/ Money, Motoring

What’s your most costly car repair bill?

There’s never a good time for something to go wrong with your car, but expensive repair bills somehow crop up at times when you want them least. What’s your biggest ever repair bill?

As a former two-time Alfa Romeo owner (glutton for punishment), I’m fully aware of the horror moment when a mechanic hands over a repair bill that makes your jaw almost drop to the floor and your wallet clench in distress.

I’ll not forget the knee-buckling receipt for my Alfa GT diesel when I took it to a franchised dealer for a minor service. £1,200 for a non-major service almost floored me, and the experience was further compounded when the car had an electrical fault on the way home from the dealership and went into limp mode. If anything, I could have used the four-sheet-long repair bill as tissues to wipe away the tears…

Cars Editor, Claire Evans, is just as familiar with the situation:

‘My Renault Modus suffered a faulty electrical control unit that pushed my annual service bill over £600 for 2012. Until it was fixed, I had to indicate left to turn the windscreen wipers on and right to turn them off!’

The most expensive car repair bills

But it’s an experience I know many motorists face each year. And we find out the severity of annual repair bills each year in the Which? Car Survey.

Last year, 47,500 of you told us about the 57,000 cars you own, including what the most common faults were on your cars, and how much your annual repair bills totalled.

And for some car owners, the results were rather costly.

Land Rover Discovery 3 owners had it worst, with an average annual repair bill of £478. According to our data, 23% of all Discovery 3s suffered from suspension component faults, which would be one of the main reasons for the costly repairs.

http://youtu.be/rfJyWyCbUng

Tell us about your most costly repair bill

The Which? Car Survey 2014 is ready for you to fill in now so you can tell us about your repair bills in the last 12 months, as well as how satisfied you are with your car over the last year of motoring.

What you tell us about your car has a direct effect on which cars we recommend and which we don’t, so we would love to hear from you. And if you do fill in the survey, you’ll be entered into a free prize draw to win £2,500 – the equivalent of free fuel for a year.

And as well as filling in the survey, leave a comment below to tell us what your most expensive repair bill has been in all your time of motoring. Can you beat my £1,200 shocker?

Comments
Member

My only large bill was when my three year old car developed a major problem in 1989. Without much pressure, VW agreed that the failure was due to a manufacturing defect and authorised the main dealer to install a new short engine provided that I paid for labour. It still cost several hundred pounds but I managed to persuade the dealer to fix a developing problem free-of-charge.

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
20 December 2013

Several years ago VW identified a defect in the Golf heater matrix. Not only was
my own Golf put through the recall but I managed to save a Swiss colleague
some £100s of pounds after the matrix in his Golf failed and he was then able
to have the repair done under the same recall.

Member

Good point. It is worth checking to see if your vehicle has been recalled: http://www.dft.gov.uk/vosa/apps/recalls/

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
20 December 2013

Several years ago I purchased a VW Passat Estate
2nd hand via Autotrader. The vehicle was in good condition and
had air conditioning. I took out a warranty for
the vehicle and sure enough the air con failed
8 months later. The bill at the VW dealer
was £500 and took a few follow up phone calls
to the Warranty company to secure payment.

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
20 December 2013

This time a 3 year old Toyota Avensis CDX that
I aquired from my father. The car was still under warranty.
There was a bad scratch in the paintwork
that I thought might cost me £100. Border Toyota
manager to fix just by using cleaning materials
and did not charge me.
6 months later at service the same dealer
found 2 worn brake discs and said that
they would be replaced under warranty.
The repaired car returned with a £300
bill that was reduced to zero when I reminded
the Dealer of the Warranty claim.

Member

I am impressed. I thought than brake disks were generally excluded from warranties because they are subject to wear in normal use. Perhaps this was because you had only had the car for six months, even though it was over three years old.

A common recommendation is to use air conditioning periodically even during the winter months, supposedly to keep seals lubricated. I do that anyway to help demisting in winter. The air con was still working fine after ten years without any servicing after ten years, on my last two cars.

