Vehicle servicing and repairs

Taking your car or vehicle to be serviced requires you to put trust in the garage or mechanic who is doing the work for you. However, you don’t need to rely on trust alone to get a fair deal.

20th April 2018

There are a number of regulations in place to make sure that a garage cannot take advantage of you. These regulations can help if:

  • A problem with your car is missed or not properly fixed;
  • The garage charged you an unfair or unexpectedly high amount;
  • A mechanic used faulty spare parts on your car; or
  • Your vehicle is stolen or damaged while at the garage.

Understanding your rights

Any services provided by a garage are subject to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, meaning that when you take your car to be repaired or serviced, you are entering into a contract with them. Under this act, the garage is legally required to fix and maintain your car with “reasonable care and skill”.

They must also charge a reasonable price and finish the work in a reasonable amount of time, assuming that the price and timescale were not agreed at the beginning. If they use spare parts to repair your vehicle, you are protected under the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002, which specifies that all parts must be fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality, and as described.

[The garage] must charge a reasonable price and finish the work in a reasonable amount of time.

Car servicing problems

Mistakes in diagnosing or fixing problems

The garage may have missed a problem with the car or falsely diagnosed the issue as something else. Alternatively, they may have failed to fix the issue or may have done a poor job of repairing it.

If this happens, you should give the garage a chance to rectify their mistakes and fix the car properly. If they refuse or are unable to fix the car, or they refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem with their workmanship, you may wish to seek a second opinion from another garage.

If the second opinion finds that there are still problems with the car, you can use this information to try and get the original garage to correct the problem, or you can get the car fixed at another garage and attempt to claim the costs back from the original provider.

Note that if you get the work done somewhere else before seeking a second opinion, you will be unable to reclaim the cost from the original garage.

You should find out whether the garage you choose is a member of a trade association, such as The Motor Ombudsman or the Retail Motor Industry Federation. A trade association is likely to have its own conciliation or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service to help you negotiate a fair outcome.

The garage will also be required to work in accordance with their trade association’s code of practice, which should help to protect you against any sort of poor work.

You should find out whether the garage you choose is a member of a trade association.

Problems with spare parts

As mentioned above, any spare parts used to fix your car must comply with the Sales of Goods rules. This means that the mechanic cannot use parts that are:

  • Not as described (e.g. using second-hand parts but charging you for new parts)
  • Not of satisfactory quality (e.g. parts that are worn out or of poor quality)
  • Not fit for purpose (e.g. using the wrong sort of part, or using counterfeit parts)

If the parts used do not meet appropriate standards, you should ask the garage to replace the parts free of charge. You could also investigate whether the garage is a member of a trade association, and make use of their trade association’s dispute resolution service.

What to do if you are overcharged

If the garage has charged you more than you expected, it could be that they did extra work that you hadn’t expected or asked for. This may have happened if they found more problems while working on the car than they had originally identified, or if a problem with the car turned out to be worse than they had initially thought, requiring more work and spare parts.

Your rights in this situation will depend on what the garage told you and what you agreed before they started the work. If you asked them to do whatever was required to fix the problem, you will have to pay if it was necessary for them to do the extra work, even if this is more expensive than the quotation or estimate that they gave you at the beginning.

However, if you asked them to fix an issue and they also fixed something else without checking with you first, you can ask that they undo the extra work free of charge, or you can refuse to pay anything more than what was agreed originally.

If the garage has simply charged more than you expected for the agreed work, this will again depend on what was discussed with regards to price at the beginning. If you agreed to a fixed price, or you were given a quotation, you should dispute the amount if it is significantly higher.

You can also dispute the amount if it seems like an unreasonably high amount – talk to other garages to get an idea of what a “reasonable” price for the work you’ve had done would be. However, if you consented to or were given a quote before the work commenced, you will most likely have to pay it, regardless of how unreasonable you may think it is.

You can also dispute the amount if it seems like an unreasonably high amount.

If you wish to dispute a bill with the garage, you should try and negotiate with them directly to reach an agreement over what to pay before taking them to court or using their trade association’s ADR service.

If you are refusing to pay while you dispute the bill, the garage has the right to keep your vehicle until the debt is paid. If you need the vehicle back before you can settle the dispute, you should pay “under protest”.

If you make it clear that you are paying under protest, you will be able to get your car back, and it will be easier for you to dispute the cost and claim the money back later. If you don’t make this clear, the garage may argue later that your payment amounted to acceptance of the charges.

If your car was damaged or stolen while at the garage

Your car is protected under the law of bailment while it is at the garage, which means that the garage is responsible for taking reasonable care of the vehicle while it is in their possession.

Under the law of bailment, you may be able to claim compensation from the garage if your car is damaged, stolen or lost while in their care. If you notice damage to the car once you have driven it away, you should take it back as soon as possible. If you can prove that the garage failed in their duty of care, you may be able to make a successful claim.

Rather than claiming compensation, you could demand that the garage fix the damage free of charge. If this means that you will incur extra costs for the car being off the road longer (such as taxi or car hire costs) you may be able to claim these costs from the garage too.

You could also ask the garage to pay for the car to be repaired elsewhere, and you should check with their insurer to make sure that they will cover this. If you have the car repaired on your insurance, you may keep your no claims bonus if you can prove to your insurer that the damage was the fault of the garage. If this happens, the insurer will try to reclaim their costs from them.

If you are having any issues related to repairs or servicing on your car, you may find it helpful to seek legal advice, particularly if there is a lot of money at stake.

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