Assuming you have free choice of where your car is serviced and are not limited by the terms and conditions of a Personal Purchase Agreement (PCP) or other financial arrangement, then how do you decide whether to use an independent garage or a master dealer?
In this guide, we go over the pros and cons of each to help you decide which one is right for you.
Servicing a car at a main dealership
There are around 4,400 franchised car and commercial dealers in the UK who will have to meet certain standards set by the manufacturers they represent. About 85% of them are also members of the National Franchised Dealer Association (NFDA).
Sue Robinson, chief executive of the NFDA, says consumers view franchise dealerships as the “safest option” when it comes to aftermarket service. Let’s see why.
If you send your car to a main dealer, you can be assured that they have expert knowledge of the specific brands and types of work required, and have invested heavily in technical equipment and staff training.
If your car is still within its warranty period, you also have confidence that a primary dealer will be using genuine manufacturer-approved parts and fluids, which is important to preserve the car’s warranty and protect its value. of resale.
If your car has a serious defect outside of the manufacturer’s warranty period, the dealer and/or manufacturer may be more willing to make a “goodwill” contribution towards the cost of the repair. In some cases, this contribution will cover 80 or 90% of the entire repair.
It is generally accepted that a dealer stamped service history is more desirable in the used car market, especially for higher end brands.
Simon Harris, head of valuations at UK Vehicle Data, says: “Car owners might find the difference in resale value between a premium badge vehicle that has been serviced within the franchise dealer network for its first three years and a vehicle that has been serviced by independent workshops, could cost thousands of pounds.
However, he adds that if a car has not been serviced according to its schedule or is missing a stamp or too much, the impact on value would be “much greater”.
(For more on this topic, see our guide: Will dealer service history increase the value of my car?)
Additional benefits of using a prime dealership include free health checkups and free car wash and vacuum as part of the deal. High-end car manufacturers, such as Audi and BMW, can also send you an overview video with a technician explaining the work done and other items to fix.
According to Jeremy Yea, Reviews Editor at Cap HPI, they may perform non-essential software recalls/upgrades, especially for battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles.
According to him, a freelancer may not be able to offer some of these services.
The above benefits arguably come at a price and the most obvious downside of using a master dealer is that it could cost you significantly more than using an independent garage.
However, Robinson of the NFDA says dealer investments in equipment and training are the reasons franchise dealers charge a higher labor rate and the overall cost is often the same as independent garages, as independents may take longer to carry out certain works.
The other potential downside of using a franchise dealership is that you may receive less personalized service. However, although you can only deal with the help desk rather than the business owner, you can enjoy other customer service perks such as free Wi-Fi and tea or coffee in a clean and modern waiting room of a showroom.
Maintain a car in an independent garage
There are over 20,000 independent garages and although not all are reputable, many are members of Good Garage Guide programs and/or independent trade organizations which will require the business to subscribe to a code of conduct and have a clear mediation process in the event of a problem. .
As we suggested earlier in this guide, you could save a lot of money by hiring an independent garage to service your car.
A survey of 6,000 UK garages by car repair and service start-up motoreasy in 2017 found franchise dealerships had an average labor rate of £99, compared to an average of £56 for independent garages.
The Independent Garage Association suggests an even bigger price gap. Its 2020 labor rates study found that the average hourly rate charged by independent garages was £47.47.
Independent garages are generally less expensive because they don’t have to cover the expense of large premises or flashy showrooms. They also have access to spare parts from third-party suppliers, which will generally not be stocked by an authorized dealer and will be more suitable for older vehicles that are no longer under warranty.
Your local independent garage will also be able to find independent specialists who might offer to repair expensive auto parts and systems rather than insisting on a complete replacement.
The caveat to using an independent garage is that to protect this car’s warranty, you must ensure that they maintain or repair the vehicle to manufacturer’s standards and use only genuine parts and fluids approved by the manufacturer. This should be documented on an itemized invoice.
Besides the potential cost savings, the other main benefit of using an independent garage is a more personal service as they are often family owned and run, if you are dealing with a small local independent garage rather than a network. This means that if any issues arise, you can quickly deal directly with the business owner.
By taking your car to a local independent garage, you are also helping support your local economy, supporting local careers and creating careers for future generations, according to Trust My Garage, the world-renowned customer insurance program of the Independent Garage Association.
Some independent garages may not have the technical capabilities or the same level of equipment as franchised dealerships.
There is also a risk that your car will miss important updates and software upgrades (which are usually applied by the dealer during annual maintenance).
If problems arise with your car outside of the manufacturer’s warranty period, you may find that a dealership is less likely to provide free assistance if they haven’t serviced the car during the Period of guarantee.
Should I use an independent garage to service my car?
I bought a 2018 Toyota Auris last year – just over three years ago. Major dealers I have purchased from have called me to book it for service and MoT. Apparently this is a major service which will cost £340 plus MoT on top, so around £400 – eye watering! I called another established family run garage for a comparison price and main service was £165, and they would do a discounted MoT if I serviced it there. I bought the car at 49,073 miles and it has now done about 53,500 miles, so only 4,500 miles in the last year. When I challenged the price and told them about the alternative he said the spark plugs alone cost £50 and for that price I couldn’t expect the other garage does as good a job as the main dealer. There are some moisture/condensation issues inside the vehicle, as well as in a headlight unit, and tracking/traction/alignment, so I might need those things under warranty. I feel compelled to go, so I can hope to retain the goodwill to sort out these issues. I would greatly appreciate some opinions on what I should do including should I invalidate my Toyota warranty/or should I be concerned about losing goodwill from the main dealership if I go to the alternate garage (non-main dealership) for maintenance ?
You can have the car serviced outside the dealer network and maintain the warranty. However, the independent garage must maintain the car according to Toyota’s maintenance schedule and use approved parts and fluids – all of this must be shown on an itemized invoice. If you keep the car in the Toyota dealer network, you can benefit from the Relax service activated warranty, which will continue until the vehicle reaches 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Answered by Dan Powell