New car warranty – Do I have to have my car serviced by a dealership?

Can choosing an independent garage for your car's servicing affect its warranty?

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So you’ve bought or leased a new car and, like most proud owners, you’re probably promising to keep it well maintained, looked after and regularly serviced.

Certainly, our advice here at The Car Expert is to check regularly your car’s condition. It makes sense to maintain your pride and joy – it’ll help keep its value, and it ensures your own safety too.

But regular servicing is not cheap and some owners find this extra expense more difficult to sustain than they had originally planned. And that’s why many owners start to look away from the supplying manufacturer’s workshops and more towards an independent garage.

But is this allowed under the terms of your car’s warranty? Could it invalidate the valuable guarantee you have against costly parts and labour fees in the event of a breakdown or failure? Are you permitted to look elsewhere for your servicing?

The choice is yours

It’s your choice when it comes to selecting where your car is going to be serviced and by whom. As well as being required to offer at least a two-year unlimited mileage warranty on all their new cars – regardless of any change of ownership – car makers in the UK cannot force a buyer to have their vehicle serviced by their official dealership network.

And that means they also can’t refuse to honour a new car warranty simply because a car has been serviced elsewhere. It’s all part of an agreement called the European Union Block Exemption legislation, which has been active for many years and which, even though the UK has now left the EU, still stands.

However, manufacturers do have the right to set a servicing schedule for their vehicles, which must be adhered to. So, if you do choose to turn your back on the main dealer and go instead to an independent engineer or mechanic, make sure you have your service book stamped, ensure you keep records of any work you have had done and insist that approved parts and lubricants are used in any repairs, in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines.

“Nothing much has changed in respect of the Block Exemption regulations, even though the UK has now left the EU,” says a spokesman for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). “And to be honest, we don’t see anything changing in that respect for the foreseeable future.

“It’s important that you follow the manufacturer guidelines concerning service intervals, such as one year or 10,000 miles, and you must use the approved parts. But otherwise, you can’t be forced to use a dealer’s workshop for your car’s service.”

Servicing and your new car warranty

Many manufacturers offer new car warranty terms that are longer than the minimum two-year period, but you need to check that the warranty provided is the same for the whole warranty period.

Some importers offer a longer period, but after two years the warranty is provided by the local importer rather than the vehicle manufacturer, so the terms and conditions may be different. Check your paperwork or ask the dealer if in doubt.

If you do want to have your car serviced by an independent garage or mechanic, make sure you choose a good, reputable organisation. It’s your car at stake here, and your safety too, so don’t try to cut too many corners in terms of cost.

For workshop suggestions, try The Good Garage Scheme which lists local garages that perform services to a strict code of conduct for quality and safety.

If your vehicle is under warranty, it can be serviced by a Good Garage Scheme member without invalidating the warranty conditions, but keep detailed invoices and receipts for all work done so you have proof that the car has been serviced according to its schedule.

Warranty repairs

If your car requires repair work for failed parts under its new car warranty, the manufacturer has the right to insist that this work is undertaken by its official dealerships. They are paying got the repair so this is entirely fair.

A good rule to remember is that if you’re paying for the work, you have the right to choose who carries it out. If the manufacturer is paying, they have the choice.

Not all warranties are provided by the vehicle manufacturer. Many dealers will offer extended warranties for a new car, or a used car warranty of some description, but these are not usually provided by the manufacturer and are aftermarket insurance policies. 

As such, the requirements may be different and may tie you to a particular dealer or franchise for servicing.

What about my car finance obligations?

It is important to understand that although your new car warranty will not be affected if you service your car outside the dealer network, it may affect your car finance agreement.

Many PCP agreements will insist that the car has to be serviced by an approved franchised workshop to maintain its guaranteed future value (GFV) if you want to give the car back at the end of the agreement. So if you have a lease deal you might also be expected to service the car with a dealership.

This isn’t a warranty issue but rather a question of used car value. In theory, a car with a full manufacturer service history will be worth more than a car that’s been serviced at an independent garage, and the GFV is based on a car with a full manufacturer service history.

“It’s important to understand that, if you are only leasing a car as opposed to buying it outright, the finance company might specify which workshop you have to use,” says the SMMT.

“The difference is that rather than the car being yours, it really belongs to the finance company.”

Summary

Although not a legal requirement, it may be advantageous for you to take your car to a franchised dealer for servicing, depending on your car and your circumstances.

For more information on car servicing, read more about the difference between independent garages and franchised dealers.

This article was originally published in September 2012 and most recently updated with additional information in January 2021.

Tom Johnston
Tom Johnstonhttp://johnstonmedia.com/
Tom Johnston was the first-ever reporter on national motoring magazine Auto Express. He went on to become that magazine’s News Editor and Assistant Editor, and has also been Motoring Correspondent for the Daily Star and contributor to the Daily and Sunday Express. Today, as a freelance writer, content creator and copy editor, Tom works with exciting and interesting websites and magazines on varied projects.