All You Need to Know About Car Services

We all know we should ideally get our car serviced regularly, but what is a car service, and do you really need to bother? Read on for our quick and easy guide on everything you need to know about car services, and why it's an absolute must that can be costly and inconvenient to overlook.

Car being serviced

What is a car service?

A service is basically a health-check for your car. All vehicles have a host of mechanical parts, things that can wear out and general consumables like oil or filters that need to be replaced. Getting your car serviced regularly gives you peace of mind, improves its efficiency and reliability and helps to stop big problems developing unnoticed.

What does a service include?

An annual full car service will involve a visual inspection and physical check of key areas like lights, tyres and brakes. Fluid levels such as coolant or brake fluid will be checked, and the oil will be drained and replaced. More often than not, new oil and air filters will be fitted (and fuel filters for diesels), amongst other items. Most garages will specify exactly what their services cover but, if it’s not clear, just ask – that’s especially important if you’re shopping around for the best deal.

An interim car service – a lesser service done halfway between every full one – is an option too. While not essential, this can give you that extra peace of mind.

Do I really need to get a car service?

In short: yes! While it can be tempting to cut costs on this seemingly non-essential expense, it really doesn’t pay in the long run. Here’s why:

  • Your car needs looking after so that it can keep looking after you – neglect this and it will be far more likely to break down when you least need it to! It’ll often run better after a service too and might even lower your fuel costs as a result.
  • Not servicing your car is a false economy. While it can happen to regularly serviced cars, well-maintained vehicles are far less likely to break down, meaning you won’t have to foot the bill for repairs that were completely avoidable. Also, some of the problems that can come about when a car isn’t serviced regularly can be very serious and cost a small fortune.
  • A car with a full service history makes it much more saleable when you want to pass it on, because buyers want to know a car has been looked after.
  • Servicing is usually a requirement of finance agreements such as lease or PCP, and not following the service schedule can be a costly oversight.

Take a look at our expert guide on how to keep your car running smoothly through proper maintenance for more advice.

How often should you get your car serviced?

All cars have a service schedule of every year or a certain number of miles (whichever comes sooner). So if you rack up lots of miles, your car will need servicing more than once a year. All cars are different, but the mileage figure for a full service is often around 12,000 miles – if you cover far fewer miles than this, you’ll still need to get a service every year. Deviating from this schedule is unwise and can simply lead to trouble further down the road – quite literally!

Modern cars will tell you when the service is due, so there’s little to worry about – a warning will normally appear on the instrument panel, and there’s usually plenty of notice to arrange the service. It’s tempting to ignore this warning, but try to call a garage as soon as possible so you keep well within the schedule (and give yourself time to shop around if that’s an option).

In an older model, the owner’s manual should tell you the car service schedule, so you’ll need to put the date in your calendar as well as keeping an eye on how much the mileage has increased since the last service.

What about the costs?

The cost of a car service will differ depending on your location and the make and model of your vehicle, with prestige brands often costing more. It’s important to note that the price of a service does not include the cost of any additional parts or repairs needed.

Whether you choose the main dealer or local garage will obviously have an impact on price too, with main dealers usually being considerably more expensive. They do offer a certain level of comfort and convenience though, as well as the assurance this may give you and future buyers of your car. That said, there are also a lot of garages that specialise in a particular car manufacturer, such as Mercedes or Ford, and mechanics there have sometimes trained and worked at main dealerships. It’s important to check any expectations of finance contracts before committing.

You can save costs by omitting an interim service, but missing or extending the dates between full car services is a cost saving that will likely be more expensive to you in the long term.

Car servicing needn’t be a drama as long as you follow the schedule, shop around and budget accordingly. Staying on top of it will keep your trusty motor going for longer and reduce your layouts in the future.

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