Car owners have a choice of where they service their vehicle. Essentially this means that a vehicle manufacturer cannot demand you have your car serviced by a particular dealer or group of dealers as part of the warranty conditions. Nor can a manufacturer void a warranty simply because a vehicle owner has chosen to have a vehicle serviced outside the dealer network. The choice is yours.
A vehicle manufacturer can however refuse a warranty claim where there is evidence of lack of maintenance, inappropriate work practices or where a non-genuine replacement part has failed or caused other damage.
So while legally you can’t be compelled to have your car serviced by a dealer there are other factors that need to be considered.
The Risks of Non-Dealer Servicing
Contrary to some beliefs, non-dealers can only do servicing, they can’t do warranty work. However, non-dealers will also generally not have access to complete service information, technical support, factory knowledge, special service tools and fixes for any problems that may occur.
In addition, almost every manufacturer has its own dedicated electronic test equipment that is specific to its range of vehicles. Such tools are needed to diagnose the car's computer, find intermittent faults and to perform computer software upgrades to overcome specific issues. Such equipment is very expensive and available only to dealers.
It’s true dealers have more overheads that your typical local service garage with 2-5 technicians but Dealer Service costs are determined by the manufacturer and these days it’s common to have capped pricing for the term of the warranty or longer.
We find many car owners will look elsewhere once this capped service period is complete as the service costs resume to normal scheduled fees which when un-capped can be up to 50% higher.
When non-dealer servicing is done or claimed to be in accordance with the manufacturers guidelines (by the book), in reality there should be little difference in the chargeable time. Therefore, the only difference will be in the labour rate, which for most services won’t be a huge amount.
Why do Dealers want to service my car so often?
Many car owners think dealers want to over-service your vehicle to make more money. A six month interval seems too soon especially if you’ve only driven 4,000kms since the last service. But it’s the manufacturer who recommends these intervals and for good reason. Without regular intervals it’s more like your vehicle will develop small defects which can cause bigger costs down the track. Oil wears not only through use but also over time and after 6-12 months no longer provides optimum protection to your motor risking problems later on, the same for filters and other fluids. Most of us these days have busy lives and many find the financial burden a good reason to skip a service. But this can cost you more time and money later on.
How much do you rely on your vehicle in your everyday lives? It amazing that so many of us just expect our cars to never break down but won’t ensure it’s maintained to provide that reliability especially when most family’s lifestyles these days are dependent on the family car or SUV.
Statistics show only around 52% of owner’s service their vehicles at regular intervals. Typically Road Service organisation in each state of Australia have over 1 million call outs per state each year. This could be reduced dramatically by simply more regular services.
Genuine Parts Myths
While it’s true that many OE (original equipment) parts are more expensive than non-genuine parts, this isn’t always the case. Like any product, market forces influence the final cost of commonly used parts and it is in the manufacturer’s best interests to keep prices competitive. So in many cases the difference in cost between genuine and non-genuine parts isn’t that significant.
But even where non-genuine parts are available there are certain benefits in using OE parts even if a non-genuine part is available at lower cost. This is particularly important if the vehicle is still covered by a new car warranty, as the use of non-genuine parts could leave you stuck in the middle of an argument between a parts supplier and the vehicle manufacturer with neither party willing to accept responsibility for a failure. It’s much more difficult for a manufacturer to reject a claim if genuine parts have been used.
Statutory or Goodwill Warranties.
If you’ve had your vehicle serviced for some time by a non-dealer after the warranty expires then your chances of assistance by the manufacturer for out-of-warranty issues may be or most likely at risk. Few people realise that most vehicle manufacturers operate a system of discretionary goodwill assistance that is over and above that provided under the terms of the warranty.
Among the many factors used to determine if goodwill assistance will be offered, and if so to what extent, is the vehicle's service history. In essence, if you don’t support the dealer network it’s unlikely that the manufacturer will support you any further than is legally required.
To sum up, yes - you may trust your local service outlet more because you have a one-on-one relationship with the mechanic and he operates a no frills, low cost operation but for the sake of saving $20 or $50 it may not pay off in the long run. The larger non-dealer service chains have overheads too so the differences are negligible to dealers. But considering benefits of OE technology, genuine parts and goodwill, the effect of moving away from your dealer can turn out costly in the long run.
The evolution of Dealer Service Departments
The dealer service culture has changed dramatically in the last decade. Many dealers want you to know who serviced your vehicle, Northpoint for instance leave a flyer in your vehicle with the image of the technician who worked on your car with a personal note. Some dealers allow you to watch your car being serviced with some even providing a webcam so you can watch the technician working on your car from the comfort of your office or home via a website or app.
Dealers now are more transparent, they want to build a long relationship, they have the technology to store your service history, give educated advice and keep you informed of the latest OE technologies or assist with upgrading to a newer model when the time comes.
So if your vehicle is out of warranty or past its capped price service period, think about the advantages of maintaining that service relationship with the dealer. After all they already know your car, know you which all leads to additional goodwill and the likelihood that you will get assistance and wavering on all or some costs with out-of-warranty problems should they arise.
When you arrive at a dealer service department you notice the difference immediately. You don’t have to walk into the shop to track down the mechanic or owner but greeted by trained customer service consultants who listen intently on any concerns you have about the vehicle. They will immediately tell you what your vehicle requires for the service and the estimated cost. Modern comfortable customer lounges with Wi-Fi, brewed coffee and the days newspapers are be provide and there will be no smell of oil and dirty paper cups.
In conclusion it is your decision where to have your vehicle serviced. But whoever or wherever that may be it's reasonable to expect that any work done should be performed by qualified people in accordance to the manufacturer's specifications and service intervals, and using genuine or comparable quality parts where required.