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Avoid getting ripped off by a garage

Gareth Herincx / 05 February 2016 ( 30 July 2018 )

Finding a reliable garage can be difficult but our tips will help you avoid being ripped off.

Spanners with a garage in the background
The UK's average hourly rate for car labour was £84.30 per hour in 2015

For many of us, visiting a garage can be a daunting, baffling and costly experience.

Even if you think you know your way around a car, we’re all increasingly at the mercy of mechanics as vehicles become more hi-tech.

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Tracking down a good garage is a bit like finding a trustworthy plumber or builder, but don’t despair. Follow some of our tips and you may just land a reliable one, plus read on to avoid potential rip-offs.

Informative, in-depth and in the know: get the latest news, interviews and reviews with Saga Magazine.

How to find a good garage

• Ask friends, family and work colleagues for their recommendations.

•  Go to websites such as The Good Garage Scheme, Find Me A Garage and The Good Garage Guide from Honest John – these offer customer feedback on garages local to you.

Citizens Advice recommends using an approved garage, approved by the Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair (Motor Codes), which has around 7,500 garages signed up.

• The FOXY Lady Drivers Club runs a female-friendly network of car dealers, garages and repairers “you can trust”. Businesses with FOXY Lady approval promise to “never overcharge, patronise or sell women services they don’t need”.

Trust My Garage features members of the Independent Garage Association which is part of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) – one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations.

What is your car trying to tell you? Our guide to common car issues and their symptoms.

Getting work done

Even when you think you’ve found a garage you can trust,  there are ways to lessen the risk of getting ripped off – whether you have a specific repair or you need to book your car in for an annual service or MOT.

Six in 10 motorists worry about hidden costs when booking their car into a garage for an MOT, service or repair, according to research carried out by RAC Garage Compare in 2015.

While an Auto Express/ Warrantywise survey, also in 2015, revealed that average hourly car labour rates vary by as much as 220% across the country. The highest were found in Twickenham, south west London, (£141); the cheapest were in Kirkwall, Orkney (£44) and the UK national average was £84.30 per hour.

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Top tips

• As a general rule, look for a garage that provides open and transparent pricing.

• Do your homework. If it’s a relatively simple repair or a basic part that needs replacing, you may be even be able to do it yourself.

• Don’t just take one garage’s word for it – get a second or third opinion.

• Sometimes your local garage may not be the best option. Consider going to one of the big chains, such as Halfords Autocentres, Mr Clutch,  ATS Euromaster or Kwik Fit which all offer fixed-price servicing and repairs, as well as offering specific repairs.

• You can now shop around online too, using websites such as ClickMechanic and WhoCanFixMyCar, which allow you to obtain quotes from garages and book online.

• If you use an online service, such as one of the above, and you’re still not convinced, see if there are any reviews available on sites, including The Good Garage Scheme, Find Me A Garage and The Good Garage Guide from Honest John.

• Once you’ve decided which garage is going to be entrusted with your car, always ask for a written quote and make sure it includes parts, VAT and, especially, labour, which can vary enormously. Be specific about the work you want the garage to carry out.

• Check if the garage will give you a guarantee – some will provide a warranty on their work so you can go back if anything goes wrong.

• Ask the garage to call if they find anything over and above the agreed work. If it’s expensive, you still may have the option to have the work done elsewhere.

• If you’re advised to get other work done, such as new brake pads or tracking (steering alignment), it may not be urgent and, as long as it’s not illegal or dangerous, you could get the work done at some stage in the future or somewhere else.

• When you collect your car, make sure you get a receipt and keep it safe.

• Finally, when you take your car to a garage for servicing or repair, you enter into a legally binding contract with the garage owner. The contract is controlled by many laws including the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, which gives you certain consumer rights.

Good luck. And if you find a trustworthy garage and you’ve had a good experience, stick with it and spread the word online and amongst your friends and family.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.