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The importance of servicing your car

Our simple guide will take the hassle out of getting your car serviced, writes Linda Harrison

5 November 2015 • 6:36pm

With rising motoring costs, getting your car serviced can fall down the list of priorities.
One in five car owners have skipped vehicle maintenance or repairs in the last year, according to a recent study. The Kwik Fit research found that Londoners were most likely to skip servicing or maintenance (one in three) while the over 65s were least likely to ignore a service – 8 per cent compared with 40 percent of owners aged 18-24.

Kevin Pratt, insurance expert at MoneySuperMarket, says: “Running a car is expensive but it pays to keep it in good condition. If you’re able to nip problems in the bud, or even prevent them happening in the first place by getting your car serviced regularly, you’re likely to avoid heftier bills down the line. You’re also more likely to get your car through its MOT.

“But perhaps the biggest consideration is safety. Logic suggests a well-maintained car is going to be inherently safer than one with mechanical problems. A lot of routine maintenance can be done at little or no cost – keeping the tyres properly inflated and topping up oil, coolant and cleaning fluids. You also need to think about your car being legally fit for the road,” he continues.

Regular servicing can help maintain your car’s value. Maria McCullough, network manager for Approved Garages – a network of about 600 independent garages – says cars sold with a full service record tend to demand a higher price because buyers know the car has been well maintained.

One in five car owners have skipped vehicle maintenance or repairs in the last year, according to a recent study

And keeping your brakes, engine and tyres in good working order will let you achieve the maximum fuel economy, says Trevor Finn, CEO of Evans Halshaw – saving money at the pumps.

But car servicing can be confusing and costly. What service should you choose and how can you avoid getting ripped off?

Steph Savill, founder of FOXY Lady Drivers Club, a not for profit motoring club for women, warns: “This is an unregulated industry where mechanics don’t have to be licensed to tinker with the likes of your brakes.” And as there isn’t an industry standard regarding servicing descriptions, it can be tricky deciding which service you need.

Steph says: “You’ll find ‘Value’ or ‘Oil Service’ meaning oil and filter change, ‘interim’ – ideal for low mileage motorists in between a full service, ‘full’, ‘manufacturer’ and ‘major’ terms used. But the services included can vary by description.”

She adds that you don’t need a full or major service every year if you drive less than 10,000 miles annually: “Depending on your annual mileage, the most important precaution is an annual oil change and filter.”

It can also be difficult choosing where to get your car serviced. One option is to use an online comparison site – you enter your car’s details and location and get a selection of quotes from local garages. These include new website bookmygarage.com, which the Motorist’s Organisation says aims to simplifying servicing. Motorists can see what type of service their car needs and get a fixed price from a local garage, with a breakdown of exactly what’s included. (There’s similar information for MOTs/repairs.) It’s free and advisors will talk to a garage on the motorist’s behalf if needed and assess quotes.

Steph advises: “Shop around online for the best servicing quote among garages/dealers and fastfits. Ask them if they employ mechanics listed on the IMI Professional Register (industry licensing scheme) or are members of a Trading Standards Institute scheme.”

One way of managing costs is to buy the MOT and service together and negotiate/expect a half price MOT. Or consider a warranty.

“If your car doesn’t have a warranty already, you can take one out to cover the potential cost of mechanical repairs,” says Kevin. “You might not use it regularly of course, but having one provides peace of mind that a you won’t suddenly get clobbered with a chunky garage bill out of the blue.”

To service or not to service: two alternative approaches

Laura Haynes and her Ford Focus

Lauren Haynes, 28, works for a property developer in Manchester

“I frequently ignore problems with my 2002 Ford Focus. Sometimes it’s down to cost; sometimes it’s time. For me, it doesn’t really need fixing until something goes wrong. If I can hear a noise over my music in the car, then it’s time to get it fixed. It’s cure rather than prevention.

I’m aware that this has a knock on effect – if you don’t look after your car, it won’t look after you. I’ve driven with hot water squirting out of the radiator before. My mechanic told me it would have caused major problems if I’d left it any longer.”

Bob Old and his Toyota Prius

Bob Old, 57, a sales representative from Dorset

“We never miss a service on any of the family’s cars – my car, my wife’s or daughter’s.

I’ve got a hybrid Toyota Prius for business so I don’t pay for servicing – but I’d still never miss a service anyway. My car’s covered 437,000 miles and had 43 services, which speaks for itself.

Regular servicing helps prevent more serious events further down the line. It saves bigger bills in the future, so in the longer term it saves you money.

It’s also a safety thing though. There’s no point taking risks.”

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