Choosing the right car for servicing and repairs
Maintenance and the price of spare parts can be pretty dull subjects when all you really want is to get your hands on the car you’ve been longing for. But – it’s reality check time.
Like it or not, such workaday things really matter, writes Ray Castle of motors.co.uk. After all, you don’t want to be forced into selling your dream motor before time because owning it is emptying your wallet in a scary way.
Take hope, though, because avoiding nasty bills can actually pretty straightforward. Here’s the motors.co.uk guide to shrinking those ownership costs.
Buy the right make
Fords and Vauxhalls are cheaper to fix and to buy spares for than many of their rivals. Most of these cars begin their lives as company cars. And no one watches the pennies more closely than a corporate fleet or leasing manager. To keep him or her happy, the car makers ensure that the cars will run for long distances without needing attention. And when parts are required, fitting them is straightforward.
Pick a best seller
Buy a Ford Fiesta or a Volkswagen Golf and you’ll never find it hard to obtain parts or find a garage that’ll repair your car. But own a little known model, an old car or an import and it’ll be a different story.
But it needn’t be a current model
Manufacturers have an agreement to keep parts available for at least 10 years after a model ceases production. Some – like Mercedes-Benz – keep parts on offer for longer. Even where the manufacturer goes bust – like MG Rover – the parts operation lives on. If you buy a well known classic – like the MGB or Triumph Stag – there’s an entire industry dedicated to keep parts available – from nuts and bolts through to entire body shells.
Don’t buy a tatty car and plan to fix it up
It would – in theory – be possible to build your perfect car, entirely from spares. But you’d be mad to try because of it would cost many times the price of a similar model, bought fresh from the factory. What this tells you is that there’s no sense in buying anything that it’s in rough condition, no matter how cheap it may be. And pay particular attention to the state the cabin is in. While small marks, burns and screw holes left by mobile phone holders can often be repaired cheaply and well, replacing seat covers or trim panels is often surprisingly expensive.
Know your parts
Spare parts for cars aren’t all the same. There are four distinct and different types.
Manufacturer parts, available from the sales counter at your local main dealer, are the dearest. But they are guaranteed to be exactly right for your car, as good or even better than whatever it had when new. They come in a box with the maker’s name on and will be guaranteed against defects for at least a year.
Original equipment (OE) parts. Often identical to manufacturer parts and made by the same company. The maker may be a name you have heard of or a brand name you’ve seen under the bonnet. These will be sold by big-name motor parts retailers and will carry a warranty.
Pattern parts. Sold by smaller parts shops and on online auction sites. They look like manufacturer parts but cost a lot less. Copied from the originals in factories, often in the Far East. Of varying quality and sold without any specific guarantee.
Second-hand or refurbished parts. Available from scrap yards and specialist resellers. As cheap or cheaper than the other kinds. Refurbished parts usually come with a warranty; used ones rarely do. Parts from scrap yards are now removed from the car, cleaned and labelled.
Which should you buy? It’s horses for courses. Vital parts such as brakes, suspension and oil filters should be top quality. But if you car needs a new rear lamp lens to get it through its MoT test, why not buy from a scrap yard?
Shop around for the best deal on garage prices
Hourly labour rates vary widely. Franchised dealers often charge the most because they have rent and rates to pay on costly premises and high staff costs. But their work is guaranteed and they promise to use only top quality replacement parts. They will also deliver and collect your car from your home or work, give you a lift or organise a loan car.
Small, local garages charge less and the best offer a friendly, personal service. But they can’t offer the same range of services – it’s strictly no-frills. You probably won’t get a warranty as such but they’ll usually sort out problems.
National garage chains are cheap, too, and often give low-cost, fixed-price deals on brake replacement, exhausts and servicing. You’ll usually get a written warranty. But they aren’t usually equipped or qualified for complicated or specialist repairs.
Finally, many franchised dealers offer cheaper rates for older cars. These often deliver keen value because you get main dealer expertise and manufacturer parts at reduced prices. And a main-dealer invoice for work always looks good when the time comes to sell the car on.
For more great car buying advice and to view and buy new and second-hand cars, click on to motors.co.uk. While you’re there, check our new, faster car search, too. Surf the web using your mobile phone? Click here or text ‘motors’ to 65056 and we’ll send you a link. Or if you’ve an iPhone, download the motors.co.uk app from the ‘utilities’ section of the iTunes store.