In association with MotorEasy
Servicing satisfaction: main dealers vs independent garages
Is it best to keep your car within the brand’s workshops come service time, or are you better off taking your business elsewhere? We look at the nuts and bolts of the subject...
The UK’s car service and repair industry is very big business, with consumers spending billions on maintaining their cars each year. It’s important, then, that garages and service departments provide a high level of customer care to motorists who visit them.
While many service departments look after customers well and provide a high level of workmanship at a reasonable price, not all of them fulfil all these criteria. If you visit a garage and receive poor communication, shoddy workmanship and high prices, you probably won't be satisfied – and are unlikely to use the business again.
So, to help you choose the best place to service your car, we asked nearly 25,000 people to tell us about their car maintenance experiences, as part of the annual What Car? Reliability Survey. The 19,317 respondents who said they had taken their car for servicing in the past 24 months were asked to rate the politeness of the garage staff, the quality of work done and the value for money offered.
We’ve collated the scores for these three areas to provide an overall customer satisfaction rating for up to 31 brands of car. Most new car buyers stick with franchised dealer service departments for the first few years of ownership before switching to independent garages later, for reasons that include value and proximity to home.
With this in mind, we’ve rated independents and franchises for satisfaction according to owners of cars aged up to five years old, to reveal which is better at keeping customers happy.
By the time cars reach six or seven years of age, the majority are taken to independent garages, and within this category owners can choose either a workshop that specialises in cars from a specific brand or one that makes no distinction between marques. To find out whether the non-specialist or specialist workshops are better thought of, we’ve compared car owners’ satisfaction ratings for the two types of garage.
The resulting data should give you a good idea of the best places for servicing – from your car being new to its 20th birthday.
The 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey is open now - tell us about your car
Franchised dealers versus independent garages: cars aged 0-5yrs
Franchised dealer service departments
Lexus has the best franchised service network when it comes to customer satisfaction, with the highest scores for attitude and quality of work, but Kia isn’t far behind, with its score boosted by an 89.6% rating for value for money, perhaps partly due to work being carried out for free under its industry-leading seven-year warranty.
In fact, premium brands don’t necessarily perform any better than mainstream and more affordable marques. Citroën, Dacia and MG all secured spots in the top 10. Citroën and MG scored 93% or higher for the way customers were treated, and Dacia scored the second-highest rating of all franchises for value. Meanwhile, just outside the top 10, Skoda scored higher than its Volkswagen Group sister brands, Audi, Seat and Volkswagen, each of which finished in the bottom 10.
Also propping up the chart are prestige brands Land Rover and Mercedes, their overall scores being dragged down by poor value-for-money ratings. However, Jeep is the worst-performing brand of all, posting the lowest scores for attitude and value.
Toyota owners are the most satisfied with independent garages, rating them higher across the board than their franchised counterparts, with an overall score almost six points higher.
The perception of better value for money draws many owners towards independent outfits, and Skoda, Peugeot and Vauxhall owners all score them higher for value than they do franchises.
When it comes to being looked after well, owners of Citroën, Honda and Kia cars find that independent and franchised workshops deliver very similar customer satisfaction. Dacia owners, meanwhile, rate independents lower on quality of work than they do franchised workshops, but score them higher for staff attitude and value, giving independents a higher overall score.
While Land Rover is the bottom of the table when it comes to independent servicing, it’s worth noting that its 88.6% overall score eclipses the 81.2% given to franchises. Indeed, irrespective of the brand of car they drive, owners rated independents higher in every instance where we had data for both types of workshop.
Best pick-up trucks 2023
The best pick-up trucks are tough and dependable working vehicles that can serve as practical family cars at the weekend. These are the best pick-ups available in the UK (plus one electric model)
Citroën C5 Aircross long-term test
Citroën's family SUV has been upgraded inside and under the skin. But what's it like to live with? We're finding out