Motorists must look at total servicing cost when comparing independents and main dealers | Advice - Car News May 2022

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17:33 Friday 29 Apr 2022

Drivers should look beyond hourly labour rates when deciding whether to have their car serviced at a main dealer or an independent garage.

That’s according to Sue Robinson, Chief Executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle dealers in the UK.

It’s widely acknowledged that independent garages usually have cheaper labour rates. A survey by automotive service and repair start-up motoreasy, for example, found an average labour rate of £99 for franchised dealers compared with an average of £56 for independent garages.

However, Robinson argues that when it comes to the total cost of having a car serviced, having it done at a franchised dealer is often the same as independent garages.

“Independent garages can take longer to carry out a specific work since they tend to deal with a wider range of brands and may not always have the necessary repair equipment in place,” she said.

Jeremy Yea, Senior Valuations Editor at car pricing business Cap HPI, agreed that it’s important to look at the total work carried out.

He said: “Servicing with an independent garage may be cheaper, but a franchise dealer may offer more services as part of the cost, such as cleaning the vehicle before it is returned and potentially carrying out any essential or even non-essential recall work/software upgrades especially for battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles. An independent may not be able to offer some of these services.”

Some premium car brands like Audi will also offer a free health check* - essentially a visual inspection of your car’s safety-related components to ensure it is safe and road-legal.

It’s also becoming more common to be offered a service plan with a franchised dealer when you buy a new car.

Around 80 per cent of new cars sold by franchised dealers come with a service plan, according to the NFDA.

“A large proportion of consumers opt for service plans to have the reassurance of set monthly fees which remove the burden of large, unexpected costs,” Robinson said.

When it comes to reselling the car, having a fully stamped dealer service history can make the car easier to sell, especially if it’s a premium model.

However, there is no requirement to use a main dealer to preserve a car’s manufacturer warranty, provided the independent garage services or repairs the vehicle in accordance with the manufacturer’s standards and only use manufacturer-approved parts and fluids. This must be documented on an itemised invoice for future warranty claims.

“If the vehicle is still covered by the manufacturer warranty and there were to be any future warranty issues/claims, then the manufacturer will ask for proof to be provided on what serviceable parts were used (genuine or non-genuine), this may even include the grade of oil and some other fluids,” Yea said.

“If any parts or fluids do not comply with the car manufacturer’s parts policy, then the claim could be rejected, or you will only be able to claim a smaller percentage of the overall claim/cost. These factors may affect the resale value of a car.”

*Sometimes we show a link with a * next to it as it can sometimes result in a payment or benefit to the site.

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