/ Money, Motoring

Why it pays to shop around when getting your car serviced

Car mechanic

Our research uncovered massive variations in the price of a car service depending on where you live in the UK. And we found you can save hundreds of pounds simply by shopping around local garages.

We all know that a pint of beer is cheaper in Liverpool than London. Or that a three-bedroom semi is pricier in Guildford than Glasgow.

Nonetheless, when we mystery-shopped 650 garages in the UK’s 50 most populous cities, we were surprised at the huge range of prices quoted. For a 10,000-mile annual service on a three-year-old Ford Focus 1.6 petrol, costs ranged from £60 to a whopping £360.

Cheapest regions for car servicing

Garage servicingNorthern Ireland was the cheapest region, with an average price of £123. Indeed, the highest price we were quoted in NI (£185) was still less than the average price of £186 in London and the south-east – the most expensive region.

In terms of individual cities, the top three cheapest were Belfast (£123), Sunderland (£129) and Liverpool (£132). Propping up the other end of the table were Reading (£227), Luton (£214) and London (£207).

However, the Scottish cities of Aberdeen (£200) and Edinburgh (£195) aren’t far off the bottom either, giving lie to the traditional notion of a north-south divide.

Shop around and save

‘That’s all well and good, Which?’, you’re probably thinking, ‘but I’m not going to spend eight hours on the Birkenhead-to-Belfast ferry just to get my car serviced’.

Fortunately, you may also save hundreds of pounds simply by shopping around in your home town. In Luton, for example, the difference between the highest and lowest quotes was an astonishing £230. Other cities with dramatic differences included Middleborough (£229), Reading (£215) and York (£211).

Finally, don’t assume that taking your car to a franchised dealer will automatically cost more. The average price charged by Ford dealers in the cities we surveyed was £220 – less than many independent garages.

The website-driven price-comparison culture that pervades sectors like supermarkets and insurance clearly hasn’t made it to garages yet. Perhaps it’s time it did.

Until it does, be sure to do your own personal price comparison before your car is serviced. And don’t be afraid to haggle if your local garage costs more.

What’s the most, and least, you’ve paid to get your car serviced?


The standard of workmanship is more important than finding the cheapest price. Which? reports have shown that car servicing can be very poor indeed, with obvious problems overlooked and servicing tasks not attended to. I have done most of my own servicing over the years, but taken my cars to dealers when under warranty. Inconspicuous marking of parts that should be serviced is a good way of proving that work has not been done. I have had profuse apologies and a couple of bribes when I have challenged garages. In one case a VW service manager disagreed and told me that it replacing the large fuel filter on my Golf was not part of the service, so I presented him with the service schedule.

Tim suggests that we should haggle over the cost of servicing. I cannot think of a better way to ensure that corners are cut.

DerekP says:
27 June 2014

I agree entirely that quality must come before price.

Over the years I have enjoyed great service from my local Toyota dealer (when I lived in Northwich) and a number of Ford dealers. There are usually plenty of the latter around, so it is not too hard to find an OK one to use.

I have also recently had some very bad experiences with a certain local national chain generic tyre battery & so-called service centre. Hence I would advise everyone to think very carefully before having any work over and above tyre fitting done by such places.

I had one service done at a main dealer. The result 2 weeks later, the engine almost fell out as they hadn’t done up the mounting bolts on one side of the car, luckily I found a nearby mechanic who figured out the problem and fixed it for a few quid. I’ve never had a service at the dealers again.

NukeThemAll says:
25 April 2014

Some years ago I had a Vauxhall Astra. Took it in for servicing at our local GM dealer, got lift into work. Near lunch time I realise with horror I’ve still got the key! Oh no! Get lift to garage (friend is highly amused at this), rush into Service Reception.

“Mr X, hi, it’s about my Astra, I….” “Yes sir, all done as it happens, we’re just doing the bill.” “Er, I was about to say, really sorry, I forgot to give you the key.” “No problem sir, it’s all done, as I said, that will be £X.” So I give up, go out to the car, it’s parked exactly – and I mean exactly – where I left it. Engine is stone cold. Oil is still dirty. Mileometer (I always note this) is unchanged. And so on. Did they really have a ‘magic key’? What do you think? Interesting conversation ensues.

It kind of went downhill when I mention the words “Police” and “Fraud” albeit in a calm and hushed manner. No apology. No admission of non-service. Ask to see Dealer Principal or Someone in Charge. No-one will see me. Other customers look on with interest. I’m asked to leave. I do – and never went back. Didn’t get my usual Xmas card either……

Yep they were crooks, If a magic key did exist an honest garage would have proved this to you.
I most certainly would have pursued this further because how many others have been, and perhaps still are being, conned.

