Car Advice

Dealer Vs Non-Dealer Car Servicing

Most mechanics advertise log book services that won’t affect your new car warranty… We dive into the age-old dealer vs non-dealer car servicing debate.

MOST NEW CAR DEALERS, AND EVEN SOME CAR MANUFACTURERS, are happy to peddle the idea that only an authorised service outlet can perform logbook servicing. And there’s a slight grain of truth in that, too. Confused? Good, that’s just the way they like it.

But, according to the Trade Practices Act a buyer has freedom of choice to deal with whomever they choose. From NSW Fair Trading: “To keep your motor vehicle in top condition and to avoid the possibility of breakdown or expensive repairs in the future, you should follow the maintenance schedule. If the vehicle is still under warranty and you don’t have it serviced to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, you may void your warranty. As long as the service is carried out in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications, any licensed repairer can do it, not just the dealer from whom you purchased the vehicle.”

This means a new vehicle dealer/vehicle manufacturer can’t specify (as a standard warranty condition) that you have your vehicle serviced by X dealer, or even X group of dealers. So, if you’ve got a tame mechanic that you’ve been using for years, then you’re free to take your bright and shiny new vehicle to them for scheduled services (your warranty can’t be voided for this).

But your warranty can be voided if your mechanic has been lax in their work; cutting a corner to save you a few dollars by fitting non-genuine parts that have caused damage, or the failure of associated parts. Something else worth considering when going outside the dealer network is that your local mechanic probably won’t have access to the latest diagnostic equipment, service information or technical support.

A case in point: we heard one story, and no doubt there are plenty more, of one Range Rover owner who was left stranded for a month while their ‘local’ mechanic tried to chase down an electrical gremlin… it was eventually diagnosed within an hour, and fixed the same day, at a manufacturer-approved workshop.

People often cite price as being the reason they want to take their car to someone local. The time taken to get across town, or even further if you live in the country is another consideration, but the price myth shouldn’t rule out using a dealer-based workshop. And that because it’s the vehicle manufacturer, and not the dealer that sets the chargeable time. That means it comes down to how much the dealer/local mechanic charges its workers as to how much the by-the-book service will cost. In most cases dealers pay slightly higher hourly rates to employees, because of factory-backed training, etc.

One area where non-factory approved mechanics will save you some money is in the use of ‘non-genuine’ parts, but on a brand-spanking new vehicle this can be fraught with danger. If your new vehicle is still under warranty and something breaks, and your local, non-dealer mechanic replaces the part with a non-genuine bit, well, you could be left in limbo with the manufacturer as to who should foot the bill.

Most manufacturers will take the view that if you’ve gone outside the dealer network and used non-genuine parts, well, you’re largely on your own. And this is the same once your vehicle runs out of warranty. If you’ve had it serviced within the dealer network the whole time, the manufacturer is likely to take a positive view (goodwill assistance, it’s called) and help out if something goes wrong.

Generally, however, you have recourse to take the mechanic to task via the Trade Practices Act, which states: “A motor vehicle repairer has a responsibility, as with any other trade, to ensure that the work carried out is done in a ‘workmanship like manner’.

“This is a responsibility brought under the Fair Trading legislation, other similar legislation, and common law.

“If a part fitted by a workshop is defective, substandard or unfit for its intended purpose, and if it is the ‘cause’ of an accident, a customer (but not another person such as a passenger, pedestrian or subsequent owner of a vehicle) can bring a contractual claim against the workshop under section 74 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.

“A claim could also be brought under section 74 if the workshop did not exercise due care and skill in carrying out repairs or testing. Section 74 implies a non-excludable warranty into contracts for the supply of services by workshops to customers: that services will be carried out with due care and skill and; that any components supplied in connection with those services will be reasonably fit for the purpose for which they are supplied.

“Similar warranties are implied by common law into contracts for the supply of services by workshops. For example, if a customer could establish that a workshop did not exercise due care and skill in fitting a disc brake calliper, or if the customer could establish that a disc brake rotor fitted by the workshop was below recommended minimum operating thickness, the workshop could be held liable to the customer under section 74 or under common law.”

Sometimes there are restrictions on extended warranties and it pays to read the fine print, because sometimes it’ll stipulate that, to be eligible, the new vehicle must be serviced within the dealer network.

In the end, it all comes down to you as to where you get your vehicle serviced. If you’ve been using your local mechanic for years, and he knows your particular type of vehicle backwards, then keep using him. As long as he’s registered, and he uses genuine or approved parts, and doesn’t cut corners you shouldn’t have any dramas should a warranty claim arise. And should you be stuck in the middle of an argument between the vehicle manufacturer and the mechanic (should they have fitted a non-genuine/approved part that caused a problem) then there’s recourse via the Trade Practices Act. You’ll never be truly on your own in a dispute.

Used Car Protection

Government legislation protects those buying a new vehicle, but what about if you buy a used car?

If your second-hand vehicle has travelled less than 160,000km (and is less than 10 years old) then the Motor Dealers Act provides a statutory warranty of three months or 5000km travelled from the date of sale (whichever comes first).

According to NSW Fair Trading: “Some types of vehicles are excluded from this warranty; these would include commercial vehicles and luxury vehicles. If warranty repairs are required on a vehicle and it is undriveable, it is the dealer’s responsibility to get the vehicle back to the dealership for repairs or authorise repairs in the remote location. Of course the dealer would have no responsibility if the vehicle was abused.