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
20 December 2013

Toyota warranties are very comprehensive and cover most parts of the vehicle.
This is in contrast to some aftermarket warranties which can be both vague and
unclear.

I use aircon year round as I consider it an aid to driver safety.

Member
better by bike says:
20 December 2013

Our 2007 VW Touran has recently required a new turbocharger and exhaust system, at a cost of £2,650. The car has done just 57,000 miles and been regularly serviced at a VW garage. This unexpected cost seemed unreasonable, and indicative of a manufacturing fault. However, VW were not prepared to make any contribution to the repair. Be warned!

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
20 December 2013

Did you have the defective turbocharger professionally examined ?
Exhausts are a consumable item – was it the original one that failed ?
What engine is fitted to the vehicle ?

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
20 December 2013

My first car was a Mk V Ford Cortina that I bought at auction in 1983. I took it to a local repairer to have the head taken off and reworked that was around £300 After I fitted electronic ignition it ran pretty well -another £100. Two new tyres at £100 plus driving lamps at £75. Then replaced the old Motorola radio with a Sharp Radio cassette at £100. For a total of £2075 quite a good vehicle. In the end rust got the better of the wings making it beyond economical repair so traded in after 3 years for a much newer Ford Fiesta.

Member
Sandra Harrison says:
21 December 2013

Last month the clutch on our Subaru Forester went (only done 33,000 miles but is nearly 5 years old) and unfortunately it has a new type of clutch. Cost us £1500!!! One component (the extra part that isn’t in old style clutches) cost £600 + vat.

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
21 December 2013

Always worth shopping around just to check
the work required and the cost.

Member

Absolutely, but it depends if you can spare the time to shop around if the car is unusable. I was asked to sell a car for a friend and it needed a new clutch. I compared prices and got the job done for less than half the price of the first quote.

Investigating problems at the first sign and doing routine maintenance can avoid big bills and major inconvenience. Even replacing a battery when it becomes weak can save money by allowing you to shop around. Apart from when I bought a faulty battery, I have never needed a jump start in over 40 years driving.

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
21 December 2013

I agree about keeping a good battery
under the bonnet. If the battery is on the way
then the vehicle ends up off the road
often more than once.
This brings up the matter of using original
parts on a vehicle as they go through tests
by the manufacturer for function and reliability.
Its critical to use the correct engine oil
and other fluids.
All season tyres are a great choice in the UK
so that when snow comes your vehicle remains mobile.

Member
Sandra Harrison says:
21 December 2013

Not a lot of choice in this area, but the garage we use is owned by our immediate neighbour so am pretty sure he did not overcharge us, plus word soon gets around in a rural area if people are overcharged

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
21 December 2013

I now replace all my tyres with all season
tyres. I prefer Pirelli as they have great performance
at reasonable cost. Don’t forget the spare
too as you just might need to use it.
It cost me £350 for a full set for my Passat.
Before they were fitted I could not use the vehicle
in snow.

Member

It was my dream to own a Jaguar and in 1989 I had a 2 year old Jaguar XJS V12 Cabriolet and one of the pistons started to disintegrate. Because it was a V engine both sets of cylinders had to be stripped down and checked. The bill was £1,800 and the Jag dealer offered no help. I traded it in for a Mercedes and I’ve driven nothing else for 23 years.

Member

The biggest cost was replacing the clutch – cost £159 – the car had only done 169,000 . The car is still working well – must be the way I drive it – The previous car only cost petrol and oil.

Member

We had a Volvo XC90. When it snowed, we found out quite rapidly, that the four wheel drive system did not work. Local dealer was “surprised’, but checking a Volvo forum, showed it was a common problem on early models.(Now modified and improved.) Car out of 3 years warranty, but threat of legal action promptly got Volvo, and the dealer, to contribute 90% of the £2,000 bill.