NukeThemAll says:
20 May 2014

Chris, this particular garage (a family-run business) went rapidly downhill when the son took over from his Dad and made it clear it was all about short-term profit and stuff the customers. Soon its reputation was so bad that no-one who had a choice took their car there. The parts manager was one of the most miserable, unhelpful employees I’ve ever encountered (even by the standards of the motor trade, so we’re talking **bad** here) and the service manager was determined that he could be even worse (like a ‘competition’). I thought my first 2 experiences were just bad luck, but the non-existent service was the icing on the cake. Because of the audience when we had the ‘discussion’ I’d guess they lost a few more customers that day, which satisfied me. But you’re right – with hindsight I should have done the right thing to protect other customers.

NukeThemAll says:
25 April 2014

Here’s another one – didn’t happen to me, but one of my friends who lives in Penzance. He drops his car off for a service, gets train (or bus) to Truro – a reasonable distance away. Nice day out, his ramblings take him through a car park and, wait a minute, there’s his car! Wife has car key on her key ring, so they decide to drive away in the car, after taking several photos with his phone (time, date and of course exact location).

Waits a few hours, phones the garage, ‘how’s the car servicing going?” “Er, yes sir, just one or two problems…” “You haven’t got my car have you – because it’s back here on my drive. Because it was parked in Truro, no doubt on an extended ‘road test’ shopping trip. This will make a nice story for the West Briton (paper) eh? I’ve even got the photos…..”

3-year full warranty, 3-year servicing to include tyres and any other consumables, free of charge.

Good for you.
In this case I expect this was the result of one of the employees taking the proverbial. At least the garage tried to make amends with the free offer. Wonder what happened to that guilty employee?

NukeThemAll says:
25 April 2014

But not all garages are rogues. We love our local independent. As far as we can tell, they’re honest and competent. I needed to get a bike carrier adaptor plate off the towbar fixing, since I was intending to sell the car – but I couldn’t shift it. Took it to the garage, few minutes, all done. “Not worth the bother of raising an invoice sir, it was just a few minutes.” “Please, I insist, let me pay.” After some ‘discussion’ they let me put a few £ into the Help for Heroes charity box. No wonder their customers go back.

NukeThemAll says:
25 April 2014

Sorry, should have added…..the above local garage charged me £120 for a Honda Jazz service – our local Honda dealer wanted £350. Our local independent showed me the full schedule data sheet they used and they would have included a full plug change – which wasn’t included in the main Dealer’s price. Easy choice. And sorry I’ve posted too many times!

I never thought I would say this but I feel that Mercedes have earned the name of ‘crooks’. We have had 5 Mercedes and one of the things that makes us choose them is that they would collect the car and return it, or offer a courtesy car. That has now changed.
Our car recently needed a service but when we asked the main dealer to collect it he said there was a charge of up to £70 to collect it or to have a courtesy car. When we phoned around other main dealers not only was the price of servicing the same but also the charge. So no competition there! Mercedes dictate to all the franchises what they charge.
When we complained we were told that we could avoid the charge by taking out a service plan. So now it is two tier pricing as well. I wonder what other Ryanair initiatives they will adopt.
The next car will probably not be a Mercedes.

@tfft, I think not providing a pick and collection service could have been removed because of the local council. When I last used a garage that did that, they wanted to charge and said its was because the council considered they were offering a free taxi service and their business rates would be amended to reflect that if they carried on.

I service my Honda Jazz service honda dealer,since 2008.I am fully satisfy and most important peace of mind once sevice is done ok 20 or 30 pound more than indipenden garage but are you trust them?i am not they will unnecessary fault produce think end of the day money will go prive garage and this dealer money will go to dealer and my expirience what you required they will tell you i teted 1st RAC machanic and after took to Honda dealer and they told exactly what required,which RAC told me,and i heard sometime indipenden garage loose litte screw in your car some miles that screw fall down and starting problem and you will take your car to their they know which screw loose and they will tell you £100 or £200 hundred ound for one screw,be careful and we are not machanic we do not know what is wrong,we have to fix our car because we need car.

I completely agree – I think it’s incredibly important to ‘shop around’ and try to find the best possible deals when it comes to car servicing. Especially as sometimes it can be really hard to judge a mechanic or understand what you’re really getting from a service – especially when you have no real idea about that inner workings of cars (like me). I think often when we’re searching for mechanics we just go for the first service we see on google and hope for the best and to be honest I think that’s why a lot of the problems happen. To sum up people just aren’t informed. That’s why I’m a car repair comparison site convert now. I’ve used them multiple times in the past and can vouch that they are actually really helpful.

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