Beware the service department up-sell!

In an economic downturn, people always look harder for value for money in everything they buy from food to gym membership. It is exactly why companies like Tesco’s and Aldi will always do well because they represent good value at competitive prices, and with consumers often not able to buy quality, or certainly willing to compromise, these kinds of businesses will usually be the go to guys. In the car business, firstly drivers will look to trade down or keep their existing car longer, and they will also look at value brands to give them more for their money, hence the success of less fashionable brands from the far east.

Consumers will also look to using their local repairer to maintain their vehicle, especially if it is a vehicle which falls outside the manufacturer’s warranty. Lots of repairers, whether independent or franchised, are fighting for a smaller slice of the market because there are less cars being built and sold so there are less used ones around. To combat this dealers, looking to maximise every penny, will be keen to up-sell extra work which may, how can we put this, not exactly be necessary.

A garage may tell you your air-conditioning needs servicing or your brake pads are low and may try to negotiate a deal so you have all the work carried out, which is fine but there are also many dealers who are happy to try and up-sell work that just isn’t required or necessary. The problem lies in the fact that the customer will have no way of knowing if the work is truly needed or not, so in many ways the unsuspecting car owner is cornered.

Our advice is that if a garage or repairer attempts to up-sell you into maintenance or repairs which just don’t seem correct or are excessive, first ask them to give you a detailed breakdown of the estimate and their justifications for attempting to have you pay for all this work. If you smell a rat get a second opinion and next if you are still not happy, get in touch with the Office of Fair Trading.

The OFT received a staggering 68,000 complaints last year regarding used cars and they are about to embark on a campaign to find out why so many complaints are being received. Let’s not forget that this may just be the tip of the iceberg as this figure only represents those who took their complaint that far.

Who knows we may get to a point where customers will regain confidence and be happy to pay a sensible price for a fair job and repairers will attract more business as a consequence of treating their customers well.

Until that day it appears the age old mistrust of the motor trade by the general car buying public is alive and well.

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