Getting your car serviced regularly will help ensure it remains roadworthy while identifying problems before they become more serious. But should you opt for a dealership or an independent garage?

As a vehicle owner, you have two main options when it comes to getting a service carried out: a dealership or an independent garage.

We've put together this article to help you decide which is best for your needs.

Car dealership servicing

Why should I get a manufacturer service?

Manufacturers may recommend that you get your car serviced at a particular dealership. This is because dealership mechanics have been trained on brand-specific models. Moreover, they will have up-to-date knowledge on the latest models, including any particular issues or software update requirements.

Dealership servicing and warranties

If your car is still under the manufacturer's warranty, the manufacturer may insist that you use a particular network of dealerships for the warranty to remain valid.

As mentioned, this is because that dealership will have particular expertise in ensuring certain makes and models are kept in optimum working order.

Why getting regular services is important

By keeping any warranty valid in line with the manufacturer's requirements, you should be able to avoid any large repair fees down the road.

But ensuring your vehicle gets serviced regularly is important more generally so that it continues to work safely. A good mechanic will also be able to identify potential issues that could develop into something more serious later on, thereby saving you from a hefty repair bill.

Manufacturers often recommend certain dealership networks because of their in-depth knowledge of certain models, assisted by a good working relationship between the carmaker and the dealership (e.g. they might offer advance warning of certain mechanical issues in particular models).

Car servicing

Manufacturer service schedule

Refer to your owner's handbook to find out the manufacturer's recommended service schedule. This will also detail the manufacturer's recommended maintenance tasks.

And of course, if you have a live warranty in place, determine if a particular dealership must be used to keep the warranty valid (by checking the associated documents).

Manufacturer service recommendations

A dealership that partners with a specific carmaker is likely to have a list of service recommendations that will help ensure the car continues to work properly and is less likely to develop faults in the future.

"Goodwill payments" from manufacturers

Some car makers offer what they call "goodwill payments" if a vehicle breaks down soon after a dealership servicing has taken place (i.e. in line with the warranty requirements).

Look out for such policies since they give you extra peace of mind that you won't be landed with a large repair bill.

Genuine parts

Dealerships will probably be required to use genuine parts for any repairs.

These should in theory last longer and work better than alternative/non-brand parts.

Should I use an independent garage?

There are many reputable independent garages in the UK who can service your car. However, as stated, you need to be aware of any warranty stipulations, i.e. if the manufacturer or warranty supplier insists on a particular dealership/repair network.

If your vehicle is out of warranty, using an independent garage may make more sense.

Independent garages are often viewed as cheaper than dealerships but this is not always the case.

Besides, a dealership that has been authorised to service and repair certain makes and models may well have a level of up-to-date knowledge that independent garages might lack. A dealership may also fix small things that you didn't even know were an issue - things that an independent might miss.

An independent garage may not carry out the same checks as an authorised dealership or may be unaware of model-specific issues. They may also not use genuine/branded parts unlike dealerships.

However, for older cars, whose 'foibles' may be well known, an independent garage may be a good choice, especially if you have used them for a number of years and if they have lower fees than local dealerships.

This sense of personal trust and familiarity is often lacking with dealership interactions.

Maintaining the service record and vehicle resale value

Any work you have done on your vehicle should be documented in detail. This proof should help if you achieve a higher price if you decide to sell.

Some dealerships keep a brand-specific online record of work done which can be printed out upon request. However, some smaller tasks may not be kept on file so ensure you have a record of these.

Note that, generally, independent garages cannot update or access such online maintenance records.

Recording details of car service

What can I expect from a standard service?

This would include changing the oil and air filters, among other small tasks.

What can I expect from a major service?

A major service would include replacing things like spark plugs, antifreeze, power-steering and brake fluid. Brake pads and tyres should also be checked.

A dealership may also do extra things like updating the vehicle's software.

In summary

Whether you choose a dealership or an independent to get your car serviced, it is important to have your car serviced regularly by a skilled mechanic.

A well-maintained vehicle will help ensure you and your passengers remain safe on the road and will help prevent small problems from developing into more serious - and costly - ones.