What Car?’s team of mystery shoppers called franchised and independent garages for quotes on four top selling cars within a 20-mile radius of locations in London, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow.
Overall, the biggest saving was a huge £140.00 on the Skoda Fabia – one franchised dealer quoted £280.00 for it’s eighth annual service versus a quote of £140.00 from an independent garage less than 10 miles away. Average savings were £32.00 on a Mazda 6, £40.00 on a Citroen Picasso, £56.00 on a Ford Focus and £64.00 on the Skoda Fabia.
Nearly all franchised dealers contacted struggled to be competitive against even the most expensive independents. Only one franchised dealership, a Mazda dealer, beat the price quoted by a local independent garage. Quotes also varied within the franchised and independent networks themselves. The most notable variation was £90 between the cheapest and most expensive franchised dealer in the Skoda network.
What Car? Consumer Editor Peter Lawton said ‘With everyone feeling the squeeze on their finances more than ever this year, who can afford not to spend five minutes on the phone doing some research to save on car servicing?
‘We worked out that we saved around £7.00 for every minute we spent on the phone obtaining prices.’
A Whatcar.com poll also found that 43% of motorists still think their new car warranty is invalidated if they use an independent for servicing. It is nearly four years since the Office of Fair Trading forced manufacturers to remove restrictive clauses from warranties, allowing consumers to take their cars to independent garages rather than franchised dealerships.
‘We would encourage motorists to consider independent garages, but to also follow a few simple guidelines. The garage must stick to the letter of the manufacturer’s service schedule and use genuine parts or those of an equivalent standard. Also, look out for garages that have won a BSI Automotive Kitemark for reaching a set level of service,’ said Peter Lawton.