Stay away from dealership service departments!

It’s a hot topic in the trade at the moment, how do car dealers retain their service department customers, especially after the car becomes 3 years old and the first MOT falls due. There is no doubt that this is an important profit centre for dealerships but it has suffered badly from negative press and a general feeling that the motorist does not get value for money. Well the fight is on as dealers try to claw back some of the customers rapidly turning to the major service centre chains and with Tesco even getting in on the act it may very well be too little too late.

With this in mind we canvassed opinion on what was wrong with having your car serviced at the dealership and were somewhat surprised by the negativity and anger out there. The consensus appears to be that car dealer service departmenst charge like wounded bulls.

Below are just a few of the responses we received.

“The ONLY time you want to go near them is when your vehicle is under warranty and someone else is paying.”

“Dealership service departments have the absolute highest labour rates of ANY place you can get your car fixed.”

“The ultimate goal of all dealers is to sell you a new car – when the service department hands you an estimate for £1,000 for a headlight bulb, they want you to get discouraged and go buy a new car. Of course your trade-in is worthless because it needs a thousands of pounds worth of work (£10 part), but they’re your friend, so they’ll give you a generous trade-in on that old hunk of last year’s junk.”

“Dealership parts prices are absolutely the highest in the known universe. You can frequently purchase the IDENTICAL part for as little as 20% of what the dealer wants. I’ve done this more than once, last occasion was a hot side battery cable for a Honda Accord, £147 at the dealer, £35 on the internet and it even came in a SEALED Honda bag! Another example: oil drain plug sealing washer for my wife’s 2002 Mazda 626, £13 at the dealer, 59p at the local car parts centre. It was just an aluminium washer – identical part, same manufacturer.”

“There is tremendous psychological pressure when the DEALER says “your car needs X” – after all, they’re the DEALER, so they should know, right?
Wrong – they are only interested in how much money they can extract from you and how fast.”

“Independent mechanics can do just as good a job for far lower prices. Independent mechanics don’t have fancy showrooms on the high street, so they
don’t have huge rent/mortgage/floor plan costs which are built into the dealer’s prices. You’re paying to have your car fixed, not to help support some garish showroom.”

“If you want to know what is wrong with your car, go buy an OBD2 code reader from any number of places (as low as £40), plug it in and read the
codes. No tools at all required, you just have to find the OBD2 socket and spend two minutes reading the book. Some car parts stores will let you use their code reader for free because they hope it will result in a parts sales for them.”

“Get a basic idea of how your car works and READ THE OWNER’S MANUAL for service intervals. Dealerships prey on ignorance, and ignorance will
cost you a PILE of money.”

“I’ve learnt to do some of the basic servicing myself. Modern cars are usually designed with at least half an eye toward ease of service. You can change air filters, light bulbs, wiper blades, and more than a few other minor items yourself, and your labour costs are obviously zero. Wear cheap gloves and you probably won’t even get your hands dirty. You can buy a decade’s worth of soap and hand cleaner for what half an hour’s labour charge at the dealership will be.”

“Example – front brakes – even the chain stores will rip you off on this.
“Front brake service, £99.95 plus £79.95 parts”. Takes an amateur mechanic perhaps an hour, the parts (four brake pads) run £20 to £30; you need a jack, a screwdriver and a spanner or two. Is your time worth £150 an hour? If you buy lifetime warranty parts (£3 more), they’ll swap out the brake pads FREE when they wear out for as long as you own the car.”

“Dealership service departments work from a flat rate book – job X is supposed to take so long. If the job is supposed to take one hour and the mechanic can do it in 45 minutes, you pay for the full hour anyway – the dealership wins. If the mechanic takes longer than the hour, you’ll pay for the actual time – the dealership wins again.”

These responses do seem to be full of the usual conspiracy theories. Franchised dealers are only too aware of how they have neglected customers have been in the past which is why they are trying to price match the service centre chains. For the aggravation of getting your car maintained yourself is it really such a big deal to pay someone else to do it for you in the hope that they know what they are doing?

We are quite happy to pay for most things as long as we feel like we are getting value for money but of course it doesn’t hurt to criticize car dealer servicing when it is due because they are very clever at charging well over the odds for ridiculous things like bulbs and washers.

As any sales manager will tell you once you have been charged £50 to have your own people fit number plates to your used cars you know all about being ripped off!


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12 Responses to Stay away from dealership service departments!

  1. Steve Boucher April 15, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    By comparison with dealership labour charges, the last time I visited the chiropractor, I was charged £35 for a 15 minute consultation – this works out at £140 an hour! I think your point about value for money is well made – but if you have ever had to call a plumber in an emergency, did you feel you got value for money?.
    I find it really interesting that someone would entrust the safety of their family and other road users to an ‘amateur’ mechanic just to save a few quid on their brakes – and where is the job going to be done? On the side of the road, on a dark, wet and windy winters afternoon? Would you consider using an ‘amateur’ dentist if you had toothache to save money?

