Getting the best from your garage…

Woman in car holding car key

When my stepdaughter had a bad garage experience, we both learned that shoddy workmanship can mean a dangerous car.

Woman sitting in a car and showing car key.Focus on key.

After digging deeper I discovered that UK garages weren’t regulated and mechanics didn’t have to be licensed to service or repair our cars.

Yes, MOT centres are regulated by the government and franchised dealership staff are trained to manufacturer standards but a mobile mechanic or the staff in a local independent garage could well be fiddling with your car brakes and electrics without any professional training.

I didn’t think this was good enough at the time, 12 years ago now, and it hasn’t changed since. Nor do I approve of having to haggle for a brand new car when ‘she who knows what to pay’ ends up paying less than ‘she who trusts the car salesman’ who is out to earn as much commission as possible. Or of being patronised as a female and sold expensive services we don’t need.

These are all areas that the UK motor industry allows to happen and were all contributory reasons why I decided to do something about this for motoring women. My idea was to set up the UK’s only everyday motoring club for women – which is now operating with great success.

I’d like to share a few of my tips with you for how not to get ripped off by garages: 

  • Don’t buy garage services because they’re cheap. In an unregulated industry these can be a come on before the bill spirals.
  • If you think it’s too expensive, take a second opinion before you say ‘yes’. Some garages try to sell you services you don’t need because they can earn commission if they do.
  • Quality workmanship credentials matter as much as good reviews. I love to see what I call ‘certificate walls’ showing recent training courses that staff have taken. This is proof of a proud business that invests in its staff.
  • Do your homework about a garage first. Choose one with a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Code of Practice logo (green and purple, attached) on their website.
  • Choose the right garage for the right job. One that doesn’t do MOTs will charge extra to take your car to one that does. And any bodywork that needs repairing or replacing after an accident should always be done by a qualified BSI Kitemark (PAS10125) accident repairer.
  • You don’t have to have your new car serviced by a franchised dealer during its warranty period. But if you make a claim, you can expect the car manufacturer to be more sympathetic if you did.
  • Franchised dealers will service and repair all makes of cars, not just the brand they represent. You might pay more here but at least you can be sure their staff have been trained to manufacturer standards.
  • To check that a mobile mechanic is licensed to do their job, see the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) Professional Register. If they aren’t listed, they aren’t licensed.

If you do feel you need to enter a dispute with a garage, the Motor Ombudsman is there to support you.

We need to feel safe in our cars, and doing our homework and understanding more about what we should be asking of garages is a good place to start.

Steph Savill

About Steph Savill

I'm still a Geordie at heart despite being married and living in Sussex for nearly 30 years. I run an online motoring club, Foxy Lady Drivers Club, for women which I had hoped would mean a better work-life balance than my salaried days. What nonsense. I've never worked so hard but as and when I can, I love to travel, read books, watch Newcastle United FC and go to the theatre.