Main dealer or independent garage
Before 2002, anyone buying a brand new car would generally find themselves tied in to a service contract with the manufacturer – which meant that, in order to keep their warranty valid, they had to have their car serviced by the main dealer. But main dealers generally charge a lot more than independent garages - according to the government Money Advice Service, franchised dealers charge an average hourly rate of £92.11, while independent garages typically charge £63.56. So that ‘free’ warranty could end up costing rather a lot.
Thankfully, since the law changed back in 2002, motorists are now free to choose where they have their car serviced, with no impact on their warranty. So before you book your car in for its next main dealer service, get a quote from a reputable independent garage to see how much you could save.
Original parts or low-cost alternatives?
If your next service reveals worn out components, your car will need to have replacement parts fitted - and your garage may ask you which type you’d prefer. Original Equipment (OE) parts are identical to the components fitted in the factory, and they’re generally the most expensive option. While ‘aftermarket’ parts are designed to offer a low-cost alternative to OE parts, but their quality can vary.
Some aftermarket parts manufactured by reputable companies may actually be better than the original parts – particularly if the manufacturer has identified weaknesses in the original component. But some are cheaper because they’re poorer quality - so the best advice is to follow the guidance of your garage’s service manager, who should have the expertise and experience to suggest the most cost-effective option.
DIY maintenance between services
Most drivers have their car serviced once a year, but to keep your car in good working order, it’s vital that you carry out a range of regular checks:
• Oil - check the oil level at least every two weeks - on level ground when the engine is cold. And always check it before a long journey, because driving with the oil low can severely damage your engine. If you find you’re regularly having to top it up, have your car checked by a mechanic, because high oil consumption can be an early indicator of engine problems.
• Coolant - check regularly and top up as required. And check your antifreeze too, because it not only prevents frost damage – it helps prevent engine corrosion too.
• Tyres - check your tyre pressures every week – incorrectly inflated tyres not only accelerate wear, they’re highly dangerous and a major cause of accidents.