UK motorists count cost amid rise in price of car parts, repairs and servicing

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Motorists are reporting big increases in the price of car parts, repairs and servicing – with some reporting increases of up to 90% – as garages and dealerships push up prices to deal with rising costs.

Readers told the Guardian they had seen sizeable increases in service costs, with some finding parts had become more expensive and harder to come by.

“We’re unquestionably seeing the cost of vehicle parts rise as a result of rising inflation and increased transportation costs,” the RAC’s head of technical, James Gibson, said.

“A huge number of car components are affected by the hike in global material prices, whether that’s steel that goes into a set of coil springs, or oil that goes into the engine, or the manufacture of tyres.”

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the cost of running and maintaining personal transport including cars has increased by 15% compared with a year ago, above the overall inflation rate of 10.1%.

However, some readers said the cost of servicing their car had increased by much bigger margins: one said the price had jumped by 90% in two years (from £179 to £340), while another said the cost quoted by his dealership had gone up by 90% (from £268 to £510) in a year.

The Motor Ombudsman has put rising costs down to a long list of challenges facing garages and dealerships. These include the significant jump in energy and fuel prices; a downturn in consumer spending on routine vehicle maintenance and repairs as households tighten their belts; staff recruitment and retention problems; and delays with getting hold of replacement parts.

Here, three drivers and a garage owner explain how they have been affected by the rises.

‘The price went from £268 to £510 in a year’

Vince Gallucci. Photograph: Vince Gallucci

Given inflation is soaring, Vince Gallucci, 61, said he “would not have balked” at a 25% year-on-year increase for his annual car service. But when he was told the price had gone up 90% from £268 to £510 at his Volvo dealership, he couldn’t believe it. “I genuinely said, ‘How can you charge that much? I’ve got last year’s invoice in front of me.’ They said it was a standard rise across the market that was in line with other premium car dealerships,” the retiree from Doncaster said.

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The car had 15,000 miles on the clock and it was the second routine service, with no faults or problems outstanding.

Gallucci said he wouldn’t be going back. “It’s on me for not choosing to go outside the dealership chain, but that won’t be happening again. I reluctantly agreed as it’s still within its new car warranty period and I don’t want to affect that from a future sell-on perspective. Once out of warranty, I’ll be less inclined to offer them my loyalty as well, so maybe it’s a bit shortsighted on Volvo’s part.”

‘It knocked me sideways’

Robert Hackett, a 66-year-old civil servant in Chester, has been servicing his car at the same garage for 23 years. When he took his vehicle in last month, he expected to pay between £300 and £400 for a service, four brake pads and a brake disc. He was shocked when his bill came to £880. “It knocked me sideways,” he said. “I know they’re not price-gouging – the owner is a very decent man. They laid out the brake disc for me to see that it was beyond repair.”

Looking over an itemised bill, Hackett says a large part of the increase has been due to the service element jumping from £179 two years ago to £340 this September. “I understand from the owner that they’re having problems retaining staff who are being poached by others able to offer higher wages – it’s a constant battle.”

Hackett trusts that he is receiving high-quality service and will be remaining loyal, but the “eye-watering” price rise has encouraged him to cut back on driving. symbol of the pandemic punt that popped post-Covid

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‘It was quite a big surprise’

View image in fullscreenSarah Lewins. Photograph: Sarah Lewins

Sarah Lewins joined Onto, an all-inclusive subscription service for electric vehicles that includes servicing, insurance and charging, in February. “Buying [an EV] outright wasn’t going to happen – it has made it possible for me to run a greener car,” the 46-year-old carer from Birmingham said.

By August, the company had put up its prices from £399 to £449 a month while decreasing the monthly mileage allowance from 1,000 to 750. The firm cited increasing prices across the supply chain and a global chip shortage limiting car production.

Lewins said she has stuck with the service as it was still the cheapest way to run an EV compared with leasing and insurance, and she “can manage” it. “But it was quite 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’re not profiteering’

Kevin Ecclestone. Photograph: Kevin Ecclestone

Tyre garage owner Kevin Ecclestone said price rises were caused by a range of factors including increasing costs for products, labour and energy plus higher importing surcharges.

“We are lucky – several local garages have closed due to the economic conditions,” Ecclestone, 56, said. “Covid has had an impact on production in China, because supply is down. Transport costs are a big issue – before Covid, it was $2,000 to get a container shipped from Asia – at one point [in late 2020] it was almost $20,000.”

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The budget tyres that the garage sells are rising fastest in price: “Less than a year ago the retail price was £45 – now they’re £60.”

The garage has had to pay surcharges for the last year at UK ports to import products. “We got a letter explaining the ports levy [was due to] the amount of time and cost it was taking to clear customs. It was meant to be a temporary measure brought in to deal with pressure on businesses – many more pressures have come to bear since then,” Ecclestone said. A key component of tyres, carbon black, is largely manufactured in Russia, while an “awful lot” of oil is used in manufacturing.

The garage’s energy costs have skyrocketed, too: from £150 for electricity in January to £910 in September.

Ecclestone says his customers understand he isn’t price-gouging. “People accept the price of materials is rising. We’re not profiteering – margins are small and we will struggle to maintain profits. When you chat to mechanics over a cup of tea, everyone is saying the same: are you increasing prices quickly enough to ensure the survival of the business.” He added that his garage is also paying back £1,000 a month in government Covid loan repayments.

He said he had given his staff three wage increases this year to try to keep pace with competition and the rising cost of living. “Staff costs are now up £2,000 per annum per staff member due to retainment and recruitment issues. I always say, happy fitters, happy customers, but of course it’s a cost that has to be passed on.”

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