You would think that servicing is something best left to the experts, time to hand in the keys and let someone else worry about what is happening under the bonnet. However, in fact you can do a lot to prepare for a service that will help you save more than a few pounds.
This is especially true if you use a franchise-holding garage with one of the big manufacturers. Its not the garages fault, they must make their money where they can and most of the profit on what cars they can sell is passed on up the chain. That means their main money is made from servicing and parts.
Screen wash at champagne prices
You don’t have to be an expert in motoring to know that charging 5 for screen wash is over the odds. Take a good look at your next servicing bill something to be encouraged in any case and you may get some unpleasant surprises.
Anything that can be replaced, they will replace, and charge what they feel they can get away with for it too. Going in for your service without topping up everything you can is asking for trouble.
You need safe tyres, of course, but if you leave it down to the garage that does your service you may well find that the tiniest amount of tread wear is considered to have rendered the tyre unusable. Its very rare that youll be charged a good price for the replacement either, its bound to be a top name brand, which is fair enough, and carry a hefty mark up too.
Independents when possible
One way to avoid these expensive pitfalls is to use an independent garage. That should be OK with your warranty, but not always. If you do want to travel this route then check all the small print in your warranty very carefully and don’t do anything that might jeopardize it. If in doubt, call your manufacturers call centre and ask and if you want to be sure, make sure you get something in writing.
There is a middle way, and its one that’s really worth putting a little effort in to get the best of both worlds; the big company safety of the franchise garage without some of the costs. The answer is to go to a franchised garage, but supply your own parts. This is something you’ll need to check out with the garage in advance, but most of them don’t mind. You may find that you have to use an approved supplier to meet the requirements of the warranty, but they are the experts and can let you know and you will still save a decent amount of money if this is the case.
Well-informed consumers save money
A point you should always make with your garage, whatever youre doing, is to make it very clear that you want to be consulted before any work goes ahead. You dont have to approve everything that is suggested by any means, and too many of us are prepared to shake our heads at the bill and put it down to our own ignorance. A well-informed consumer will always get the best deal.
Of course, you could always forget about maintenance altogether by getting a car leasing deal with servicing included.
Once you’re out of warranty, you’re free to shop around and you should. The motorcodes website is a good guide and the internet has made word-of-mouth recommendations accessible to everyone. Check that any garage you use is approved by the Office of Fair Trading.
Once you go independent, you’ll soon reap the financial rewards. In fact, because of their know-how and contacts, most independent garages can source parts more cheaply than you’ll ever be able to, so you can hand the whole thing over to them. Car lease deals may also contain restrictions on servicing, so check the small print.
As the recession bites, research shows that drivers are risking higher long-term bills and even driving a dangerous car by skipping services. That’s not a good idea, but by getting a little smart, you can take some of the financial pain out of your regular garage trips.