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Motor Mouth articles 2010

The dearest dealer – at £190 an hour

IN the perhaps unlikely event that you should be planning a move to Hertfordshire, you should be awfully careful if you intend to get your car serviced. A dealer there is waiting to sting you with the highest labour charge in the country – a cool £190 an hour.

When you think of all the things that £190 could buy you in these deficit-driven, ultra-competitive days, an hour of some Home Counties mechanic’s time doesn’t really seem like the greatest value.

Anyway, don’t say you haven’t been warned, although unfortunately I am unable to name and shame the franchised dealer levying this mind-boggling labour rate – you could probably recognise him by his striped jumper and eye mask. And perhaps his yacht.

His distinction as Britain’s dearest dealer is revealed by Warranty Direct following their extensive annual survey into garage labour rates – and they conclude that, after a standstill period, charges are on the rise again.

The average hourly labour charge from a franchised dealer is now £90.59 – up from £87.19 last year – and from independent dealers the figure has risen from £52.69 to £55.90. The overall average is up nearly 6% to £74.82 per hour.

There are, of course, huge regional variations and some areas have actually seen charges drop since 2009. Most were in Scotland or the north of England, with mechanics in Northumberland and Lanarkshire both reducing charges by more than 12%. Even Greater London has seen a drop of 2.5%.

The sharpest rises have come in Suffolk, up by 22%, and Cardiff, up by 19%, while Surrey was revealed as the most expensive place in Britain to get your car serviced or repaired, with an average hourly cost of £87.59.

“The once relentless upward march of labour rates appears to have started again after a slight dip last year,” says Duncan McClure Fisher of Warranty Direct. “To avoid paying above-inflation rises, motorists need to shop around and not be afraid to push their preferred repairer to charge them less.”

The list of most expensive areas is predictably dominated by London and the south-east while the cheapest, although mostly northern places, also includes the Isle of Wight and Bedfordshire.

In our neck of the woods, Somerset comes out worst, with an average charge of £68.94 representing a nasty increase of 8.26% on last year. The Hampshire average of £79.31 is also an 8% rise.

In Devon the figure of £71.32 is a 4.58% increase on a year ago, while Wiltshire’s £70.25 is up 1.61% and Dorset’s average charge of £66.70 actually represents a drop of nearly 2%.

The message is clear: steer clear of the Stockbroker Belt, especially Surrey and the bandit in Hertfordshire; and ask some searching questions even in the south-west, particularly Somerset, because some dealerships there seem to have found their own way of beating the recession.

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