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Car mechanics 'drive up charges'

17 February 06 11:37 GMT

Forget stories about overpaid lawyers and doctors, the real money is to be made fixing cars, a survey has found.

According to UK motoring magazine What Car?, some mechanics are charging more than £100 an hour for labour.

The highest prices are often found at car dealerships that are franchised by the big vehicle manufacturers, it said.

For example, changing a main headlight bulb - worth less than £4 - on an Audi A2 can cost as much as £66. A full service on an Audi A4 can cost £440.

What Car? also called around looking for repair quotes on other makes of vehicle, including BMW, Ford and Citroen.

'Travel to it'

The problem facing motorists is that as their cars use increasing amounts of technology to run, so fixing them becomes more time-consuming and fiddly.

Another pitfall for motorists is that the prices they are charged will vary on their location, with garages in London charging more than elsewhere in the UK.

Steve Fowler, the group editor of What Car?, said that consumers should shop around and not forget that their manufacturer's warranty could still be valid, even if they did not use franchised garages for their repairs or services.

"Consumers could save hundreds of pounds if they shopped around and did their research," said Mr Fowler.

"One option I will be considering is to book my car in at the cheapest garage, even if I have to travel to it - the savings I can make will pay for a night in a hotel and a decent meal," he said.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that it was not surprising that prices were higher in London than elsewhere, and added that many manufacturers had increased the distance covered between services.

On top of that, the Society said, a well-serviced car was more efficient and cheaper to run.

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