Running a car is more expensive than ever, but if there's one golden rule it's that taking short cuts when it comes to maintenance will cost you in the long run.
Broadly speaking, a well-maintained car will not only have a longer life, but it's also likely to be safer and more reliable.
Just as it's important to carry out simple DIY tasks at home, such as topping-up coolant, oil and screen wash levels, or checking on your car's tyre pressures and general tyre condition, it's also essential to have your vehicle regularly serviced.
Some drivers mistakenly think that the annual MOT Test is enough, but this legal inspection only ensures that your car is roadworthy.
A service includes an inspection of key components, such as making sure your car's brakes and suspension are safe and working properly. It will also include an oil change, a replacement oil filter, and fluid top-ups, for instance.
What is a car service?
A car service is a maintenance check-up that's carried out at set time intervals (usually at least once a year) or after a vehicle has travelled a certain number of miles.
Car manufacturers specifies the service intervals by creating a service schedule that you should aim to follow.
Check your car's handbook or manual to find out how often it's due a service and what work is required. Stick to the service schedule and it's money well spent.
Which type of car service do I need?
There are three different types of car service: Interim, Full and Major. Different garages and dealerships may call them something else (eg Bronze, Silver and Gold) and some only offer Full and Major services.
Aimed at high-mileage motorists that may need more than one service a year, an interim service is roughly every six months or 6,000 miles. As well as checks on components such as brakes, it includes an oil and filter change.
Usually every 12 months or 12,000 miles, a full service includes a more intensive inspection, plus an oil change and replacements of the oil and air filters.
Ideally every 24 months of 24,000 miles, a major service will include everything needed in an annual service as well as changing parts recommended for replacement every two years, including brake fluid and the cabin filter.
How much is a car service?
The good news is that there's now a high degree of price transparency with many garages, auto centres and dealerships offering fixed price servicing.
The amount you pay will depend on the type of car you drive (the bigger the engine the more it will cost) and whether any parts need fixing or replacing urgently. Even then you do not necessarily have to have the work carried out at the same garage.
To give you an idea of pricing, Halfords Autocentres offers an interim service from £164.99, a full service from £224.99 and a Major Service from £274.99.
Kwik Fit's Full Service costs from £180 for a car up to 1400cc to £240 for a car more than 3,000cc. Vauxhall main dealer servicing ranges from £205 for an interim service to £235 for a main (full) service, while a major service starts at £335.
Will regular car servicing add value to my car?
A car with a full service history is easier to sell because it gives the buyer a little peace of mind that the vehicle has been well maintained.
It means that a car has been serviced on a regular basis and in line with the recommended manufacturer’s service schedule.
One thing’s is for sure, a car service record book with a full set of stamps will add value to your car.
Do electric cars need servicing too?
There are fewer moving parts in an electric vehicle (EV) so they are generally cheaper to maintain than their petrol or diesel equivalents.
Studies vary, but it's estimated that service and maintenance costs of an EV are around 25-30% cheaper and the gap widens over time and mileage as petrol and diesel cars require more replacement parts.
For instance, electric cars feature regenerative braking, which uses the electric motor to slow the vehicle whilst putting some electricity back into the battery. This puts less wear and tear on the brakes, meaning disks and pads last longer, saving you money.
However, electric cars still need regular servicing, and the good news is that the recommended service intervals tend to be longer.
An EV service will still check your brakes, suspension, lights and tyre condition, for instance, but it will also include checks on your electric motor(s), the cooling system, battery pack, high-voltage cabling and the air-conditioning.
Depending on the manufacturer, your EV’s service schedule will vary, but a two-year interval or every 18,000 miles (which comes first) is more common than not.
Is it worth signing up for a car service plan?
Fixed price service plans to pay for future maintenance are becoming increasingly popular – especially with new car buyers are looking for peace of mind.
Offered by manufacturers, dealers and many garage chains, you either pay a lump sum or monthly payments over a set period (often three years).
Depending on the type of plan chosen, it will pay for your regular servicing (and MOTs on older cars), but you may still have to pay for wear and tear replacements such as new brake pads and disks.
The jury is out on this one. If you prefer to budget ahead with locked in prices, then it could be for you, otherwise there’s nothing wrong with the traditional method of arranging a service when your car needs it.