Keeping your car well maintained is part and parcel of owning a car. An annual MOT is a legal requirement and your car’s manufacturer will recommend servicing at regular intervals. You can find out how often your car should be serviced and what needs to be covered each time by checking in your car’s handbook.
Whether you’re looking for an MOT or a general maintenance, it’s important that the job is done properly. It’s crucial you find a reputable garage that follows the proper procedures, where the mechanics know exactly what they’re doing. But how do you know if a garage is reputable?
Start by asking friends and family for recommendations. Then, as with anything else you pay for, it’s a good idea to look at reviews from sources such as yell.com. Just like when you’re looking to buy a new TV and you look to see what other people have to say about the quality and customer service. It’s comforting to see that other people have had a good experience – it’s the same with choosing a garage.
How do you know if a garage is reputable?
If you have a garage in mind, you can check if it is approved by the Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair. You can do this on the Citizens Advice Adviceguide website or on Motor Codes. The listed garages comply with Trading Standards’ guidelines.
It might also be worth having a look to see if the garage is a member of an association or scheme, such as the Good Garage Scheme and the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association (VBRA). These schemes and associations help people like you find reliable local garages that you can trust because they follow a code of conduct. These websites are also good places to start when looking for a garage. Most give the option of putting in your postcode to search for local garages.
When visiting a garage you can get a feel for the place. Take a look at around the reception area. A good repairer will be proud to show that his staff are trained and have their training certificates on the wall from various bodies such as manufactures and the IMI. Check out ata.theimi.org.uk. This will describe the differing levels of skills and expertise attained by each technician.
Diagnosis and quotation
Once you’ve found a garage, it’s time to call up or go in and speak to a service advisor. Unless you know exactly what’s wrong with your car, you’ll probably need to leave it with the garage so they can diagnose the problem. Unless you are completely comfortable and have faith in the repairer, don’t ask them to go ahead with the repairs without calling you first. They’ll then be able to advise you of the cost for the repair work. Don’t feel obliged to use the same garage that carried out the diagnostic to do the repairs. Now you know what’s wrong with your car, you can call around a few garages to get quotes, although you will need to pay for the diagnostic.
The agreement itself is usually done verbally, but it might be worth asking for it to be put in writing if you want to be extra cautious. This will make it easier to see what was agreed should there be a dispute after the work has been completed.
Whether you get a written quote or not, it’s important to make your terms clear to the repairer. Be very specific and make sure they know exactly what you want them to do and not do. Give the garage a contact number and have them phone you for permission if they want to carry out any work that hasn’t been previously agreed to.
A tip at this stage would be to make a note of the name of the person you spoke to, and the price they gave you. This could come in handy later on if someone else tries to give you a completely different price.
Pay attention to detail
It’s important you pay attention to the little details. Are there any hidden prices? For example, some garages offer desirable perks like a service wash or courtesy car, however the costs are not always clearly stated. When it comes to receiving your invoice, you might notice they’ve charged you for something that you thought was included in the price.
This is why it might be a good idea to get any agreement in writing, or at the very least have everything made clear before you let the garage go ahead with any work. If the repairer offers something you think might be just part of the service, make you double-check it’s not going to cost you extra.
Know exactly what the garage is quoting you for
It’s important you know exactly what the garage is quoting you for because it can change the price drastically. For example they could be quoting you for the parts alone, and charge you for the labour and VAT costs later. VAT is currently at 20% so depending on the cost of your repairs, this can add a fair chunk to your bill. Warranty Direct’s annual labour rate study published in June 2014 found that the average labour rate in the UK is £74.33. This adds up to over £500 per day (based on a seven hour day).
With most garages, the quote given to you at the beginning is an estimate rather than a precise quote. This is because they can’t be sure exactly how long it will take. They’ll have a rough idea, but won’t be able to predict any trouble that they could run into. If you’d like to get a better idea for how much you might end up spending, ask for a worst-case scenario price.
When it comes to paying, make sure you ask for a detailed invoice. Compare this to your original quote and don’t be scared to question anything you don’t agree with. It’s important that you talk to the repairer about any queries before paying your bill, as it’s less likely that you’ll be able to question it after the event.
It’s always worth shopping around and getting quotes from each of the garages you’ve deemed ‘reputable’ to make sure you get the best deal possible. This’ll help you make a final decision.
Accident repairs are not the same as general servicing and MOTs. There’s no need to tell your insurer about general maintenance on your car. However, if you have an accident you’ll need to check with your insurer before going ahead with any body repairs.
Give them a call and find out if they’ll be covering any of the costs, and make sure they’re happy with you choosing the repairer. At insurethebox we have a list of approved repairers and ask you to contact us on 0333 103 0030 beforehand to agree costs.
There are many benefits of using a repairer approved by insurethebox. These include a quicker repair time, a guaranteed courtesy car and guarantees of the quality of the work completed. See the section in your policy document entitled ‘how the insurer will deal with your claim’ for full details.