/ Home & Energy

Boiler servicing: have you paid over the odds for cover?

Boiler cover typically provides peace of mind to those who want to get quick, reliable service in the event of an emergency – but it can come at a cost.

We’re used to introductory offers. A free trial of Netflix before the direct debit kicks in. A great interest rate on a savings account that eventually dwindles into pennies. Getting a half-price TV package for being a new customer.

Some are surprised to find that their bills go up after the initial offer runs out. Other hardened bargain-seekers hop from account to account to take advantage of as many introductory deals as possible.

But when it comes to boiler cover, it would seem that the price hikes can be a little more unreasonable. We’re looking for examples as part of our boiler servicing contracts investigation. So have you found yourself paying sky-high prices for boiler cover?

Rising price of cover

The Which? Money October 2015 investigation into home emergency cover found that some providers introduce a significant price jump for boiler cover in the second year. One provider almost doubled the cost for customers who stayed on after one year.

But the big surprise may come when you replace your boiler. You’d probably expect boiler cover to cost slightly more as the boiler ages. However, we’ve heard stories of people who have taken out cover on an older boiler. But when they got it replaced, they ended up paying exactly the same amount to cover one that’s much less likely to fail.

We’ve also heard from a Which? reader who managed to negotiate the cost of their boiler cover down after the price went up after a year. While this savvy homeowner managed to get a refund, they were concerned that others may find themselves lumped with an unfair increase to their bill.

Stung by the cost of boiler cover

So tell me, have you found yourself in a similar situation, where you’ve noticed a significant hike in the cost of your boiler servicing contract for no good reason? Or have you contacted a provider to ask why you’re paying more – and managed to bag a refund?

Comments
Member

My burglar alarm rental went up each year as did my boiler care plan. I ditched both for buy completely alternatives. In the case of the boiler I use a local firm when required. The last service under the care plan lasted twenty minutes door in door out and that cost me £13 50 a month. Sky TV also love their captive audience and regularly hike their subscriptions. When “they” (firms that lock you in to a regular subscription) think you can’t or don’t want to leave, they have you at their mercy. The temptation is to make an annual increase small enough not to shock and large enough to annoy. The AA did this to me for breakdown cover until I left them.

Member

Your comment on burglar alarms interested me Vynor I fitted my own wiring in all the rooms with detectors and also window break detectors . I notice the new ones are radio controlled with no wiring but then you have the batteries to replace . Quite a few BT engineers in my day “moon lighted ” as alarm installers , used to get the parts wholesale . make sure the external box is good quality and change the battery every two or three years.

Member

The only problem with installing and maintaining your own alarm system is that a system has to be professionally maintained (and maybe installed) to qualify for a discount on home insurance. I know this from experience. 🙁

Member

Wavechange I know you like “going by the book ” but check into what or who qualifies to be called a “burglar alarm professional ” . I am streets ahead of them in technical knowledge and qualifications when it comes to electronics . I could at a pinch repair the old main unit PCB but now its a case of replacement of them , just like a “professional ” would do. Have you seen the training? no disrespect but you certainly dont need a degree in electronics they just get a bit of training nowadays in the basic essentials . I have wired up some very complicated systems in the past . This word “professional ” although sounding like Professor is by no stretch of the imagination in the same league as you and it is now applied with a vengeance to lots of jobs where the staff watch videos or go for a couple of weeks of training . I spent 5 years at an apprenticeship in all factory equipment repair and replacement . I qualified as a Hospital Engineer , I am qualified to work on fork lift trucks , I have decades of training in the old TV and radio repair and am conversant in building solid state equipment including top of the line Hi Fi power amps and the repair of them including all valve equipment , all types of electronic test gear and I have built my own distortion analyser testing down below -0.001 % THD . I have had extensive training with BT on all its old business electronic switching equipment at Otley , W, Yorks and Harrogate ( where HMG armed forces were trained ) and much more so even at my old age I would have no problem getting a “professional ” certificate to install/repair burglar equipment and yes I am up to date with the test equipment used to test them with , I also have equipment for testing digital circuits ( ex HMG forces ) . It is a case nowadays that a repair man goes in and changes a PCB , no unsoldering parts , too costly for the company .

Member

When I have spoken to home insurers they have insisted on NACOSS (now NSI)-approved alarm companies to offer a discount. Before house and car alarms were sold to the public, I made my own, including making my own fibreglass circuit boards and hand-soldered the components. Happy days, but it has been a hobby rather than a living for me.

Meanwhile back on boiler servicing, Which? has found some of the workmanship is poor and some checks may be overlooked.

Member

We’ve had quite a few changes of boiler servicing over the years as we have replaced companies that were not giving value for money. It seems to me that there are some good firms among those in the lower price bracket and some poorly performing firms in the top price bracket. I find mid-size firms [around twenty vans] give the fairest value for money on balance, have reliable and well-trained operatives, and have the capacity to cover emergencies well. Even though modern boiler servicing has become quicker and easier, I think companies should show their customers some respect and at least look at the whole system during their visit and check that pumps, valves and controllers are operating properly and safely. Some companies that offer a service plan don’t even carry out a service every twelve months – they only undertake to do one per calendar year so the intervals can be more than twelve months [the direct debit payment is taken on the anniversary of course].

