It should, of course, be easy. Make a booking over the phone, drop your car off, pick it up later that day all shiny and perfect.
The first thing to remember is to actually get your car serviced at all. As a nation, we’re not the best when it comes to vehicle maintenance, and there are a worrying number of cars out there with holes and gaps in their service history. For some reason, we’re culturally averse to spending money on our cars once we have them bought. This is, of course, pure folly — whatever you spend servicing your car, no matter how much, it will always amount to a saving in the long run. As with so many things in life, prevention is better than cure.
If that’s not enough to convince you, then perhaps cold, hard cash in your hand will. Research (from Cartell.ie incidentally) has shown that a full service history, especially a main dealer one, can boost the second hand value of your car by as much as €1,750. With depreciation being the single biggest cost of motoring, that's a significant amount of money put back into your account.
For those who simply don’t know when their car needs to be serviced, there are some simple answers. Many cars will actually tell you — flashing up a notice in the dashboard that a service is imminent. BMW and MINI started this trend, and it’s spreading to other car makers, with some even including a monthly count-down. The growing number of smartphone apps that can remotely connect to your car can also help you keep a track of the service record.
For the rest, it’s still pretty simple and comes back to the oldest advice in motoring: read the manual. Every car’s owner's manual will tell you when a service is needed, so simply look it up in the index and check the mileage. Of course, there’s an even easier way to tell. Simply look at the calendar. If it’s been a year since your car was last in the garage, get it booked in — even for low mileage drivers this is a good idea, and really only those covering exceptionally high mileages will need to have their car in more frequently than that. Some car makers reckon you can stretch servicing intervals to two years or even more sometimes, but that just doesn’t sound like good practice to us. An annual inspection is best.
As for price, that will vary enormously depending on the car you drive and the dealer to whom you bring it. Obviously, a main, franchised dealer will be more expensive than a small back-street operation, and a premium-badge dealer more so again, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid one and go for the other. The age-old advice of shopping around is still good advice to follow, and while a main dealer will be more expensive, there can be fringe benefits such as having them collect and drop back your car, or at the very least a complimentary taxi to work and back.
Generally, while a car is under warranty, it’s best to keep it serviced with a main dealer for that brand, and the growing number of ‘service inclusive’ plans means that you can pay ahead for those services, and even add the cost of them to your Personal Contract Plan or Hire Purchase payments, making it even more painless. Once out of warranty, it could well be time to start looking for a good independent garage, but be sure to ask around and find out which are the best ones in your area.
Incidentally, it’s a good idea to be wary of the growing number of ‘fixed price’ services available. These are helpful, in budgeting terms, but they do mean that the garage is generally sticking to a rigid, and brief, procedure for each car, so there won’t necessarily be time to have your cars inspected for any issues beyond the usual fluids and filters. Yes, fixed-price servicing can save you both money and headaches, but it’s easy for issues with the car to be missed, which can mean bigger expense down the line. As ever, exercise caution and make sure that you’re getting the service you need. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions, and don’t take back the car until you’re happy with what’s been done.