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Go independent to save money

Many drivers are considering all sorts of measures to cut their motoring costs. Studies have shown that the sale of fuel is down, as motorists cut back on their journeys and only use their car if they really have to. The market is also moving towards smaller, more fuel efficient cars and that usually means better emissions and lower fuel tax too.

Many drivers are considering all sorts of measures to cut their motoring costs. Studies have shown that the sale of fuel is down, as motorists cut back on their journeys and only use their car if they really have to. The market is also moving towards smaller, more fuel efficient cars and that usually means better emissions and lower fuel tax too. People have also been shopping around for insurance for some time now, so it should come as no surprise that drivers are now shopping around for better servicing deals too.

A new survey by the Independent Garage Association (IGA) has confirmed something that many already know; independent garages charge less than their franchised main dealer counterparts. What many drivers probably don't know is the scale of the differences. The IGA survey shows that the average labour cost in a franchised garage is £96, compared with £40 in an independent garage. With labour making up such a large part of service and repair costs, these differences mean a considerable saving for drivers using independents, even for a simple service. Neither do these figures take into account the large mark ups that franchised dealers make on consumables and parts. Such garages also often insist on using expensive branded parts and consumables when there is no difference in quality over third party products.

There are many different rating schemes, all with different criteria, so finding a good garage may not be as easy as it seems. Director of the IGA, Stuart James, points out his own organisation's 'Trust My Garage' scheme. He acknowledges the difficulties caused by the many competing schemes but says: "In their crudest form these schemes make garages sign a piece of paper to say they'll abide by certain terms and conditions. It makes someone other than the garage accountable if you have a problem. Our Trust My Garage scheme underwrites the repair that any of our 1,678 member garages deliver to the tune of £1,000."

This might make such garages worth seeking out but the Office of Fair Trading (OfT) also recognises the problem and is due to unveil a clearer, single method of rating garages. This is welcome news but perhaps the single best way to find a good garage is to ask around. Personal recommendation is valuable to any business and mentioning that you have been recommended to them should put you in good hands. James insists that the industry is determined to get its own house in order saying: "We aim to support the good guys and drive out the bad guys."

 

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