Tag Archives: car servicing

Members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club know that listed garages are female friendly and that they have signed the female friendly promise not to overcharge or patronise members of the Club.

The Role of a Garage Broker

Several years ago, brothers Oly and Toby Richmond received funding from Deborah Meaden in the Dragons Den to run an online car servicing garage brokerage.

This business relationship then broke down for mutual reasons.

We’re told this was either because of Deborah’s lack of motor industry experience or because she read about too many complaints at that stage.

Here we look at the role of a garage broker and the quality issues this raises today.

What is a Garage Broker?

By an online garage brokerage I mean a branded website promoting garages that customers think are operated by that business; the motorist books and pays through the broker who then places the work with a local garage that has agreed to the broker’s rates and processes.

Servicing Stop’s website is a good example of one that is clear and simple. It tells us their garages are approved by them, that their mechanics are qualified (they don’t mention licensed which would prove they’re up to date?) and that they use OE parts so all repairs meet warranty standards. But they don’t tell motorists who their garages are. That won’t worry most motorists who’d welcome the convenience of this sort of service but perhaps it should raise some concerns?

At the time, the Dragons seemed to think that this was a unique concept (yet NSN and Prestige were well established brokers at that time) and Deborah Meaden offered them £100k.

All did not go according to plan afterwards…

Reasons Why Dragon Deborah and Servicing Stop split

Oly and Toby initially accepted Deborah Meaden’s offer of a £100,000 investment but decided to continue on their own when they later met Deborah and learned she had no experience of the motor trade. They subsequently found a more suitable investor – to the disappointment of Ms Meaden.

This is how they explained this.

“We secured a promise of investment by a Dragon but decided not to follow it up as it would have proved bad for both parties. Our message to potential entrepreneurs is that there are numerous ways of securing investment and backing so think twice before accepting the advice of a Dragon.”

And this is what Deborah Meaden placed on her website…

*Important announcement re Servicing Stop*
Following a number of complaints regarding the service provided by Servicing Stop, Deborah would like to make it clear that although she made an offer in the Den, the investment did not go through and Deborah is not in any way connected with Servicing Stop.


Since then Servicing Stop has gone from strength to strength and we hope they’ve ironed out quality issues and processes by now. I can understand why they’d prefer a business mentor who understood the motor industry. Although, perhaps being an industry outsider might have been a good thing for Servicing Stop?

Deborah could have added her weight to insist on better quality garages for Servicing Stop at an earlier stage.

We could certainly have done with her support to help raise standards in this industry sector!

FOXY Lady Drivers Club

NB: FOXY is not a garage broker. We run an award-winning and not for profit motoring club for women drivers, supported by garage subscribers that meet our FOXY Lady Approved ie female friendly standards. They have all signed the FOXY Lady Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women services we don’t need’ and are required to EITHER be part of a Chartered Trading Standards Institute Approved Code of Practice scheme (operated by The Motor Ombudsman, Trust My Garage or Bosch Car Service) OR be listed at the IMI Professional Register. Finally we require sufficient online female feedback to secure their network place – in exchange for this, their female customers get a gift membership of FOXY Lady Drivers Club from that subscriber.

Women can join the Club here.

Garages can apply to join our network here.

Norwich’s female friendly garage and car dealer choice

Grant Long, NMG’s MD – photo ack: AM -Online.com
The Norfolk Motor Group (NMG) is a family run and FOXY Lady Approved garage and car dealership group in Norwich.

This means it is both a Female Friendly Approved business and employer in Norwich.

To join our approved network requires automotive businesses to demonstrate a minimum package of credentials which NMG has exceeded, for the following reasons.

Ladies Evenings

We first met NMG in the run up to their Ladies Evening in mid-February when more than 120 local women drivers attended this highly social evening covering important motoring-related issues such as driving attitudes & behaviour, DIY car maintenance checks and an entertaining session providing memorable advice and demonstrating self defence techniques.

These events are always fun first.

But they also inform and educate women about their critical personal safety, driving safety and vehicle safety. Everyone comes away with at least one important and timely message, and of course this reflects positively on the perceived ethics of the organiser because only businesses that truly want to give something back to their local community are prepared to invest the time and resource towards a free activity which isn’t actively selling cars.

