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How Expensive is it to Repair Your Used Car?

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 13 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
How Expensive Is It To Repair Your Used Car?

Gone are the days of the amateur mechanic pottering about in his garage trying to get his car to start. Today’s cars are far more complex than their counterparts of 10 or 20 years ago, and there is less scope for DIY now.

Modern cars are very sophisticated, with multiple electronic control units and sensors to improve stability and braking, keep exhaust emissions to a minimum and operate complicated safety systems. Besides, most car owners have no interest in car maintenance beyond checking fluid levels and tyre pressures.

Even if a car owner did have the desire to tackle repairs, most fault diagnosis and repair requires the use of dedicated offboard diagnostic equipment these days. There are serious health and safety concerns too, and it is just not practical for car manufacturers to issue detailed manuals packed with technical information with all new cars.

Competition Keeps Costs Down

This means the modern driver has to put his faith in the professionals – and that comes at a price. Of course, franchised dealers do not have a monopoly on repairing their products. There is legislation in place to ensure that independent garages get fair access to the same technical information as the franchise dealers. As a result, there is a level of competition in car repair and servicing and this should keep the cost down to an extent.

Nevertheless, when a car breaks down the cost of the repair is likely to be considerable. A large chunk of the bill will go towards labour. Technicians at franchised garages must attend many manufacturers’ training courses and need to be highly trained. The courses are expensive and the technicians demand salaries to match their skills.

The upshot is garage hourly rates that vary considerably according to location, the nature of the facilities and whether or not the garage holds a franchise. The effect geography the car’s manufacturer has on a repair bill is demonstrated by figures issued by the AA, who state that a BMW dealer in South London may charge around £180 per hour, while another in Worcestershire will charge £111 per hour. Rates for Ford dealers, meanwhile, range from around £64 to £96 per hour.

Check Labour Rates

It makes sense, therefore, to consider probable repair costs before buying a used car. Contact the local franchised dealers for various manufacturers and find out the hourly rates for labour. Do not feel obliged to take a car to a franchised garage, either. Even during a car’s warranty period, manufacturers can no longer insist that service and repair is carried out by their own dealers.

Contact some local independent garages to find out what hourly rates they charge for labour – it may come as a pleasant surprise. Independent garages are not under the same pressure from manufacturers to maintain gleaming premises packed with customer facilities. As a result, an independent garage may be able to charge less than half the labour rate of their franchised counterparts.

Also, because an independent garage does not have links to particular manufacturers, staff may be willing to discuss the pros and cons of various models and give an idea of which cars are most reliable and which are the most expensive to service and repair.

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