Member

You are absolutely right about inspection, John. Hopefully the householder will check that hand-operated valves do close and are not showing any sign of leakage, but it’s one thing that a service engineer should check. They should also look at concentration of corrosion inhibitor in the system and drain a little water from a downstairs radiator to look for evidence of corrosion.

Member
bishbut says:
12 August 2016

As with everything else if the price goes up I always look elsewhere and always find an alternative at a much cheaper or more reasonable price With most things I have never kept the same supplier for year after year.This year I did keep the same House Insurance company which only cost 60p more than the cheapest alternative which was with the same company

Member

I noticed that yesterday’s Daily Mail splashed its front page with news that insurance companies will from now on have to state the previous premium on renewal notifications and that this was a direct result of their campaign. I was a bit taken aback because I thought Which? had rather a lot to do with raising this issue and pressing for the regulations that have just taken effect. I won’t deny that the DM might have added its weight to the campaign but surely they got it from Which? . . . or is my memory failing me? No mention of Which’s efforts, of course.

Member

In an article entitled “Which? Best Buy servicing contracts” I read:

We do not award boiler servicing contract Best Buys. This is because our research shows the vast majority of households would be better off paying for repairs on an ad-hoc basis.

I suggest that it is a good idea to have boilers inspected annually and not just wait until they break down.

Member

I have my boiler serviced once a year, on its anniversary, by an independent plumber. That costs around £60. It is probably necessary for your house insurance to cover any consequent incident, but sensible to keep it functioning properly .

You never know when it might breakdown – if only you could. A relationship with a decent local firm has paid dividends for me. Last year the boiler banged and thumped and we suspected air in the system. The plumber came the next morning; fortunately the boiler played up again, and it turned out to be a pump that was beginning to seize causing the water to boil.

In the 8 years since the boiler was installed I’ve spent around £300 on servicing, £72 on replacing the boiler syphon, plus non-boiler items in the central heating circuit – new circulating pump and new condensate lift pump around £300. So around £95 a year overall. The average contract costs around £243 (Which?) with the best rated being Worcester at £198. A contribution may be made if a boiler is beyond economical repair. So I’m £720 better off to date.

Member

Whilst Which? do not award “best buys” they do rate service contracts, helpfully, for those who choose what many see as pricey peace of mind. Handy for those not confident at organising help independently, sorting out the lottery of a decent plumber, for example – and there are lots of those. For example:

Which? verdict:The best servicing contract, according to our survey
Brand score: 77%
We’ve rated Worcester Bosch’s boiler cover in our annual satisfaction survey, based on the experiences of its customers. Worcester Bosch offers only one contract and it’s available only to those with Worcester boilers, so how did its customers rate it?

PROS A servicing contract can provide peace of mind, and remove the chance of high one-off bills.
CONS Our research shows that only 3% would be better off with a servicing contract compared to paying for repairs on an ad hoc basis and an annual service. The vast majority will be better saving their money for a rainy day, rather than giving it to a boiler insurance company.
Worcester Bosch tops our boiler cover survey for the sixth year running, with a customer satisfaction score of 77%. The company received excellent ratings for customer service, repair response times and ease of arranging an annual service.

With an annual cost of £198, slightly less than Which? members’ average spend – £243 – on boiler cover, it was also rated well for value for money.

Member

Had our Vailant boiler (conventional gravity fed) installed in 2002 and have never had it serviced. Servicing does more harm than good. The only money spent on it so far was for CO monitors for satety (they only last 5 years and have to be replaced).

Member

Normally your insurance requires you to have had your heating installation checked every year should you make a claim because of a failure. Mine requires evidence that it has been done within 15 months. However I think at least for your own safety it is worth a check to ensure combustion is taking place correctly.

Member
Vince Hales says:
9 February 2017

Been with same Boiler Maintenance/CH Cover since 1988/89. Annual charges for Jan 2015 to Jan 2016 £ 218.33. Same period 2016 – 2017 = £260.60. An increase of 19%+. Proposed charges for 2017 – 2018£291.30. Further increase of 11% +. An increase of over 32% in 2 years.
I’ve asked for explanation but it’s the “sound of silence”. I’m now looking for new supplier/contractor.

Member

Thats a good point Vince , you are lucky I just recently paid over £300 to British Gas for the same thing and its only for the 2 star service not the 3 star.

Member

I have the two star service with British Gas and, off the top of my head, I think the annual charge is £145, and ours is a big system with quite a lot of apparatus to go wrong and twenty radiators to feed.

Member

?????- John . I better check this out. I couldn’t get any info off BG official website very obstructive in volunteering info and they track you . Went to another site , charges are based on the number of call-outs (breakdown history ) when determining the charges for the following year and quote- repairs to a central heating system are not covered

Member

One year on and we found boiler cover is only financially worth it for just 3% of people –
any further thoughts? https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/10/are-you-paying-too-much-for-boiler-cover

Member

It is worth looking at your house insurance. It more than likely only covers damage associated with a boiler problem if it is serviced annually. As it could cause extensive water damage or a fire, well worth doing but the main reason is for your own safety and convenience; do you want to be suddenly without heating?

