Mar 052009
 

Repair BillsExperts are warning of an alarming rise in garages recommending ‘phantom’ repair work to motorists.

Analysis of claims work submitted by customers of the industry’s leading provider of direct consumer warranties, Warranty Direct, over the past six months shows the practice of inflating repair bills with additional work is increasing.

The practice is more common amongst franchised dealers. In one case, a customer was quoted for work that amounted to 2,200 percent more than the actual repairs necessary*.

“It’s a sad state of affairs but some are simply trying it on,” says Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warranty Direct. “We’re finding ourselves policing garages on behalf of our customers.”

Warranty Direct uses independent inspectors to assess quoted work where its engineers have raised suspicions.

In the most extreme case, a Peugeot workshop claimed that a car’s entire fuel system should be replaced at a cost of £2,895.76 after fuel contamination was reported. Following inspection by an independent engineer, it was discovered that only the fuel filter needed replacing at a cost of just £131.71.

The concern for Warranty Direct is simple: the general public do not necessarily have the mechanical knowledge to question quoted work, unless they have access to a qualified second opinion and the protection that a good extended warranty provides.

“Our claims engineers are highly trained and experienced garage workshop mechanics, which is why we’re able to spot unrelated or unnecessary repairs. This won’t be the case for the average owner taking a car in for regular service or a health check,” warns McClure Fisher.  “This is a worrying development and we are releasing our findings not only to protect the motorist but also to allow some unscrupulous garages to get their houses back in order in the interests of the industry as a whole.”

Table showing examples of inflated bills after ‘vehicle health inspections’

Vehicle

Peugeot 406

Volkswagen Golf

Mercedes E Class

Original fault

Fuel filter

Engine warning   light staying on

Differential oil   seal leaking

Cost

£131.71

£21.92

£305.93

Additional work   suggested

Replacement of fuel   system

Replacement of   wishbone and anti-roll bar bushes

Replacement of   lower ball joints

Cost

£2,764.05

£293.44

£138

Total bill

£2,895.76

£315.36

£443.93

 

Other examples highlighted include a Vauxhall garage which claimed that both front shock absorbers, road springs, track control arms and outer ball joints needed replacing on a Signum 1.9TD, at a cost of £720.60.  In fact, only the offside front road spring needed changing, costing £170.58 – less than a quarter of the original bill.

In another case, the replacement of wishbone and anti-roll bar bushes for a customer of a Volkswagen Golf cost £293.44 when the original failure was to investigate a faulty engine warning light. The real bill should have been just £21.92.

The owner of a Mercedes E Class saloon with a differential oil seal leak was informed he needed to replace the lower ball joints adding another £138 to the bill. Inspection proved this was unnecessary.

Last year, Warranty Direct research showed that garage labour rates have increased by 11.3 percent since the summer of 2006, with the most expensive franchised dealers now charging over £200 an hour for their mechanic’s time.

Aug 292008
 

Car MOTThe cost of maintaining a car could ‘spiral out of control’ as garages start to charge up to £200 an hour*.

According to data released by insurer, Warranty Direct, labour rates for mechanics nationwide have increased 11.3 percent since the summer of 2006 to £75.17 an hour on average. At the same time, prices at independent garages have risen the sharpest to narrow the gap with the traditionally more expensive franchised dealer networks.

The average franchise dealer is charging £94.70 an hour today compared to £87.91 in 2006 – up 7.7 percent. In comparison, the average rate for a mechanic at an independent garage has leaped by 14.9 percent over the same period – from £48.43 to £55.63.

Warranty Direct analysed labour rates at nearly 2,000 garages to highlight the dramatic price differences that occur across the country.

Greater London is the most expensive region at £94.26 an hour (average of franchised and independent), which falls to £68.70 for the City of Edinburgh, £78.81 across Merseyside and a similar figure of £78.01 for Cornwall.

The Capital was also home to the most expensive dealer, charging £198.86 an hour.

Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warranty Direct, warns that labour rates are likely to continue to rise in the current climate.

“This is not great news for motorists who are already feeling the pinch at the pumps.

“Car sales are falling, used car residuals are falling, and people are putting off that annual service. As economic conditions worsen, prices could rise further to compensate the general downward trend.”

Mar 222008
 

What CarWhat Car? has revealed the massive savings available to car owners who shop around for servicing – and the savings are literally just around the corner.

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.

Aug 232007
 

Labour ratesWith garages charging up to £183.30 an hour for a mechanic, it’s no surprise to hear that British motorists forked out more than £3.7bn on labour to fix their cars last year.

The unique Warranty Direct Labour Rates Survey 2007, which compares franchised and independent garages, also highlighted the massive North South divide when it comes to the cost of motoring.  Visitors to www.labourrates.co.uk can now check regional differences for mechanic labour charges.

For every £100 spent at a garage, £63 is spent on materials and £37 on labour according to analysis of Warranty Direct data*. In total, motorists spent nearly £10bn** last year servicing and repairing their vehicles, and paid for more than 504,000 mechanic hours.

Unsurprisingly, Greater London is the most expensive region in the country with an average labour rate of £89.78 per hour when combining both franchised and independent garages.

The Capital was also home to the most expensive dealer in the country charging an incredible £183.30 an hour – the equivalent of 41 gallons of fuel or 1,500 miles***.

The ten highest counties were all from the South of England, including Hertfordshire (£86.68), Essex (£80.20) and Berkshire (£78.76).

Ten Most Expensive Regions

Average Cost of Mechanic per hour

Top Least Expensive Regions

Average Cost of Mechanic per hour

1

Greater London

£89.78

1

Fife

£55.40

2

Hertfordshire

£86.68

2

Pembrokeshire

£56.83

3

Surrey

£84.91

3

Angus

£57.98

4

Buckinghamshire

£81.65

4

Aberdeenshire

£58.94

5

Dorset

£80.45

5

Highland

£60.01

6

Essex

£80.20

6

Lancashire

£61.67

7

Wiltshire

£79.44

7

Cumbria

£62.44

8

Oxfordshire

£79.14

8

Northumberland

£62.49

9

Berkshire

£78.76

9

Cornwall

£62.68

10

Bedfordshire

£78.52

10

Perth & Kinross

£62.88

 

Conversely, the cheapest part of the country found by Warranty Direct was Fife with garages charging £55.40 on average. Besides Cornwall (£62.68), Lancashire at £61.67 an hour was the most southerly region in the ten least expensive areas.

There remains a significant difference between choosing a franchised dealership over an independent garage at £89.31 and £49.92 an hour nationwide, respectively.

The data is based on labour rates from more than 3,856 franchised and independent garages across the UK.

For further information visit www.warrantydirect.co.uk or www.labourrates.co.uk.

Media information:

Call Andy Francis or Andy Bothwell at Performance PR on 0208 541 3434, or email andyb@performancepr.com.