May 172007

43Motorists may be benefiting from increased competition to get their cars serviced, but some dealers are still charging over 200 percent more than neighbouring garages.

European laws aimed at removing restrictions on servicing new cars have allowed Fast Fit chains and independent garages to compete for work that was previously controlled by dealers, according to data from, the all-in-one car maintenance company.

The firm analysed a basket of five popular models across franchised dealers, independent garages, independent specialists and Fast Fit centres.

Although franchised workshops remain more than 50 percent more expensive on average, there are significant signs that competition is forcing prices downwards. In 12 percent of cases, independent garages came out more expensive than their manufacturer supported peers.

However, that’s not always the case.

In one example, a Glasgow dealer quoted £414 to service a Mercedes C Class C200 when an independent garage chain was willing to undertake the work for just £135 – a massive 206 percent difference.

The data from also highlighted the differences in servicing costs across the country.

The analysis of a basket of three-year old vehicles in London, Birmingham and Glasgow found the Capital was by far the most expensive at £216.88 on average. In comparison, the cost fell to £180.75 in Birmingham, and just £157.46 in Glasgow – or 38% cheaper.

Type   of Centre

London   (average from basket)


(average   from basket)


(average   from basket)

Fast   Fit




Independent   Chain




Specialist   Independent Garage









“The decision by Fast Fit chains to expand from tyres and exhausts into servicing has really started to shake up the market in terms of pricing,” explained David Gerrans, director of “The winner is the consumer who has unprecedented choice nowadays.”

May 082007

Car dealershipsBuying a warranty to cover your car against hefty garage bills will cost you more than double on average if you buy it from a franchised dealer rather than an independent provider.

The failure rate of a car leaps up by 50 percent as it moves out of the comfort zone of the manufacturers three-year warranty with 1 in 3 suffering a breakdown*. Last year, British motorists spent £9.6 billion on servicing and repair costs.

But, according to new research by independent automotive warranty specialist, Warranty Direct (, franchised dealers are exploiting their customers and charging over the odds for extended protection.

Comparing warranty prices on a random basket of 20 cars, covering 15 different manufacturers, Warranty Direct found that the average price for a dealer policy was a staggering 221 percent of the price of independent cover.

The average franchised warranty price came out as £538.75, while the cost of the equivalent cover from Warranty Direct was £243.94 – a saving of almost £300.

The biggest difference in price came from a Volvo dealership, which quoted £1,132 to cover one of its S80 models.  The same independent policy, with the added benefit of wear & tear and consequential loss protection, would set you back £280.

In another case, a Renault dealer wanted to charge £552 for a Clio, compared to just £180 from Warranty Direct.

Sample table










Repair   Bill

Per   Visit


S80   Executive





Clio   Privilege 16v





Almera   SXE DC1





Vectra   Elite 16v





Legacy   S





Alhambra   SE 130 TDi





Grand   Vitara TD





NB: All models registered in 2004


“Some of the prices are daylight robbery,” said Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warranty Direct. “Its totally unjustifiable.”

“Not only do they charge extortionate labour rates, sometimes as much as £156 an hour, to service or repair your car, but dealers also get a fat pocket every time they sell an extended warranty to an unsuspecting driver, who could have the same cover and peace of mind for much less.”

Extended warranty quotes are available from Warranty Direct by calling 0800 731 7001.

May 022007

potholed roadDespite sinking billions into the public purse, British motorists are being subjected to a postcode lottery when it comes to the repair of potholes.

The monitoring of local roads and the time it takes to get them repaired depends on where you live, according to an investigation by new independent campaign website,

“There are two issues here,” explains website spokesperson Amanda Allen. “Not only could a dangerous and damaging pothole in your road go unreported for weeks or months because of random methods of inspection but, once it’s reported, the criteria used to assess whether it is dangerous enough to repair differs from council to council.”

With an estimated 1 in 5 suspension failures linked back to poor road surfaces*, questioned a selection of councils across the UK about their approach to dealing with potholes in their areas, and found a muddled and inconsistent strategy for targeting defects.

In most areas, any road defect deeper than 20mm can be safely classified as a pothole. However, Lincolnshire and Devonshire County Councils take a somewhat more relaxed approach, with defects needing to reach 50mm and 40mm deep respectively before they are given immediate attention.

Some councils, such as Gwynedd, Wales, prioritise pothole repairs based on the size of the defect while others, such as Portsmouth City Council, rely on trained inspectors to consider size, position in the road, and how much traffic uses the road before making a judgement and prioritising accordingly.

There were also wildly differing methods of monitoring the occurrence of potholes across the nation. Although councils such as Birmingham set an example, with patrols undertaking a monthly inspection of all classified roads, councils are only obliged to check roads once per year.

“It is more random than regular,” says Allen. “This means that a pothole can remain undetected for months if not reported by road users. There is a system in place to report faults, but hardly anyone actually knows that system exists, or how to use it.” is a new online resource to inform UK drivers of their rights when it comes to potholes, and provides a useful database of council contacts, with advice about how to make a claim if cars are damaged due to road defects.