Member

Cost is not the only problem in some cases. My previous car, MB C Class, suffered an ECU failure which left me in emergency ‘get home’ mode. Fortunately I was only a few hundred yards from the main service centre at the time so there were no problems getting there. Diagnosis of the problem was rapid, rectifying it was a different matter. It seems that the ECU is central to the car’s security system. It was necessary for the dealer to fax the VIN of my car to MB in Germany so that a replacement could be produced and despatched to the UK. The results were a tear provoking bill and the car off the road for nearly two weeks. By the way, I did check through some contacts that I have in Germany that this procedure is normal and not a dealer’s excuse for not getting on with the job.

Member
stuckwithit says:
14 January 2014

When you buy a Mercedes-Benz you have an expectation of quality, durability and longevity since you pay a high price and they have a certain reputation – don’t they? The car is an SLK 350, bought new in 2006, full dealer service history, very nice to drive, fast, comfy, good handling, good transmission, just the job.

To cut a long and tedious story short, when the car was six and a half years and only 49000 miles old, I went to the garage with a window stuck half open, there was a lot more to it that that though. I had already had both window control units replaced under 3 year warranty but now they told me:
oil seals on the engine camshaft leaking (potentially leading to destruction of the wiring loom and electronics)
gearbox speed sensor faulty – the auto gearbox had stuck in 3rd gear after the garage had checked the window problem
alarm siren not working
driver’s door control unit faulty

It was off the road for 2 weeks while they got parts from Germany and all this cost me £3300. After many letters to MB they refused to make any contribution. The driver’s window went faulty again the next day and another replacement unit was fitted making a total of 6 control units in this car in 6 years. They finally gave me £211 for the window unit as a goodwill gesture!

MB tell me their cars are “of exceptional quality, not only in terms of design and performance but also durability and longevity”. They thank me “for the continued customer loyalty you have demonstrated towards the Mercedes-Benz brand. We are truly grateful for this support”.

Sadly, Mercedes are the worst cars I have ever had – after 2 bad ones there will be no more. Be warned – after 6 years you are no longer covered under breach of contract.

Member

I have just broken down in my Audi A4 3.0tdi Cabriolet. The cause, I realised immediately was a broken alternator belt (not unusual in an 8 yr old car, with 60,000 miles). In my previous Passat, I had driven a further 80 miles including 2 starts, by conserving the use of power. On the Audi, thepower steering pump and as I quickly discovered, the water pump, were also driven by the same belt, but I was able to drive it to a layby, and call for assistance. I was thinking 45 mins to get here, 30 mins to fix it back on the road hour and a half.
Oh no! The engine is so tight in the compartment, that a roadside repair is impossible, the whole front of the car needs removing! As a quattro automatic, it can only be towed for 10 miles at under 30mph, so I had to wait for a recovery vehicle.
It looks like it will be off the road for 5 days and cost upwards of £300.
Anything made of rubber, should be considered a replaceable part, ie. belts, hoses, gaiters, etc.and they are going to fail between 6 and 10 years, regardless of mileage. Which? should consider this in testing new cars. Can this part be economically repaired at the roadside? If not, it should be listed as reason not to buy the car. (CVD gaiters are not roadside repairable, but don’t stop you driving – nevertheless, the cost of repair should be taken into account)
For me, I will never buy another “High-Spec” Audi, much as I love it, when it doesn’t need repair.

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
29 September 2014

It is prudent to consider replacing these items regularly and hence avoid a costly breakdown.

Member

I will be following up what checks are included in the standard service (They claim to check belt wear). But as I see it, you have to remove the front of the car to even adjust the belt tension (Multi microgroove). So this would be a costly pre-emptive repair, if not included in the service
The front lower suspension gaiters are not replaceable – you have to buy new lower suspension arms (£350) . It is an MOT failure, so has to be done. It is possible to shop around and fit spurious “zip on” gaiters, but there is a time element.

I have of course asked them to check and if necessary replace anything else perishable, while they have access.

The breakdown itself did not cost me anything directly (except massive inconvenience), as I have breakdown insurance. I could not however use the onward journey hire car, because I do not routinely carry my “Paper part of my driving licence”, a situation that will change! BE WARNED!
So I had to get a taxi home (buses in my part of the world stop at 8pm.), which exceeded the £40 allowance. This seems a bit mean when the hire car must cost them more.

