In these hard times wherever you look along the high street, on-line or even in restaurants and supermarkets, there is a deal or an offer or a discount to be had and the motor trade is no different. We see examples of free MOT testing, half price servicing, cam-belt and tyre offers and even the ability for customers to haggle over a price for fixing up their cars. The question is that with many drivers choosing to have their cars serviced with non main dealer garages over their franchised equivalents does this ultimately save them money or turn out to be a false economy?
Many would say, and I would probably be one of them, that if you buy a brand new car and intend to keep it for the next 5-8 years the car will go into the main dealer shop for servicing right up until the warranty expires and then maybe relax a bit about exactly where it is serviced (as long, of course, that is serviced) The car would not be worth significantly less than a car which has been exclusively serviced at a main dealer, and will have ultimately cost far less in service costs over its lifetime
So when the warranty has expired the owner can have a local smaller garage look after their servicing and maintenance requirements because with less overheads and fancy equipment it will usually be much cheaper. The other scenario is one which will probably occur more often post scrappage. A customer buys a brand new car (and bearing in mind if he hasn’t bought a new car for many years he may not be totally up to speed with warranties and servicing etc) but has always used his little local chap who has lovingly maintained his cars for years. However by doing this he may invalidate the manufacturer’s warranty if his repairer does not use genuine parts and will run the risk of having to pay if anything serious happens, which could prove very costly and possibly wipe out the scrappage bonus in one fell swoop.
For customers who have a change cycle of between 18 months and 3 years, there is the problem that if they attempt to trade-in a car like this which has non main dealer service history they are running the real risk of having an asset which is worth significantly less than if it was serviced by the maker. The problem is that valuing a car like this is subjective, some trade buyers will happily value a car with service history whether it is main dealer or otherwise fairly similarly, but many will severely down value it and some would not even contemplate stocking a car unless it has the manufacturers stamps in the book, especially with top end sports cars which can be valued at £000s less just for missing one main dealer service.
It is a minefield of confusion and obviously everyone wants value for money and cost cutting opportunities but a saving in the short term may not be cost effective in the longer term if the value of your car is not sufficient to buy a new one or you have stump up more cash than you have saved through alternative servicing arrangements.
We spoke with Martin Phillips of CarCareDirect and asked his opinion on the specific pros and cons of main dealer versus independent servicing.
“Despite the spiralling labour rates it still makes sense to use the franchised dealer network. Generally we use franchised dealers for the first three years of a cars life and then switch to specialist independent garages. Despite the parts and labour costs the main agents add value in the early years in a number of ways. In the first instance they have access to the latest training and diagnostic equipment. This is particularly true for brand new models where the technicians will have received specific training before, and once the car is brought to market, and the dealership will have the correct tools and equipment. They will also have access to the manufacturers own technical help team which will often come out to the garage if there is a particular concern.”
“Then there is the convenience. The independent garage can carry out general servicing work without invalidating the manufacturer’s warranty but if you need to have something fixed under warranty that was found during the service, you’ll have to get it re-booked in with the main agent.”
“More performance related is the issue of software downloads at service time. The main agent will often have software improvements or even parts replacement campaigns. These fixes aren’t safety related so don’t require the manufacturer to recall any affected cars. Instead these fixes are carried out as a matter of course during routine servicing. The independent garage won’t even be alerted to the issues or have access to the relevant software download.”
“Just recently there has been the re-emergence of an old problem, particularly with some of the premium German brands, where an independent has been unable to turn the service light out even thought the work has been done. This makes judging service due dates for cars on variable servicing patterns tricky and will impact on future resale values. In fact all the cars benefit at resale from nice main agent stamps.”
“The last benefit is a bit more anecdotal and perhaps better enjoyed by Fleet management companies than private individuals but it relates to manufacturer’s goodwill programmes. Experience suggests that a car which has been serviced by a main agent that then develops a problem when outside of its warranty can find it easier to receive some sort of goodwill payment towards any repairs; this is not so forthcoming for cars that have been serviced outside of the dealer network.”