Reliability is a big selling point for any car, and no driver wants to become a regular visitor at their local garage, seeking costly repairs.
But no matter how well you look after your car, it will inevitably develop a problem at some point in its lifetime. So, it’s crucial that you find a garage that you can trust to put things right.
But how can you find a good quality garage? And what can you do to ensure you get your money’s worth?
Are they accredited?
A useful place to start looking is the Motor Ombudsman, a fully independent organisation that acts as an arbitrator in disputes.
Garages that are accredited by The Motor Ombudsman are subject to strict codes of practice, which should provide some peace of mind that your vehicle is in the best possible hands.
These firms also have to provide a clear complaints procedure. So, if something goes wrong, they won’t simply be able to fob you off with excuses ‒ if they don’t put things right to your satisfaction, you can escalate the issue to the ombudsman itself.
The Motor Ombudsman has a search function on its website that can help you find accredited garages in your local area.
There are also other schemes that a garage may be a member of, which can provide some reassurance that they are professionals you can trust.
Trust My Garage, for example, is a membership scheme for independent garages, and is backed by the Independent Garage Association. Member firms must abide by a code of practice, while the scheme has been approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.
Check the reviews
Your homework shouldn’t stop there. Speak to friends and family about their experiences with local garages, and which have delivered the best service.
It’s also worth checking reviews of the firm online, such as on Google, or on local Facebook pages.
While a collection of five-star ratings is no guarantee that you’ll enjoy a similarly brilliant experience, it can certainly help.
What about my warranty?
It’s a common misconception among motorists that if your car is within its warranty period, then you need to have it serviced at an affiliated dealership.
That simply isn’t the case. Your warranty will remain intact if you go elsewhere, so long as the garage services the vehicle according to the manufacturer’s schedule, and uses parts of an equivalent quality.
What is it going to cost me?
If you know what work you need done on your car, then you should be able to find out how much it’s likely to cost in advance.
This may mean ringing around a couple of different garages to get a basic quote, or even using a service like ClickMechanic. Sites like this allow you to post an ad detailing what work you need done on your car; mechanics then get in touch with a quote on what they would generally charge for such a service.
Even if you don’t know what’s wrong with your car, it’s important to get a comprehensive quote from your garage of choice before they start any work. This should include the cost of labour, possible replacement parts and VAT.
Remember, though, that these quotes could rise if the mechanic finds other problems with your car. If that’s the case, a good mechanic will usually contact you to provide an update and get your approval before going ahead with more costly work.
Few drivers are confident about the inner workings of their car. But a good mechanic will be able to explain precisely what’s wrong with your vehicle, and why specific work is needed, in a clear and understandable way.
So, don’t be afraid to ask questions until you feel comfortable. If the garage can’t answer your questions properly, then consider taking your car elsewhere.
Also, if you are being charged for having something on your vehicle replaced, you could ask to see the part that has been removed to ensure that work really has taken place.
Is the work guaranteed?
You should establish how long the work is guaranteed for, and keep the receipt.
If your car has not been repaired properly, you can then take it back for the mechanics to put right, without having to pay any more money.