I have mine serviced each year for around £66 by a local plumber. I’ve had two repairs need in the 9 years since it was installed. One was replacing the external pump and valves at a cost of £200, The other was to replace part of the condensate system at a cost of around £70.

For those who let houses remember you are required to have a gas safety check annually.

Member

Boiler cover, drainage cover and so on provide peace of mind but can be very expensive. The first year’s cover may be reasonably priced but after that your loyalty may be rewarded with larger bills, or monthly payments that don’t look too bad but are even more expensive. Boiler cover may mean that you receive priority treatment if you have a breakdown. I don’t have boiler cover, so don’t know how this works.

My pump died without warning after Christmas and I could not find a local plumber. Fortunately I had fan heaters and could heat water with an immersion heater, and I replaced the pump myself the following day.

Member

It might not be worth it financially, but it does bring peace of mind. We have British Gas cover.

The immersion heater rod has been replaced every few years, the pump has needed attention every year or so, at least one radiator valve gets replaced every year, when the boiler has stopped working almost yearly, it gets fixed within a couple of days with the minimum of fuss.

It is so difficult to find trustworthy plumbers these days. A previous partner got conned into a new immersion tank costing many hundreds of pounds when it was only a pipe/valve blockage outside the tank. You could feel a pipe was hot one side of a joint and cold the other.

At least with boiler cover, you don’t get conned into unnecessary work, you don’t get conned into paying extra for unsocial hours or being an emergency, getting charged extra for time and fuel to ‘get parts’ or get juggled between multiple jobs.

What you also get with boiler cover is a plumber you feel you can put your faith in to do the job properly, and you have a proper company to deal with if you are not happy with anything.

Member

alfa, it is a very fair comment to balance the (in)convenience against the cost. One son’s partner has her electrical appliances all covered in her flat. Not cheap but she only has to pick up the phone if anything goes wrong. For the many people who have not a clue how do deal with a problem having professional help on tap that you can trust is worth the money.

You do seem to have more than your fair share of breakdowns though. Is it time for a new boiler?

British Gas do not come out too badly in the Which? survey – 59% approval.

Member

The usual problem with drains is a blockage. Not pleasant when the toilet doesn’t empty quickly and you take off the manhole cover to discover the cause. I find this happens around once a year. Around Christmas. Many years ago I invested in a set of drain rods (I also swept the chimney with the brush attachment when we had a solid fuel boiler). They soon clear the obstruction and are well worth keeping in the shed.

Member

I wouldn’t be without a set of drain rods. I quite enjoy doing an annual purge of the drainage just to keep everything flowing sweetly. I keep a set of overalls, boots and rubber gloves in a bag next to the rods, and I set the garden hose-pipe up and have some Jeyes fluid ready so that I can immediately flush and cleanse the chamber after lifting the inspection cover.

At our previous house we were at the end of a line of five houses and there was an occasional blockage caused by the wrong things being flushed down the toilet by a neighbour and the system would back up and prevent our toilets from emptying properly. I had bought some extra rods so had about sixty feet or more of rodding and by fitting the plunger tool to the end of the rods I was able to force the blockage all the way out to the main sewer under the highway. Withdrawing the rods and cleaning and disinfecting them was not the most pleasant occupation but had to be done. My wife meanwhile would go round the house emptying the bath and flushing the toilets to make sure all the outflows were clean. When using drain rods, make sure each one is screwed into the preceding one fully and keep turning in a clockwise direction as you push them forward; when withdrawing them it is essential to also keep turning them in a clockwise direction otherwise one might unscrew itself and become detached, remaining in the drain with expensive recovery consequences.

We haven’t had any blockage problems since leaving that house but a tip is to keep some Caustic Soda available for dealing with minor overloads. This is hazardous stuff and the instructions must be strictly complied with but it does work very effectively. Regular treatments of toilets with a small quantity at the recommended dilution rate will help maintain the system in good and hygienic condition. Obviously, keeping inappropriate articles out of the waste system in the first place is the surest way to achieve drainage delight.

Member

Alfa – You are either very unlucky or there may be something wrong with your system. To avoid problems with thermostatic radiator valves, it’s worth turning them on and off periodically. It’s also worth turning the heating system on periodically in the summer months. Some systems do this automatically. The corrosion inhibitor in the heating system needs to be maintained at an adequate level to avoid future problems. If the system has been drained to replace a pump or valve, the inhibitor may not have been replaced. I have seen poorly designed systems, for example with the pump at a low point where it can be affected by debris in the system. Soon after buying my previous home I discovered that the pump was on too fast a setting causing ‘pumping over’ in the header tank, which can cause serious corrosion and leaking radiators.

You are absolutely right about avoiding being conned into paying for work that is not necessary. A main dealer told me that my rear shock absorbers on my car were leaking, but the garage that did the MOT said there was no problem and told me that some unscrupulous garages try to con customers into having unnecessary work done.