FOXY Choice - FOXY Lady Approved and Female Friendly

FOXY Facts About Garages and Dealers

  • Excluding government regulated MOT stations, the remainder of UK garages that sell used cars or service and repair cars don’t have to be licensed to do so. Similarly mechanics don’t have to be qualified or professionally accredited to service or repair our cars despite the safety implications of neglect here. This is why FOXY will never recommend garage services on the basis of price alone. It is also the reason why the sale of used cars and garage services are always top performers in Citizens Advice complaints listings…
  • Motorists are free to choose any bona fide garage to service their car without invalidating any manufacturer’s warranty, providing the business is VAT registered, follows the manufacturer’s servicing procedures, employs a suitably qualified mechanic and uses original parts, specified fluids or ones of matching quality.
  • Similarly, motorists are free to choose the accident repair bodyshop they want to repair their car, should they not wish to use their insurer’s choice. But your insurer is likely to want you to use the local repairer they’ve negotiated special terms at – this can mean some charging you a supplement and/or repair delays at predictably busy times of the year.
  • There is little statistical evidence that a franchised dealership does a better job of servicing or repairing a car than an independent garage/bodyshop or vice versa. In fact mystery shopping surveys tend to confirm complaints about both, hence the need to identify the measurably best businesses in the category that best suits you, your car and your budget.
  • One size does not fit all. In the same way that some of us prefer shopping at Lidl and others in Waitrose, motorists have their preferences too at MOT, car servicing and accident repair times. Whilst Aldi and Asda are seen as low cost brands, Waitrose and M&S frequently top value-for-money surveys despite being more expensive. Parallels can be drawn between independent garages/bodyshops and main dealerships where price is perceived as value for money when based on the needs and expectations of the individual motorist and her car.

To help you make the right ie foxy choice for you, here is a brief introduction to the different types of garage and accident repair bodyshop services in your area.

Franchised/main dealers

These are the most impressive buildings, typically glass fronted and in strategic locations, branded with the franchised manufacturer(s) name. Inevitably, expensive buildings and prime locations translate into high overheads and these can add some £30 to £50 to hourly labour rates, compared to many independents.

On the plus side, dealership staff are manufacturer trained and most will be ATA accredited (ie listed in the motor industry’s Professional Register). They will use the latest diagnostic equipment that will save you time (and potentially money) finding the problem. And in today’s climate the perceived price gap between dealerships and independent garages is disappearing with many dealerships offering ultra competitive new car servicing packages. Some even operate fast-fit garage services alongside franchised alternatives; Renault’s Minute chain and Ford’s Rapid-Fit network are two good examples.

Car collection, courtesy cars and wash ‘n’ vac are all fairly standard services which will need to be specified and booked in advance.

You should expect a clean washroom, a comfortable waiting area (some more inviting than others…), a TV, WiFi, family reading material, toys or books to entertain the children and a drinks machine. Some offer much more to reflect their brand image.

Finally, if things should go wrong, most dealerships belong to a trade association operating a complaint resolution service for its members (see page 5).

Independent garages

Independent garages come in all shapes and sizes, some with but too many without qualified staff, specialist equipment or documented processes.

Today’s leading independents provide professional standards of workmanship, caring customer services and modern amenities. They can be expected to charge a lower labour rate than main dealers and many belong to leading UK garage networks.

But how do you know who the leading independents are when flicking through Yellow Pages or other trade directories? It isn’t easy.

The simple answer is to check with FOXY Choice to see and compare their credentials, customer services and amenities.

In a nutshell

  1. Don’t consider a garage you don’t know without checking their credentials and/or visiting their premises. Scruffy establishments may well reflect workmanship standards, even if they sound friendly and cheerful over the phone.
  2. If you aren’t happy with what you see, don’t trust them with your car – look elsewhere.
  3. If you don’t know the garage and haven’t checked their credentials, don’t risk any ‘car collection’ promise.
  4. Ask the garage to add the name of the technician who worked on your car on the invoice. You can then ask the person who knows, if you have any concerns or need something explaining.

Fastfit garages

Pick up your local trade directory and you will see pages of businesses promising quick MOTs, car servicing, tyre, exhaust and clutch fitting services. There are big names from TV ads, national chains, branded franchise businesses and one man bands, all offering similar services. So which one do you choose?

This is tricky because few fastfits employ ATA professionals or are members of a Trading Standards Institute approved ‘service and repair’ code scheme.

For this reason, it makes sense to choose one that is part of a group or chain, because they are likely to have corporate standards, run an environmentally-sound business and you then have a complaints ladder to ascend if something goes wrong.

Locations, premises and facilities vary in the same way as for independent garages; some look more professional and are noticeably cleaner than others. Because the work is designed to be done quickly, customer facilities can be basic.

FOXY’s experience is that things can go wrong in this area (as a result of staff earning commission to sell us services/products we don’t need) which is why it is important to check out the business before you trust them with your car. For example, members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club share and compare their fast fit motoring experiences within the club, via FOXY’s motoring helpdesk.

Mobile Mechanics

Mobile mechanics are popular because they will come to your home (or your office) to take care of your car. They have low overheads so their rates should be competitive but they may not have the latest diagnostic equipment or information and could take longer, and charge more, to do the job.

Commonsense says to check who they are, before you trust them with your car keys. Be reassured if they are ATA accredited (see page 1) or listed at the Institute of the Motor Industry’s (IMI) Professional Register.

Where in doubt and in need of reassurance

  1. Ask about recent qualifications and write these down.
  2. Ask for and speak to personal references.
  3. Check prices with a reputable independent garage.
  4. Enquire about any diagnostic equipment.
  5. Check the credentials of any garage used for your car’s annual MOT and/or any other garage service.
  6. Ask the mobile mechanic to document all work done, including maintenance and servicing, including the brand names of oils/parts and tyres used, on headed business notepaper. You can then keep all this and supporting invoices in your service handbook.
  7. Check that all service manual entries are correctly stamped, dated and completed.

Accident repair bodyshops

Accident repair bodyshops do what their name suggests ie they carry out major bodywork repairs after car accidents. They may also carry out minor and typically low cost cosmetic repairs (called SMART repairs) to alloy wheels, bumpers, windscreens, panels, upholstery and trims. Some bodyshops are members of insurer accident repair networks and others are vetted and approved members of vehicle manufacturer networks.

As car repairs become ever more complex, involving the latest on-board technology, all leading bodyshops are expected to invest heavily in the latest equipment, IT software and highly trained staff. To identify the best UK bodyshops, measurable signs of quality to look out for include the BSI Kitemark (PAS 125 bodywork) logo, the VBRA sponsored OFT Code of Practice logo and membership of a manufacturer approved repairer network.

After that, another way to distinguish the best bodyshops from the rest is to judge them by their customer care in these testing times when motorists are coping with unexpected levels of stress, inconvenience and financial pressures.

Find out about ATA (now the Professional Register operated by the Institute of the Motor Industry), the BSI Kitemark and Trading Standards Institute approved schemes

Find out about leading UK garage networks

If you need to make a garage complaint, here is some sound advice from Citizens Advice.

NB: If you choose a business listed by FOXY Choice they will have signed the FOXY Lady Approved Promise to “never knowingly overcharge, patronise or sell women services they do not need.”_

If any listed business subsequently disappoints, FOXY will record and monitor the resolution of a complaint, reserving the ultimate right to suspend or de-list a business, depending on the severity of an allegation or a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude towards customer and safety concerns.