Does where you get your car serviced really matter?
Servicing your car is a necessary evil – but who should you be trusting with the task? If you’ve purchased your car new from a dealer, you’ve probably found them nudging you towards their official servicing division. They might have even hinted that servicing it elsewhere will void your factory warranty.
However, ACCC’s Competition and Consumer Act 2010 forbids the attachment of conditions to the sale of goods that restrict a consumer’s freedom to deal with whom they choose. Which basically means a company can’t compel you to service your car in-house with the threat of losing your warranty coverage if you don’t.
Servicing your car at an independent workshop, then, is totally within your rights as a consumer, but is it the best choice? Here’s what you need to think about before making the call.
Is it a reputable workshop?
Servicing your car with a manufacturer-dealer isn’t mandatory to retain your warranty but the ACCC says the job still must be performed by qualified staff and to the manufacturer’s specifications, using parts that are fit for the purpose (i.e., they don’t have to be genuine, but they do have to be good quality). So, you must use a qualified mechanic who follows the prescribed servicing regime to the letter using appropriate-quality parts.
Are you trying to save money?
Independent workshops typically have smaller overheads than their factory counterparts and can further reduce costs with non-genuine parts, so they can charge less for the same work.
Do you want to tap into new-car ownership sweeteners?
We won’t get into the complex matter of whether manufacturers’ fixed-price servicing is the best deal, but it does allow you to map out costs over a certain timeframe. So while your warranty won’t be affected, car companies are entitled to ask that you service your car within their channels to gain the perk of capped-price servicing. Roadside-assistance coverage and extended warranties fall into the same boat.
What kind of car do you drive?
Manufacturers furnish dealers with a range of technical information, software updates and fixes for known faults. While the Federal Government is moving to make a mandatory information-sharing scheme law, independent workshops aren’t yet on a level playing field in this respect.
A dealer, then, is generally better placed to successfully diagnose and address faults with your car, but that doesn’t necessarily mean independents should be shunned. Big-selling mainstream cars are serviced by a large chunk of the automotive repair industry. Word travels quickly and issues and solutions tend to become well known. The knowledge base for niche vehicles, contrastingly, is much smaller.
So you shouldn’t expect a reputable independent workshop to have any trouble servicing your Corolla. But if you drive a big-dollar sports car or luxury limo – or a car from a brand that is relatively uncommon – a manufacturer-backed servicer is going to have more of the “tools” needed to do the job properly.
Is it a warranty job?
Independent workshops aren’t in a position to undertake warranty claims, so if you are seeking to have this kind of problem fixed, you need to go through your dealer.