As with insurance, if you shop around for where you have your car serviced you’ll get the best price. It’s the simple law of supply and demand that not all businesses will charge the same for a job. A garage that is snowed under with work is likely to quote more than one where tumbleweed is blowing through the service bay. Equally, the spotless franchised dealership can cost more than twice the labour rate of the local garage that specialises in your car. The question is: how do you find the best garage for your requirements? Follow our guide to find out.
Main dealer or independent?
Dealerships that are branded with manufacturers’ names are usually the more expensive option. They tend to be in more expensive parts of town, have larger premises and so have higher overheads than independents. However, it is worth getting a quote from one because sometimes they will do good deals if they’re working on an older car. Knowing that independents are cheaper, shop around several garages for quotes. Do bear in mind that franchised dealers are specialist in your type of car while independents may not be.
What’s the best way to get quotes from garages?
The easiest way is to write bullet point items of the jobs you need to have done on the car. Think about the kind of parts you want the garage to use too. Original equipment parts – identical to those the car was built with – are more expensive than pattern parts. Then ring the garages you’ve chosen and ask them to quote. Make sure they all quote for the same job. And check how much experience the garages have with your make and model of car.
Shop around for car servicing: try online
There are various online garage booking services. These vary greatly. Some connect you directly with garages, others get garages to bid for your custom. Having the ability to compare the rates garages charge for jobs is a handy feature. BookMyGarage represents more than 8000 garages across the UK so you’re likely to find at least a couple in your area. It has a function for drivers to rate garages so you can weed out any that don’t pass muster. And there’s the tool that boils things down so you can work out how much the same job at different garages will cost on a like-for-like basis.
Word of mouth
Relying on other people’s experience is the old-fashioned way of judging services by internet ratings. If someone you respect can recommend a good garage, it could save a lot of searching. However, while the service might be good, it won’t necessarily be at the best price. If you want the cheapest price, compare your recommended garage with others you’ve found. If they’re only slight more expensive, ask yourself how much the peace of mind from the recommendation is worth.
Which accreditation schemes are worthwhile?
Just as there are various online garage booking services, so there are a huge variety of garage accreditation schemes. Probably the most respected of these is run by the Motor Ombudsman (formerly known as Motor Codes). It has a garage finder on its website and you’ll know that garages have been vetted beforehand. There is also Trust My Garage, which is part of the Independent Garages Association, which in turn belongs to the Retail Motor Industry Federation. Garages affiliated to the Institute of the Motor Industry also undergo rigorous training. If you want an accreditation scheme that’s truly accurate, choose rating schemes that aren’t related to whether garages buy or sell certain products.