  2. rob stokes April 15, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    Ooooooooh Steve, touched a nerve there ? bet I can guess what you do for a living ! What a ludicrous comparison to make with a Chiropractor or a plumber and “amateur” mechanic ? equally laughable. The chain servicing outfits are going to take over servicing and Tesco will also have a share along with dominating the car sales arena in the years to come. I worked in the motor trade for nearly 15 years and know it to be populated with some of the biggest thieves, liars and cheats who disgrace the face of this earth, their time is nigh and not BEFORE time either … RIP ripoff dealers … good riddance

  3. Mark R April 16, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    Oh dear Steve, mouth engaged before the brain? the last time i looked in my local VW dealership the mechanic (sorry fitter, he has no idea of mechanics) was about 20 years old, whereby the local (amateur, been doing it 20 years!) mechanic had all the same Tech-2 diagnostics.

    Oh yes, and he was about £200.00 cheaper!

    Side of the road filthy dirty overall wearing rusty old van mechanics are a bit like the car dealers in sheepskin coats and pork pie hats, they make for a great story but don’t really exist anymore.

    Been in this business thirty years, NEVER EVER known a Main Agent to give value for money when it comes to servicing OR parts, FACT not fiction………………………………..

  4. Andrew W. Townshend April 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    I always have done and always will get my car serviced at my local dealership. I have an expensive car and I want it looked after properly by the manufacturer. I want the correct stamps in the maintenance book. I would however point out that, by a lot of people’s standards, I am extremely wealthy and I have no interest in downgrading the maintenance of my vehicle and, as a result, its value. I am always looked after very well at the dealership but then I do belong to the same golf club as the owner of the franchise and I am on very good terms with him. Maybe I get special treatment, who knows? In any case I am retired and I enjoy my wealth and have no qualms whatsoever paying the, what I consider to be, perfectly reasonable rates at the dealership service centre. If I try to imagine pulling up at a scruffy mechanics under the aqueduct arches to be greeted by some unkempt individual in a pair of badly oil stained blue overalls then I quite literally shudder. Not for me thank you. I will leave that dubious pleasure to far poorer people than me.

  5. Edward Hathaway April 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    What the independent grease monkey under the arches fred in the sheds need to understand is that they are vermin who feed off the scraps from the table that main dealers are seated. Without them they would have no business anyway and so what if mechanics are now fitters who replace and not repair it’s called progress.

    Customers are recognising the effort and investment that has been made in showrooms and aftersales depts. and are delivering a much better customer experience, and not operating in some greasy back street dive which stinks of sweat and fags and has calendars with half dressed women on the walls.

    All we ever hear of is how main dealers rip people off but who do those accusations primarily come from? Yep you guessed it independents or couldn’t cut it in the franchised world because they have not got the brains to adapt to modern practices and the demands of today’s buyers.

    It’s very easy to pick holes in main dealers they are an easy target but there are thousands of hard working dedicated professionals grafting daily to try and make the distress purchase of a service or other costly items that little bit more bearable, and if this wasn’t the case there wouldn’t be hundreds of letters every year coming to our offices praising the dedication of our staff and how they go the extra mile, and that is replicated up and down the country.

    So whoever contributed to this article must hail from the dark ages and was obviously bullied at school. Get a life and get over it, main dealers are here to stay and to the rest of you do your worst!!

  6. Steve Boucher April 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Its good to see that sweeping generalisations can be made about one aspect of the trade but not others? I accept that there are plenty of unscrupulous people in the motor industry, but they are not confined to the franchised dealer network. I will be delighted to see ANY rogue trader put out of business. Last year, 27,000 complaints were made to the OFT about car servicing – were they all about franchised dealers? And yes, the guys in the workshop are not mechanics in the traditional sense – but isn’t that because of the increased use of electronics in cars?

  7. Jason Oliver April 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Andrew I wonder how you made your “extreme wealth”? It wasn’t by ripping people off by over charghing was it? If so maybe you are closer to your golfing buddy than you let on! PS lend me a fiver?

  8. Andrew W. Townshend April 16, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    Jason Oliver, you are quite clearly a cretin. I will not even dignify your comment with a response.

  9. Jason Oliver April 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    You just did numb nuts. God you’re dumb! Just how did you come to make so much money being such a moron?

  10. Andrew W. Townshend April 17, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    Jason you sound like an extraordinarily bitter, petty and jealous individual. You are probably the sort of person who would drag your key down the side of my luxury vehicle when you presumed no one to be watching. I am playing 18 holes today and may very well see my car dealer acquaintance and when we are in the 19th hole enjoying a gin and tonic I will mention your petty snipe and we will laugh heartily at you. If you want to succeed in life you must move past petty jealously and stop being rude to people who are more successful than you and try to make your own way in life. That is some free advice. When a person as successful and wealthy as myself offers you some free advice you really should take it.

  11. Ryan Patterson April 17, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    Everyone knows you pay thru the nose to get your car serviced at a dealership that’s why everybody abbandons them when a car gets to 3 years old. Up until then they are a necesarry evil to maintain the value of your car. I know a used car buyer for a big dealer group and he admits that if a 3 year old car doesn’t have main dealer stamps then he will give a lower valuation, simple as that. Either you save money on the servicing and take hit on the cars value or pay the dealer to service your car and get more for your car when you sell it. It’s not rocket sience just moving money around.

  12. Bilston Clutch and Autocare May 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    It’s always worth shopping around when it comes to servicing your car. There are some really good independent garages out there, who will do a great job even though they are not authorised dealers.

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