Ser­vice with­out tears

Sav­ing money at the work­shop can be as crit­i­cal when choos­ing a car as safety stars or fuel ef­fi­ciency

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Cover Story - NEIL DOWLING

SER­VICE costs can crush your new-car bud­get but care­ful se­lec­tion of your next ve­hi­cle can save thou­sands of dol­lars in own­er­ship costs.

The ad­vent of fixed or capped ser­vice pro­grams has sliced the cost of ser­vic­ing by up to one-third. Toy­ota started its pro­gram in 2006 and since then all its com­peti­tors have fol­lowed. In June, Subaru was the last main­stream brand to come on board.

It’s all about cus­tomer ser­vice and get­ting deal­er­ships to re­tain business in one of their most prof­itable de­part­ments, ser­vice and spare parts.

For this ex­er­cise, Cars­guide com­pares the ser­vic­ing and run­ning costs of the five best­selling com­pact SUVs. Each has ad­van­tages , whether in fuel use or ser­vic­ing.

Ser­vice costs his­tor­i­cally have been the bane of new-car own­ers and the cause of cus­tomer dis­sat­is­fac­tion.

Capped-price ser­vic­ing and new con­cepts in deal­ing with cus­tomers — re­cep­tion cen­tres, re­fresh­ments, cour­tesy trans­port, pol­ished floors, glass walls be­tween the work­shop and re­cep­tion area and even smart uni­forms for tech­ni­cians — bring car re­pair and ser­vic­ing out of the grimy dark­ness of the cor­ner garage.

It all looks squeaky clean and gen­er­ally is. But car own­ers must be aware that capped­price may not al­ways be the price paid. Ex­cep­tions to the rule may be un­ex­pected work on the car and here it’s up to the ser­vice cen­tre to seek own­ers’ au­tho­ri­sa­tion to pro­ceed.

Sav­ing money at the ser­vice depart­ment can be as crit­i­cal when choos­ing a ve­hi­cle as safety stars or fuel ef­fi­ciency. But low ser­vic­ing fees shouldn’t be the sole fac­tor in se­lect­ing a new car.

One of the big­gest sur­prises for own­ers is the ser­vice sched­ule. VW, Ford, Mazda, Holden and Mit­subishi re­quire an an­nual ser­vice but Subaru and Toy­ota, for ex­am­ple, can re­quire two ser­vices a year — po­ten­tially dou­bling both the ser­vice bill and the time own­ers spend de­liv­er­ing and col­lect­ing the car.

It can in­vert the view that Euro­pean ve­hi­cles cost a lot to ser­vice. For ex­am­ple, a VW Tiguan with petrol en­gine needs one ser­vice a year that costs $425. Subaru’s equiv­a­lent XV costs $300 for each of two ser­vices a year. To­tal: $600, or $175 more than the VW.

Take ex­tra cau­tion when con­sid­er­ing a diesel pur­chase. They are re­garded as be­ing sub­stan­tially more fuel ef­fi­cient than petrol coun­ter­parts and ap­pear to have a sim­pler en­gine — there are no spark plugs, for ex­am­ple — lead­ing to the as­sump­tion that ser­vice costs should be cheaper.

Hyundai has capped-price ser­vic­ing. In the case of its ix35, sched­uled ser­vic­ing over three years for the petrol model is $867 ($289 for each an­nual visit) but the diesel equiv­a­lent costs $1197 ($399 per ser­vice).

This may not ap­ply to all diesels but it re­mains some­thing own­ers need to con­sider. Diesels gen­er­ally are more ex­pen­sive than their petrol equiv­a­lents. The Hyundai ix35 diesels have a pre­mium of about $2600.

Own­er­ship will also in­volve fuel, in­surance, reg­is­tra­tion and — after about four years — tyres. The big­gest cost will be de­pre­ci­a­tion (see ta­ble) but for main­te­nance, rank­ing along­side fuel, the tyres are likely to be the sin­gle big­gest item for a ve­hi­cle — and SUV tyres tend to be more ex­pen­sive than on pas­sen­ger cars.

The five SUVs cited here suit cou­ples and fam­i­lies and are among the most fuel ef­fi­cient ve­hi­cles on the mar­ket.

Choos­ing a ve­hi­cle that is fru­gal on fuel will make light of dip­ping into your wal­let each week. Granted, there’s not a lot of dif­fer­ence be­tween the five ex­am­ples but even the dif­fer­ence be­tween the miserly Tiguan and the slightly thirstier Hyundai is a restau­rant meal with the fam­ily once a year.

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