“Second-hand vehicles that do not have a statutory warranty (ie have travelled more the 160,000 kilometres or are more than 10 years old) must be roadworthy at the time of sale. The dealer is obliged to give consumers a Form 8 which states there is no warranty under the Motor Dealers Act and must also provide a Safety Inspection Report issued in accordance with the Traffic Act 1909 stating that the vehicle is roadworthy. This Report must not be issued more than 30 days before the date of sale unless the vehicle’s registration was renewed within one month of the date of sale or in the case where the dealer supplies the Safety Inspection Report the period may be up to 90 days.

“The Sale of Goods Act requires that goods sold are of a merchantable quality and purchasers of non-warrantable vehicles are protected by implied conditions that apply to all consumer contracts. These are: goods must be of merchantable quality; goods must be fit for the purpose supplied; goods must be as described or match the sample.

Where consumers feel that a vehicle was not roadworthy at the time of sale, they should obtain an independent mechanical report to support this claim.”

  • Steve Brady

    Thanks for this blog post, Isaac. Very helpful.

  • Monty

    As the vehicle fleet gets more modern it is more difficult to find independent mechanics. The vehicle diagnostic software is expensive, if the manufacturer will sell it to the independent. An independent may have to pay $10,000 for software for each brand that he wants to service. That’s a lot of services to break even. In the country you may have to drive a very long way to an authorised service business which is discriminatory. That may explain why Toyotas are so popular in the bush!

  • Chris O

    Excellent and useful discussion. My Isuzu Dmax has seen a dealer once, for the first service. I always go to a proper diesel mechanic by asking around as to who is the most competent in town. (We are full time Grey Nomads). How did I learn this lesson? By owning a Land Rover Disco and experiencing first hand one of the world’s most verified unreliable brands. Not surprising your case study involves a Rangie! Only a dealership would touch them.

  • JaiNormosone

    Very helpful article. Thanks.
    I’ve only bought one new car in my life with the rest being second hand and all the work is done by myself.
    On buying the new car (BA ute), I was ‘frightened’ into doing the dealer servicing thing until, after about the third service, I did some sums….
    You would think that a large dealer would have buying power for oils and other fluids and would buy in bulk – yet they continue to charge things at the litre price that far exceeds the RRP and is usually consistent with the litre-of-oil price that you would pay at a servo. So, instead of $45-$50 for that synthetic oil, the very same brand and amount was around $90 and the three-quarter hour of service time would work out to roughly $280 per hour to have the privilege of having a first- or second-year apprentice working on my car.
    I don’t have problems with apprentices – but I do with a dealer paying them peanuts while charging me a premium.
    So now – and since then – all servicing has been done the same way it always has on my cars…. by me.

    The problem with doing your own work though is that you lose the knowledge that comes from the dealer workshop… like the fact that Ford had NO idea what was causing the random locking problem with the door locks on the BA models. I understand that they changed the locks on the BF and the problem didn’t occur again – but I also notice that Ford would also charge a bomb to fix a known problem that they caused.

    Don’t laugh you Holden supporters… While Ford really does mean Fix Or Repair Daily – Holden made cars that were just as bad but in different ways. Both were complete H’s.O.S.

  • Alan

    Extended warranties can be a real con – after I signed up for my new TOYOTA last year, the salesman pointed out that it came with a “complimentary” extended warranty for an additional 5 years. Fortunately it wasn’t something I’d even considered as a purchasing condition … BECAUSE

    I got home with my new car, read the conditions – yep, not worth the paper it was written on.

    It had one condition – that the car be serviced BY THE DEALER for the entire 8 years.

    Problem 1 – TOYOTA in Australia specifies 6mth/10,000km services.

    Problem 2 – My plan is to drive around Australia in 2018 – will involve at least 15,000, probably 20,000km … ALL away from my dealership – it’s a bit hard to get there from Perth when the next service is due.

    So, the super generous warranty is just hopeless. But, in effect, I would have paid for it somewhere in the price of the car.

  • Guest

    My beef with dealer servicing is that regular work generally gets done by apprentices albeit even a non qualified backyarder like me can do an oil + filter change but at dealers, get up sold or something happens and pay top dollar. I’m on a lookout for a mechanic but one who knows the nuances of a hybrid is hard so I’m doing all the work myself with the help of YouTube and other car forum knowledge sharing.

  • Rob Logie

    I am not a fan of dealerships due to lack of quality of workmanship and fraudulent billing practices.

    I have had a number of occasional where I have been billed for work not carried out by dealerships of a very well know Japanese brand. (This is called fraud)

    Similarly I nearly had a accident due to a failure in a vehicle that I had asked a dealership of the same well known Japanese brand to investigate and rectify (The front wheel and hub fell off ) .

    Finally, after one service at a Brisbane dealership of a well known Australian brand, I checked under my car the next day to find a large pool of oil from a loose sump plug. It took **TWO** visits by the dealership staff to fix the loose sump plug, after the first visit the plug was still leaking.

    I know there are dedicated, skilled and hardworking staff at at many dealerships but after my experiences with many dealerships I am loath to take the risk ..

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.