Cars need regular servicing. The time and/mileage between services vary depending on the make and model and whether it's a petrol or a diesel car. You should always stick to the car's servicing programme but you're not obliged to use the same garage that supplied your car as your servicing garage.
Even between dealers for the same franchise, you'll find big regional price differences on hourly labour charges. Depending on the work involved, the savings can even be enough to pay for an overnight stay in a nice part of the country.
Many motorists are inclined to stay within the manufacturer's dealer network in order to maintain the dealer service history. That's understandable, but you need to be sure that the value such a history adds to your car is justified by the extra cost. EU legislation means it's OK to go where you want for servicing, even to a non-franchised garage, without invalidating your warranty.
There's no shortage of non-franchised service specialists with all the diagnostic equipment and staff quality necessary to fulful normal servicing needs. Bosch is a good example of a service chain with a trustworthy name. To find more garages who have signed up to the ideal of raising customer service standards, go to the Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair (www.motorindustrycodes.co.uk) for a list.
If you do go to an independent garage, make sure it's VAT-registered. Before you let them loose on your car, establish whether they're using genuine manufacturer products or aftermarket 'pattern' items (which are often half the price and maybe no different in quality). Ask for receipts and for part numbers to be noted on the service docket, and make sure that the service book is stamped after the work is complete.
Repair or warranty work is different to service work in terms of keeping your warranty intact: that does have to be done at a franchised dealer.
Understanding the terms of your warranty could save you a lot of money. Make sure you're not entitled to claim some work for free before you book your car in for servicing.
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