If cars had been around at the time of the Bible I’m going to lay a safe bet that Jesus wouldn’t have been kicking over the tables of moneylenders, he’d have been getting messy with a torque wrench at his local garage. The car repair business has a bad reputation.
A recent discussion on Twitter highlighted the problem. A simple service on a Mondeo revealed oil priced at £11/litre and a 400% mark up on parts.
As the comments revealed, garages can get away with this because nobody really knows what the parts should cost and nobody ever asks how much a garage charges for oil. Like many car owners I imagined that only Other People got caught out by these niggly little tricks, I was wrong, and perhaps on reflection you may feel the same. One of the main reasons I set up my own classic car workshop is because I was fed up with the service I was getting from the garages I used. Only when I began sourcing parts and materials directly, and directly employed a team of mechanics, did I realise how badly I was being scammed. Not only was I paying over the odds for parts I was being charged inflated prices for labour. Now, fixing cars is never going to be cheap and many garages play by the rules: it’s the minority that give the majority a bad reputation. But how do you spot them? Here are some simple ways to avoid being ripped off by garages when you have your modern or classic car fixed.
1. Get a quote in writing
It sounds simple but few people ever do it and garages often actively discourage it. Ask for a quote for the work with a breakdown of parts. While the final bill may be different, because few mechanics can diagnose faults accurately without some investigation, the quote will give you an idea of the final price.
2. Cross check parts prices & labour In the battle against dodgy workshops, the internet is your friend. It is now very easy to check the price of parts online. In particular you can also check how long different jobs should take on your car, although this tends to be more reliable for modern cars than for classics. When running these checks do bear in mind that garages have to make a living: their parts prices have to include delivery and collection and administration. Although these shouldn’t add much to your bill. Similarly, labour allowances for jobs generally assume factory conditions: the older a car gets the longer it can take to do a job due to things such as seized nuts.
3. Use a specialist to do a specialist’s job
This rule particularly applies if you own a less common car or a classic. Many garages will be prepared to take on any work, not all realise what they’ve taken on. I learnt this lesson when taking my Jensen Interceptor to a local ‘classic car specialist’ to fix the wipers. I got stung for £1,500 for a job a specialist could have done for less than £300. Similarly, a so-called clutch specialist attempted to sort my Alfa GTV, without any experience of the complexity of these cars. I paid the price for my stupidity.
So, if you need work on your car that is specialised or your car is specialised, go to a specialist. They’re more likely to be honest and upfront on the work involved and they will almost certainly get the work done quicker and cheaper, because they are more familiar with it.
4. Keep an eye on the detail
One of my biggest frustrations with garages is the price of oil and other fluids. The £11 charged above for a litre is not uncommon. Bear in mind that the garage is probably paying less than £5/litre and you may begin to feel robbed. The same applies to screen wash, antifreeze, brake fluid and so on: because these costs are generally small in relation to the total you can easily overlook them. Don’t.
5. VAT It is very common for garages to quote prices excluding VAT. This is quite naughty, because of course most of their business is retail and so VAT is inclusive. When you’re given a quote ask up front if the price includes VAT. It should.
I set up the Great Escape Cars workshop because I was sick to death of these scams. Of course, I have to make a living, but I believe it’s better to do that by offering an honest and transparent service that will bring customers back. Feel free to call or email me for advice or with any questions on 01527 893733 or email@example.com.
www.greatescapecars.co.uk 01527 893733