Finding a good garage to look after your car isn’t always easy – Which? investigations have proven that even garages that follow industry codes of conduct can still fail to provide a good service.
During our recent garage servicing investigation, we introduced four deliberate faults that any competent mechanic should be able spot to 62 cars. We then took the cars in for a service at different garages. The faults were: deflated spare and nearside rear tyres, brake fluid at the minimum level and a blown reversing light.
The overall result was that almost half of the faults (48%) were missed. Not comfortable reading if you’re unsure whether your garage is doing its job properly.
Top ten garage tips
Read our top ten tips to finding a garage to find out how to choose a good garage and what you should look out for. Hopefully, it will help you separate the reputable repairers from the backstreet cowboys.
1. Prepare notes
Check your owner’s handbook to see which service is due (two-year or 20,000-mile, for example) and the main tasks required. The handbook should explain what needs checking (such as brakes, tyres and suspension), plus which parts need replacing (e.g. air filter, oil filter, spark plugs) as part of that service.
2. Check your warranty
If your car is still within the manufacturer’s warranty – or you have purchased an extended warranty from another company – read the terms and conditions carefully to see what is covered. Try to book your car’s service well before the warranty expires.
3. Get recommendations
As our investigation has shown, people aren’t always aware of how thoroughly their car has been serviced. However, asking friends for recommendations does, at the very least, increase your chances of getting helpful staff and paying a reasonable price. You can also find garage reviews on the Which? Local website, where more than 5,000 garages across the UK have been recommended by other Which? members.
4. Code membership
Being part of a code of conduct is no guarantee of a good service, but our research shows that Bosch and Motor Codes garages do generally offer a higher standard of work than garages that aren’t members of a code. Visit the codes’ respective websites to find affiliated garages in your area. You can also speak to your local Trading Standards office, and use the ATA website, to check whether the mechanics at those garages are ATA-qualified – if they are, they should be very competent to work on your car.
5. Get quotes
Before you call any garages, write down your car’s make, model, registration number, age and mileage. Then telephone your shortlisted garages for quotes, noting who you’ve spoken to and the price. Don’t be afraid to negotiate – many garages, especially franchised dealers, will often agree to price-match their rivals. A quick ring-around means that you could get a cheaper deal closer to home.
6. High standards
Is the garage VAT-registered? This is important for warranty purposes. And does it use original equipment parts or cheaper, often inferior pattern parts? The type of engine oil used can dramatically affect the engine life of your car, so check that the garage is using good quality oil that’s appropriate for your car.
7. What’s included?
Get a quote that includes parts, labour and VAT. Ask for it in writing before you have any work done to avoid disputes about the bill further down the line.
8. Service stamps
A documented service history will add value to your car when the time comes to sell. Check that the garage will stamp the service book, and that they can reset any service warning lights on the dashboard.
9. Courtesy car
Being without a car can be inconvenient, so find out if the garage can provide a courtesy car. Many garages won’t offer unless you ask! If they don’t have one available, they may agree to give you a lift home.
10. Make a booking
Check when the garage can fit you in and how long the service is likely to take. And don’t worry about cleaning your car before you drop it off – many will do this as part of the service.
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