When you’re not sure what to expect from a service, it’s hard to look at anything other than the price.
One mechanic charges $220 for a minor service on a standard car, while another charges $120.
Without knowing the difference between the two, most people say, ‘Why would I pay more?’ and opt for the cheaper service. However, there are two key things to consider the following;
- Not all services are created equal
- Not all mechanics are created equal.
Below, we dive into both in this essential car service cost guide, as well as give you a realistic expectation of reasonable service costs.
Car Service Cost Factors To Consider
Not all services are created equal
The inclusions of a minor service can vary dramatically. The bare minimum a service can entail is an oil and oil filter change. This will take between 10 to 20 minutes depending on your car.
If you’re paying a cheap price for a cheap service, this is often the only thing that’s done. This is fine for in-between services or for brand new cars, but the rest of the time this just doesn’t cut it as you’re missing out on all the essential safety checks that keep your car running smoothly. This is also one of the corners that the dodgy mechanics will cut.
Your logbook will list a raft of other things that should be done during a minor service. This includes checking over a long list of parts and functions on your car to make sure everything is in working order, as well as doing all the little things that keep your car running well and looking great. This takes up to an hour.
A good mechanic who does a good service may not be the cheapest around because they will spend extra time on your car to make sure it’s in perfect shape. This includes doing things such as
- Topping up the pressure in your tyres
- Topping up all the fluids under your bonnets (water, wiper washer, coolant and so on)
- Checking your globes/wiper rubbers/horn/air-conditioning/brakes and everything else to make sure you’ll be safe on the road.
This is why you should be asking your mechanic what they’re checking with your service and ensuring that these services are itemised on your invoice.
Not all mechanics are created equal
A cheaper service usually means you’re in for the upsell. Mechanics and workshops compete on price, so it’s a fairly standard tactic to quote the lowest possible rate to simply get you in the door.
However, the overheads of running a workshop — rent, water, electricity, insurance and so on — mean the very minimum cost to service your car would be at least $100.
If a workshop claims they will service your car for $99, how do they make any money?
The answer is simple — they will upsell you all sorts of things you simply don’t need. You may think you’re driving in the workshop door to pay $99 for a service, but I can almost guarantee you’ll walk out with a much larger bill than you expected. It’s a question of simple economics at the end of the day.
For example, they’ll tell you that what they quoted only included changing oil. It does not include checking your brakes (add $40), the manufacturer’s recommended grade of oil (add $30), topping up your car’s fluids (add $10) and the list goes on. All of these items are part of your logbook service and is what any decent mechanic quoting a fair price will do as part of your service.
This is also when you can expect to be upsold additional items that you don’t need, such as an air-conditioning service, on-car injection service, engine decarbonisation service, engine flush and so on. So if you thought you were getting a bargain, you’re more than likely to walk away with a much bigger bill than the quote that got you in the door.
So, what’s a reasonable price?
A good benchmark is a minimum of $180 for a minor service for a standard, non-European car. This doesn’t count the major big-ticket services which pop up throughout your car’s lifetime (consult your logbook or check out our article When To Service Your Car)
The Finish Line
Ultimately, servicing your car is a big deal and needs to be done regularly. If you don’t service your car regularly, you’re more likely to end up with a big bill down the track rather than saving money in the long run, as your car will encounter problems that could have been caught early or avoided entirely with regular servicing.
So find a great mechanic and beware of overly cheap services – your car will thank you for it.