Service without tears
Saving money at the workshop can be as critical when choosing a car as safety stars or fuel efficiency
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.