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The Postcode Lottery of Car Repair Bills

The cost of keeping your car on the road may be one of the biggest drains on your finances, especially as vehicle breakdowns tend to occur spontaneously with little advance warning. However, even if your car is relatively new or reliable, even the price of regular servicing can be crippling.

Often, it isn’t the cost of replacement parts that prompts wide-eyed alarm – for example, a new clutch kit for a Peugeot 206 can cost as little as £50 – but it is more so the cost of the labour which strains peoples finances. Even if the parts are relatively affordable, if several hours’ work is required to complete the repair, the eventual total can be beyond many people’s reach without dipping into savings or resorting to other means of finance.

The Car Repair Postcode Lottery



According to recent research published by the magazine Auto Trader, car owners in the UK, pay widely different labour charges when their vehicles undergo repairs or maintenance. Labour charges range from £36 per hour in Birmingham to £240 per hour in Surrey, reflecting the wide variations in fees across the country and leading some experts to argue that motorists are not being treated fairly, particularly in the South East where even inflated wages fail to justify higher charges. Overall, the average hourly labour cost in the survey of 1,200 garages was £84.30, with a difference of approximately £30 between the least and the most expensive average rates.



Shopping around can help to cut the cost of motoring


If you’re in the habit of taking your car to a franchised dealer for servicing and repairs, expect to pay over the odds in labour charges. The Auto Trader research demonstrated that, on average, dealers charge 45% more than independent garages, with an average hourly rate of £92.


Shopping around for the most competitive price is one way to secure a more affordable repair bill for your vehicle. If your car is in need of a service and is still under the manufacturer’s warranty, don’t assume that it must be serviced at a franchised dealer, as often the terms of the warranty will only stipulate that a VAT registered garage must carry out the work. However, check the small print of your warranty first to make sure you don’t invalidate the policy.


When requesting a price for repairs or servicing, always ask for a quotation instead of an estimate (as the latter is open to being changed, whereas a quotation should specify an agreed price). Check that a quotation includes all parts, labour and, importantly, VAT which is often forgotten by customers who then receive an unexpected shock when the final repair bill has an extra 20% added on at the till.


Funding car repairs from existing savings


If you’re fortunate enough to have savings, a trip to the bank can be an invaluable way to afford the cost of car repair bills at a time when you simply don’t have the available cash in your current account.

Many analysts would agree that utilising your existing savings is preferable totaking on additional borrowing, such as credit cards or loans, which are going to accrue interest charges in the medium term. However, motorists in this situation should find out if the terms and conditions of their savings or investment accounts enable them to make instant cash withdrawals without penalties. For example, some savings accounts only allow withdrawals with a period of notice, such as 90 days, while any money withdrawn from cash ISA accounts cannot be replaced until the start of the following financial year, which commences on 5th April.


Should I take on a loan to pay for my car repairs?

If your need for your car is such that you simply cannot do without it – for example, it is the only way for you to travel to work – and you have insufficient savings or disposable income, then obtaining a short term loan may be the best option open to you.


As their names suggest, these types of loans are not intended to be a long term solution to the need for immediate cash. Motorists who opt to take a short term loan should do so only in the knowledge that the money can be repaid within the term of the loan. It is important, also, to understand how much interest will be charged and any fees that may be accrued should the agreed repayment dates be missed.


However, short term loans can be invaluable ways of financing immediate car repairs for those motorists who have an immediate need to keep their vehicle on the road and for whom being without a car would cause significant financial hardship in the long term.

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