be repaired.

Car repairs or annual maintenance can be a stressful time; whether that be due to the costs associated with keeping your vehicle running, or understanding the inner mechanics. In fact, 1 in 3 people we surveyed told us that they find car garages intimidating.

So, in a bid to discover how prominent this anxiety is across the country, we at Dick Lovett surveyed the UK public to find out how many people suffer from ‘Auto Anxiety’, what the main causes are, and the challenges we face in overcoming this.

Auto Anxiety Across the UK

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Of over 2,000 people surveyed, a shocking 35% claimed that they dislike going to the car garage on their own, with 31% of people opting to take someone with them when they need to go.

The ‘Auto Anxiety’ capital of the UK is, in fact, Liverpool with over half (52%) of people surveyed admitting to feeling anxious when they visit a car garage. 1.74 billion were travelled on roads in Liverpool in 2019 by over 172,000 registered vehicles, and along with our survey data, it could be suggested that just over 89,440 car owners are experiencing ‘Auto Anxiety’ in Liverpool.

This is closely followed by Newcastle (45%), and Belfast (44%). The city with the least people feeling anxiety around car garages is Brighton with only 1 in 5 people feeling apprehensive, closely followed by Plymouth at 24%. 

Our study also revealed that while a lot of people are concerned about visiting the facilities on their own, only 27% will get a second opinion, including visiting another garage or taking an expert with them to an appointment.

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Feeling ‘Auto Anxiety’ can lead to not wanting to visit the garage, or even delaying essential maintenance and specific repairs through fear of being made uncomfortable. In fact, 17% of people have actually delayed getting an MOT or service due to the anxiety associated with it. 

With this in mind, we wanted to find out which generation is the most careful with their vehicles, and which are more likely to leave it to chance to avoid feeling anxious. Overall, our study shows that Millennials (aged 24-42) are the most likely to avoid dealing with a mechanical issue and delay getting an MOT or service due to feeling uneasy.

In contrast, The Silent Generation (aged 74+) are the most ‘auto responsible’ with no more than 1 in 10 people agreeing to any of the above statements. Results found that they are also more likely to Google a question compared to ignoring warning lights or delaying an MOT. 

It seems that Gen Z and Millennials are turning to Google as the new auto repair advice service - does this show a change in the future of car maintenance, or could this just be the second opinion people desire to relieve the anxiety of the possibility of being overcharged?

So, What Exactly Makes People Feel Uncomfortable When Visiting Car Garages?

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Alongside gaining an understanding of how prominent ‘Auto Anxiety’ is, we also wanted to find out what it was exactly about car garages that really made people feel uncomfortable.

The reason that came in the top spot was people fearing that they won’t be able to afford the repairs needed (41%). Members of the public feeling that the environment is intimidating claimed second place, alongside feelings of anxiety when at the mechanics with over a third of people admitting to both (38%).

These answers were closely followed by 1 in 4 people sharing that bad experiences in the past now make them feel less comfortable when visiting a garage. Shockingly, 1 in 3 people also told us that they believe they had been overcharged on previous occasions.

The Pressure of Auto Anxiety

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Gender stereotypes are a common theme throughout the automotive industry, and some notable statistics in our study confirm that. Almost 50% of women we surveyed (44%) have felt uncomfortable visiting a car garage simply because of their gender, and a shocking 34% of women feel that they may have been overcharged for a car repair due to their gender.

Female mechanics account for just 10% of the mechanical workers in the UK, though the current figure has risen 125% since 2011. Our study reveals that 40% of women would trust a car garage more if there were more female mechanics.

At the other end of the spectrum, an enormous 45% of men we surveyed told us that people expect them to know about car mechanics purely based on their gender, with most agreeing that this pressure and expectation can lead to increased anxiety if you don’t have the knowledge, interest or experience. To explore this further, we identified that 1 in 5 men do their own car repairs at home to avoid a garage, and 31% of men would like to learn more about cars to ease any nervousness.

During our study, we also asked both men and women whether alternative methods of having your MOT performed or car repaired would be preferable. Firstly, we asked if people would feel more comfortable if a mechanic came out to visit you at your house to look at your car, and 31% agreed. Secondly, if people would feel more comfortable if the mechanic came and picked up the car and took it back to the garage, where 32% of people agreed.

Overall our study shows that ‘Auto Anxiety’ is something that a large proportion of the UK experience, and there is a lot that can be done to help ease the anxiety and worries. Looking to the future of car repairs, is there going to be a rise in online services? Our study finds that the demand is becoming increasingly popular with younger generations, with almost 40% of Gen Z claiming to search online for answers instead of visiting a garage.

If you are looking to learn more about caring for your car there are lots you can research, including looking after the interior, washing correctly or even understanding the damage some roads can do. Alternatively, you can find your friendly local servicing and repair dealership here.  

Methodology

The research was conducted by Censuswide with 2,001 general consumers (nat rep) aged 18+ between 27.04.22 to 29.04.22. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which are based on the ESOMAR principles.

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