Member

Alternator belts will probably show clear signs of wear long before they fail. When I check the oil and coolant I look at the condition of the belt and hoses. Spotting problems early can save a lot of inconvenience and cost.

Stephen makes a good point about replacing parts that might fail. I do this with batteries and I have never suffered a flat battery in all the time I have been driving, except when a new one proved to be faulty. By shopping around rather than making an emergency purchase I may have saved money, but I am quite sure I have avoided a lot of inconvenience.

Member

My alternator belt was checked only 3000 miles ago, or so it is claimed, but access is so difficult that it may not have been a good check. I’m afraid £220 (The labour cost of removing the front of the car) to check an alternator belt is not cost effective!
Batteries today, particularly high starting current ones for diesels, have been reduced in size so much that they fail by “shorting out”. There is no question of one cell going down, or being able to detect it with a battery check; one minute it is perfect, and the next dead. The current battery is half the size of the one I had in my last car, but the battery tray is simply not big enough.
The last two battery failures (on different cars) occurred after being left parked for two weeks for a holiday. Another one occurred in a “second” car, which is not used much in the winter. If a car is used infrequently, then I recommend the use of a trickle charger at least once a month.

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
29 September 2014

I have enjoyed watching Wheeler Dealers over the last six months. It is quite amazing the jobs that Edd China does in his extremely well equipped workshop. Most people do not have the luxury
of a workshop. For that reason I recommend purchasing a reasonably new vehicle with sound body work, mileage below 70,000 miles and full service history.
Interior Trim can be replaced at a modest cost by sourcing on Ebay. The audio system can be upgraded using manufacturers parts from Ebay. Tyres can be replaced at a local specialist. Servicing and minor body repairs can be carried out at a local independent garage. Do check for recalls and take to a franchised dealer for this work to be carried our free of charge.

Member
Stephen Baxter says:
29 September 2014

Purchase the Haynes Manual for your vehicle.
Waxoyl clear aerosol is a great rust preventer all round your vehicle.
Use WD40 to displace moisture.
Source cleaning materials from Halfords to keep your vehicle looking new.

Member
banjo says:
3 December 2014

How about £ 460 for a new radiator and water pump replacement on a Vauxhall Omega 3.0 elite,
which should have fixed a coolant/water loss but unfortunately it seems that the cylinder head
gasket is leaking coolant into the engine and this is going to cost a massive £1800 to put
right, thanks to it being a complex 24V 3.0L twin head engine ! Bad news at Christmas and
especially at my age !

Member

I have an Audi A4 2.7 TDI. So the dpf decided to get too clogged that I needed to replace it. Audi originally quoted around £2,200 for the DPF and Sensor, including diagnostic and regen costs. They tried overcharging me as other Audi dealers quoted much less. Final bill £1,885. Few days later my water pump goes. Had an MOT test, after the water pump was changed. Required new brakes and discs. Total bill £875. All together in the last 2 week thats £2,760. Life sucks. Had to borrow money from family and friends

Member
Helen Longhurst says:
27 August 2015

Susuki Jimny I have spent over £400 on an alternator last year but after 10years she has done well but now coming back from my friends yesterday my heater matrix split and all coolant everywhere and just been quoted over £600 but I know they are a problem to take off , do I stick with my little Jeep or do I invest in new and land myself with a bigger bill, I wonder ?
Any thoughts ?

Member
Helen Longhurst says:
27 August 2015

Any answers to my previous email required as really interested in whether or not should buy a new vehicle x

Member

I’d get your garage to look over your car. They should be able to give you an idea as to what might be in its way out. See what its worth and whether it might be worth spending money on it. If not, sell it privately while it is still MoTd and mobile and find something else would be my advice. I’ve just faced that decision with an oldish car.
If you keep a car for 10 years it might be worth looking at a new car. There can be big discounts available which brings them nearer to a nearly new (say 9-12 months) but used price. I got 25% off. Maybe decent finance terms as well. You get the spec you want plus a full guarantee, probably a service deal.