MMotorists are reporting steep increases in the price of car parts, repairs and maintenance – with some reporting increases of up to 90% – as garages and dealerships raise prices to meet rising costs.
Readers told the Guardian they had seen significant increases in service costs, with some finding parts had become more expensive and harder to find.
“We are definitely seeing the cost of vehicle parts go up due to rising inflation and rising transportation costs,” said RAC Technical Manager James Gibson.
“Many automotive components are being affected by rising global material prices, whether it’s the steel that goes into a coil spring assembly, the oil that goes into the engine, or the manufacturing tires.”
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the cost of running and maintaining personal transport, including cars, has risen 15% from a year ago, above the rate of headline inflation of 10.1%.
However, some readers said the cost of maintaining their car had risen much more significantly: one said the price had jumped 90% in two years (from £179 to £340 £), while another said the cost quoted by their dealer had gone down. up 90% (from £268 to £510) in one year.
The auto ombudsman attributed the rising costs to a long list of challenges facing garages and dealerships. These include the significant jump in energy and fuel prices; lower consumer spending on routine vehicle maintenance and repairs as households tighten their belts; staff recruitment and retention issues; and delays in obtaining spare parts.
Here, three drivers and a mechanic explain how they have been affected by the price hike.
“The price has gone from £268 to £510 in one year”
With inflation soaring, Vince Gallucci, 61, said he “wouldn’t mind” a 25% year-on-year increase for his annual car service. But when told the price had gone up 90% from £268 to £510 at his Volvo dealer, he couldn’t believe it. “I sincerely said, ‘How can you charge so much? I have last year’s bill in front of me. They said it was a standard increase in the market which matched that of other high-end car dealerships,” the Doncaster retiree said.
The car had 15,000 miles on the odometer and it was the second routine service with no faults or outstanding issues.
Gallucci said he would not return. “It’s up to me to choose not to go out of the dealership chain, but it won’t happen again. I reluctantly agreed as it is still in its new car warranty period and I don’t want to affect that from a future sale perspective. Once out of warranty, I’ll also be less inclined to offer my loyalty to them, so maybe that’s a little myopic on Volvo’s part.
“It knocked me aside”
Robert Hackett, a 66-year-old civil servant from Chester, has serviced his car at the same garage for 23 years. When he picked up his vehicle last month he expected to pay between £300 and £400 for maintenance, four brake pads and a brake disc. He was shocked when his bill came in at £880. “It knocked me aside,” he said. “I know they don’t overprice – the owner is a very honest man. They showed me the brake disc to see that it was beyond repair.
Looking at an itemized bill, Hackett says much of the increase is due to the service element rising from £179 two years ago to £340 in September. “I understand from the owner that they have problems retaining staff who are poached by others capable of offering higher salaries – it’s a constant battle.”
Hackett is confident he is receiving high-quality service and will remain loyal, but the “tempting” price hike has encouraged him to scale back his driving.
“It was a big surprise”
Sarah Lewins joined Onto, an all-inclusive subscription service for electric vehicles that includes maintenance, insurance and charging, in February. “Purchase [an EV] was not going to happen, it allowed me to drive a greener car,” said the 46-year-old carer from Birmingham.
In August, the company had raised its prices from £399 to £449 per month while lowering the monthly mileage allowance from 1,000 to 750. The company cited the price increase throughout the chain as supply and a global shortage of chips limiting car production.
Lewins said she stuck with the service because it was still the cheapest way to run an EV compared to leasing and insurance, and she “can handle it.” “But it was a big surprise. The price change probably pushed a number of subscribers back to fossil fuel cars. I can understand why, which is a shame.
“We don’t profit”
Tire garage owner Kevin Ecclestone said the price increases were caused by a range of factors, including rising product, labor and energy costs, as well as higher import surcharges.
“We are lucky – several local garages have closed due to economic conditions,” said Ecclestone, 56. “Covid has impacted production in China as supply is down. Freight costs are a big issue – pre-Covid it was $2,000 to ship a container from Asia – at one point given [in late 2020] it was almost $20,000.
The price of the cheap tires the garage sells is rising the fastest: “Less than a year ago the retail price was £45 – now it’s £60.”
The garage had to pay surcharges last year at UK ports to import products. “We received a letter explaining the port tax [was due to] the time and cost of customs clearance. This was a temporary measure introduced to deal with the pressure on business – there have been many other pressures since then,” Ecclestone said. A key tire component, carbon black, is largely made in Russia, while a “huge amount” of petroleum is used in manufacturing.
Garage energy costs have also skyrocketed: from £150 for electricity in January to £910 in September.
Ecclestone says his customers understand he doesn’t price gouge. “People accept that the price of materials goes up. We are not profiting – margins are low and we will struggle to maintain our profits. When you chat with mechanics over a cup of tea, everyone says the same thing: are you raising prices fast enough to keep the business going? He added that his garage is also paying back £1,000 a month in Covid government loan repayments.
He said he has given three pay rises to his staff this year to try to keep pace with competition and the rising cost of living. “Staff costs are now increasing by £2,000 per year per member of staff due to retention and recruitment issues. I always say happy fitters, happy customers, but of course that’s a cost that needs to be passed on.