Labour rate falls, but drivers still pay over the odds for servicing

Drivers are paying less on average for a mechanic's time than they were two years ago, but there are still big differences between what you'll pay in the North and South of the country

Words By Darren Moss

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Drivers are paying up to Β£234 per hour to have their cars serviced or repaired in the UK, despite the average labour rate falling across the country to Β£67 per hour, new research has found.

'Labour rate' is an umbrella term used to cover the manual labour time used to work on your car. It varies between garages and is affected by factors such as location, investment in new equipment and the wages of technicians and mechanics.

The UK's average labour rate figure – calculated from surveying 6000 independent, fast fit and franchised garages aross the country – has actually fallen compared with 2014, when the average stood at Β£74 per hour.

The survey, conducted by Motoreasy, found that motorists living in Surrey face the highest average, at Β£81 per hour, while those in the rural Scottish county of Selkirkshire have the lowest average, at Β£49 per hour. London is the second most expensive area for labour rates, with an average hourly price of Β£77.

In terms of individual garages, the cheapest quote was Β£36 per hour from a garage in Manchester, while the most expensive was Β£234, from a sports car main dealer in Reading.

Motoreasy founder Duncan McClure Fisher said: "Today’s drivers don’t have the time or, in many cases, the knowledge to make absolutely sure they are getting the best price from garages.

β€œIt’s not made any easier by the fact that the cost of labour differs so vastly across the UK. Even so, anyone spending money should at least understand how much they are paying and for what.”

What’s a fair price for labour?

Ultimately, this depends on where you live and where you take your car. Living in a big city like London or Birmingham means that labour rates are likely to be higher than in rural areas, because wages are higher too. It’s also worth noting that of the 10 cheapest labour rate regions in the UK, six are in Scotland. And, generally speaking, you'll pay more in the South of the UK than you would in the North.

There's also a big difference between taking your car to an independent garage and going to a franchised dealer. In fact, Motoreasy’s research revealed the labour rate price difference between the two stands at an average of 40%, with dealers charging an average of Β£99 per hour, compared with Β£56 per hour for independents. Plus, in a recent survey, independent garages beat franchised dealers for customer satisfaction.

Motoreasy's study also found that 77% of motorists don’t know how much they pay for an hour of labour, and three in five said they don’t shop around for a better deal before agreeing to work. Alarmingly, almost a third of those surveyed said they don’t check the final bill before paying, either.

Is it cheaper to service my car myself?

Getting your car serviced can be seen as a financial burden, but it’s important to keep up to date with your car’s service schedule, because not doing so could affect its resale value. A typical service will involve oil and filter changes, replacement spark or glow plugs and checking brake fluid – as well as checks on your brake pads and discs, suspension and bodywork.

It is possible to carry out these checks at home, but only if you’re confident you can do the job, and we only recommend you do this once your car is out of warranty.

Read more - Independent garages beat franchised dealers in satisfaction survey

Read more - how to have your car serviced

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