DIFM Storms Back from COVID Downturn

For decades, the Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) market steadily expanded its share of the car and light truck aftermarket product volume in the U.S. From less than 75 percent of light vehicle product sales in 2000, the DIFM market surged past an 80 percent product share over the next 19 years.

However, DIFM product growth stopped abruptly with the 2020 onslaught of COVID-19.

The sudden rise in Do-It-Yourself (DIY) work during 2020 and the corresponding decline of the DIFM market share were two of the most dramatic aftermarket consequences of COVID-19. However, the past two years have seen the situation change again, with DIFM product sales sharply rebounding from their 2020 decline. 

DIFM Rules the Aftermarket

For more than 25 years, before COVID-19, the Do-It-Yourself market steadily expanded its share of car and light truck aftermarket product volume. The long-term DIFM aftermarket growth has been driven by four forces: the aging U.S. population, the falling costs and increasing convenience of many DIFM jobs, growing vehicle complexity and foreign nameplates increased share of aftermarket product sales.

Older Consumers Prefer DIFM Repair

Traditionally, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) automotive work is performed most frequently by consumers under 40 years old, with saving money being the primary reason for DIY work. Older Americans have found they can save much more money by conducting DIY home improvement jobs than automotive DIY work.

Accordingly, Do-It-Yourself automotive work has declined significantly among older Americans, as they chose to have technicians install products rather than do the work themselves.  

Lower DIFM Prices & Greater Convenience

Many common automotive repairs, such as oil changes and light vehicle repairs, can quickly and economically be purchased at Quick Lubes and Quick Service lanes. The money that can be saved by doing these DIY jobs has declined in recent years, and it has become much more convenient to have these repairs performed at specialty outlets.

Vehicle Complexity

The growing complexity of many vehicle repairs has caused DIFM share to increase.

Today, many repairs call for sophisticated tools and equipment, in-depth mechanical knowledge and in-depth diagnostics. A growing share of automotive repairs are too complex for many consumers to perform.

In addition, many younger consumers do not have the interest in vehicles that their parents did and have not acquired the knowledge necessary to perform many automotive repairs.

Foreign Vehicle Growth

The growth of foreign vehicles has increased DIFM work for several reasons.

Aftermarket products for many foreign vehicles are not as easily obtained at the retail level by DIYers as comparable products for domestic nameplates. In addition, special tools are often required to work on foreign vehicles. These and other factors have boosted the DIFM share of foreign nameplate repair.

COVID-19 Hits the Aftermarket

The impact of COVID-19 on the mix of DIFM and DIY repair in the U.S. was dramatic. The sudden downturn in driving and other factors reduced the rate of automotive repair in 2020, most of which had been performed in the DIFM sector during 2019.

At the same time, Government “stimulus checks” put extra money into the pockets of millions of Americans and many purchased accessories for their vehicles, which have much higher rates of DIY installation than replacement parts.

DIY Soars in 2020

The percentage of automotive work performed by DIYers shot up dramatically in 2020, along with the DIY product volume. DIY buying soared by nearly 10 percent in 2020. At the same time, DIFM volume plunged by more than $11 billion at user-price.

However, the impact of COVID-19 did not lessen the underlying forces that had been driving up DIFM repair for decades. Accordingly, in 2021 and 2022, as the aftermarket rebounded from the 2020 downturn, DIFM work soared in dollar volume and as a share of automotive repair.

DIFM Share of Growth

Do-It-For-Me automotive repair generated most of the total increase in aftermarket product volume between 2000 and 2012. From 2012 to 2019, the DIFM volume added more than $18 billion, over 90 percent of the total growth of aftermarket products during these years.

Growth Share During 2021-2022 Recovery

The DIFM market soared during the rapid rebound of aftermarket product volume in 2021 and 2022. During these two years, DIFM product volume generated over 85 percent of total light vehicle aftermarket product growth.

Future DIFM Growth

Lang Marketing projects that the DIFM market will continue to gain strength during 2023 through 2025 as the underlying factors leading to DIFM growth before COVID-19 will remain robust through 2025.

Six Major Takeaways

  For more than 25 years, before COVID-19, the Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) market steadily expanded its share of car and light truck aftermarket product volume in the U.S. That growth stopped abruptly in 2020 with the onslaught of COVID-19.

  DIFM growth in the U.S. has been driven by four major forces: the aging U.S. population, the falling cost and increasing convenience of many common DIFM repair jobs, growing vehicle complexity, and the foreign nameplates increased aftermarket product share.

  The percentage of automotive work conducted by DIYers shot up dramatically in 2020, prompted by the Government’s distribution of millions of stimulus checks, which put extra money in the pockets of many Americans, many of whom chose to purchase accessories for their vehicles, which have a high rate of DIY installations.

  COVID-19 did not lessen the underlying forces that had been driving-up DIFM volume for 25 years. Accordingly, the aftermarket rebound during 2021 and 2022 was driven by a surge in DIFM dollar volume and product share.

  Lang Marketing projects that the DIFM market will continue to expand from 2023 to 2025, surpassing the share of DIFM work before the onslaught of COVID-19 in 2020.

  For complete details of the growth of DIFM work before 2020, the impact of COVID-19 on DIFM work in 2020 and the rebound in DIY work during 2021 and 2022, see the just-released 2024 Lang Aftermarket Annual. 

Want more? Check out the September 2023 issue of AASP-MN News!