New Car Sales, Used Car Sales and Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

Having said that, NMG’s main business is obviously selling and repairing cars.

They hold Kia and Suzuki franchises so if you drive these makes of cars, or would like to, in or near Norwich, this is where to come to buy them, trade them in or to have them serviced and repaired.

NMG also sell other makes and models of approved used family cars as well as Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) so it’s a business that covers the majority of transport needs.

And which women know they can trust.

Signs Of Measurable Quality

We look for all signs of measurable quality before accepting garages or car dealers on to our network. This is because used car sales and car servicing are unregulated areas in the motor industry and too few staff are licensed to do these jobs.

One of the best things about choosing a franchised dealership rather than an independent is the reassurance that they have been approved by the manufacturer they represent.

Another standard FOXY looks for is EITHER that the business (used car dealers and independent garages too) operates to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Approved Code of Practice scheme OR is listed on the IMI Professional Register.

In this case many members of NMG staff are Master Technicians, others are trained in the latest electric and hybrid technologies and the business is a member of the CTSI’s New Car Code, Car Sales Code and Service and Repair Code operated by The Motor Ombudsman.

From a customer service point of view, NMG is open 5 and half days a week for car servicing, MOT, repairs and parts. There’s a courtesy bus, a fleet of courtesy cars and a local collection and delivery vehicle service.

Sales Departments are open 7 days a week, including most Bank Holidays, and only close on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Easter Sunday.

They also support many local groups, schools, clubs & charities.

Female Feedback

The final yet critical ingredient is for FOXY to monitor female feedback in addition to NMG’s existing and very high customer satisfaction scores. By using our certificates in their business they are actively courting ALL feedback and giving females a gift membership of FOXY Lady Drivers Club as a thank you for their time. The point of this is that whilst we all expect feedback to be positive, if it wasn’t, NMG still wants to know, so they can put it right.

And perhaps that’s the main reason why this business passes our FOXY test with flying colours.

1/ Because their motto is ‘Nobody Tries Harder Than NMG…Nobody‘!
2/ Because they evidently want to do a better job for women drivers, by joining this scheme.
3/ Because they are dedicated to doing this from the top of NMG to the showroom floor – we’re dealing with NMG’s Managing Director who definitely sees this as a long term commitment.

All this is good news for women drivers in and around Norwich. If that’s you, then I invite you to visit their branches in Norwich and put your name down for a future Ladies Evening at 79 Mile Cross Lane.

They may even offer you a gift membership of FOXY Lady Drivers Club for doing this.



For More Information

NMG’s HQ is 79 Mile Cross Lane in Norwich, NR6 6TX
Please read NMG’s business story.
Kia and family car sales tel: 01603 775100
Suzuki new and used cars tel:01603 418700
NMG family car, WAV and SUV centre tel: 01603 401044

Cutting the cost of motoring

During the recession we all scrimped where we could which was understandable. But there are some false economies relating to cutting back on car maintenance and other areas where you can probably save more money today, as follows.

1 Tyres


Common-sense tells us that tyre safety is critical.

We know that tyre tread levels should be a minimum of 1.6mm but did you know that at 3mm your tyres are approximately 78% worn?

This is when we recommend you go tyre shopping for as good a tyre deal as you can negotiate for the best tyre you can then afford.

When it comes to your personal safety and that of other motorists and pedestrians there are some economies that simply aren’t worth risking lives for.

To be precise:

+ Cheap tyres are likely to wear out quicker and can therefore be more expensive in the end than premium brands.

+ Never buy part worn tyres – you don’t know where they have been or why they are for sale.

+ Never fit different types or sizes of tyres on the same axle.

+ Use the tyres specified in the handbook for safe road grip, controlled steering, balanced suspension and ride quality.

Please see our new Female Friendly Tyre Services Register for details of businesses that have signed the FOXY Lady Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women anything they don’t need.’

2 Car Servicing

car-repairs-at-rip-off-garagesSome motorists seem able to ignore the depreciation of a new car (c60% of typical costs in 3 years) and not worry too much about car maintenance in those early years.

