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What should a car service cost and how often do you need your car serviced? What do garages do in a car service?

Let Us Explain... When a car is designed, the manufacturer sets out a service schedule for the car, which they believe will keep it running reliably and safely.

Typically a manufacturer service schedule consists of 65-85 checks (see table of examples later) and 5 - 15 changes to your car. It will be slightly different for each car, depending on the engine, transmission, age and mileage. In order that the original manufacturer warranty is not invalidated, this service schedule must be adhered to, while the car is under warranty.

As well as the services being very similar, there is an enormous amount of overlap between any given service and the MOT test. MOT estimate that 75-85% of a typical service is covered by the MOT test.

Types of Car Services (Car Service Categories)

So for cars that are out of their original manufacturer warranty, garages design their own services, which broadly match the following categories, that get more expensive with each step:

  • Oil & Filter Change
  • Basic or Interim Service
  • Full Service
  • Major Service
  • Manufacturer Service
  • Car Service

An oil and filter change is one of the most crucial parts a service and is one of the few things included in all services. It helps to ensure your car continues to run reliably and helps fuel efficiency.

Service Providers have a ‘duty of care’ to customers when they work on their car. So all reputable Service Providers will complete a Visual Safety Inspection when they work on a car, which identify any obvious safety concerns with a car, even if it is just booked in for an oil and filter change. But they will not be able to complete a full brake check with this kind of service and that is, in MyCarNeedsA.com' view, a crucial check to have at least once a year.

Basic or Interim Service

Each type of service builds on the previous level. So a Basic service typically includes an oil and filter change and visual inspection.

But it usually adds a top up of all the key fluids in the engine bay (washer fluid, brake fluid, anti-freeze, steering fluid) and a check of up to 35 key components.

A good Service Provider, performing this kind of service, will usually check the brakes and manufacturer guidelines so that they can recommend any additional work that your car may need. Sadly not all garages do though.

Full Service

A full service will include the basic service work, and typically add an extra 15-30 checks of the car’s components compared to the basic service. But a number of the checks will already be covered by the MOT test (if you are having it done at the same time).

As with the basic service, if the car needs any repairing, or the manufacturer guidelines recommend extra maintenance work, this will be an additional cost.

Major Service

A major service will have everything covered under a full service, but typically also include changing spark plugs or fuel filters and some other wear/service items recommended in the manufacturer schedule.

This doesn’t mean there won’t be additional repair or maintenance work to add on, but it means some things are already included (whether you need them or not).

This service should be the closest to a manufacturer service but will not be unique to your car.

Manufacturer Service

A manufacturer service price, confirmed at the point of booking, should be bespoke to your car. It should include all wear/service/maintenance items your car needs.

The only additional work you should be quoted for when the car is in the workshop, should be ‘surprise’ repair work.

Which Service Should You Buy?

If your car is under manufacturer warranty, you must book a manufacturer service to protect the warranty.

If your MOT is due at around the same time as your service, then book an MOT and MOT Service. Extra manufacturer requirements will be added on if needed to give you all the servicing you need, and nothing you don’t.

If your MOT is not due at the same time as your service, book a full service.

How Often Should You Service Your Car?

If you are doing high mileage (average mileage is 8,000 miles a year) then ideally you should have an MOT and a full service, once a year, but six months apart. So the car has an MOT and six months later, it has a full service.

But if you do low mileage, or that is not practical for time or money reasons, then you should book in for a MOT and MOT Service once a year.

How Much Should A Service Cost?

It's hard to give a guide price because service costs vary by Service Provider, car, car age and what is included upfront.

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