They prefer to rely on regular dealership servicing to keep their car street legal.

That’s their choice of course but, where you are cost conscious and footing the bill yourself, you can easily end up spending more on car servicing than you need to.

It’s important to relate all this to your annual mileage of course, and to understand why investing in regular car maintenance and car servicing WILL make sound financial sense in the end.

+ Unsurprisingly high mileage cars deserve a full service every year and providing they get this, high motorway mileage is kinder on engines than short local journeys when the engine rarely gets warm.

+ At the opposite end of the scale, assuming an annual mileage of c5000 miles or less, if you can keep a cherished family car running for longer this is definitely going to be your cheapest motoring choice, providing you change the engine oil and filters once a year as a minimum, interspersing an interim and full car service every other year.

3 Why clean oils matter

oilpressuregauge192x177Dirty oil and filters mean that bits of metal swarf/shavings will be circulating around your car engine, doing unforeseen and always expensive damage by wearing parts out so they need replacing sooner than they would do if lubricated by clean oils. Best to get into a habit of changing the oil regularly…

Always use the oil that is recommended in your car’s handbook. When you know what your car needs, shop around to see where it’s cheapest. If you want a local garage to use your oil make sure you specify this ahead of the car service.
The FOXY jury is out when it comes to engine flushing oils. The likes of Forte Oils and garages that are members of the Good Garage Scheme will sell you these as an extra at each oil change. Some garages swear by them, claiming better engine performance, whereas other experts say that this can be particularly risky when it’s an old engine in case the actual ‘flushing’ process dislodges more than it was intended to. Few motorists realise they can say ‘no’ to recommended engine flushing oils here.

4 Choosing a franchised dealer or independent garage

Screenshot-19It used to be said that independent garages were the better servicing choice because they are likely to be cheaper than franchised dealers but that is rarely the full story.

Our experience is that you should still shop around as some franchised dealers are extremely competitive in terms of attracting servicing business for older models and too many independent garages employ unlicensed mechanics to repair cars – you can check this at the IMI’s Professional Register.

To be precise…

+ New cars don’t have to be serviced by a franchised dealer during the manufacturer’s warranty period but it must always be serviced according to their recommended schedule and criteria, using only manufacturer approved parts. NB: Check insurance-backed extended warranties offered by dealers for different conditions.

+ If you get the car serviced by an independent you must make sure it’s done to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule and criteria using approved parts. You must also keep records so you can demonstrate to the manufacturer, if necessary, that servicing WAS undertaken to their requirements.

+ We recommend that manufacturer warranty work is undertaken by the nearest franchised dealer as it will be easier for them to deal directly with the manufacturer on your behalf.

Please see our new Female Friendly FOXY Lady Approved network of independent and franchised garages that have signed the FOXY Lady Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women anything they don’t need.’ We look for measurable signs of quality before they sign up and we then measure their performance through a compliance process including regular feedback from women drivers including Club members.

5 Buying car insurance for women

We are determined to cut the cost of car insurance for women drivers at FOXY Lady Insurance by doing this within FOXY Lady Drivers Club. All you have to do is register for a quote now and we’ll contact you at renewal time to see if we can beat your best quote.

In this way we are reinstating the previous premium advantage most women drivers enjoyed on the basis of statistical evidence of their safer driving prior to the Gender Directive in 2012.

As a result of this ability to ring fence an insurance service for Club members who are also safer drivers we expect to reduce insurance premiums for an estimated 9 out of 10 female members based on the experience of our insurance broker, Cornmarket Insurance Services, gained whilst looking after the IAM scheme.

NB: Women who are not members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club will receive a special one-off gift membership (worth £20) when they buy FOXY Lady Insurance in 2015.

6 Miscellany

It makes sense to go along to a local ladies garage evening to find out what car maintenance you can do for yourself – this should include oil and water top up, tyre checks and lights as a minimum.

As sure as summer follows spring, expensive bills are likely to follow misfuelling (and driving afterwards, regardless), failing to replace a cambelt in time (always check this before buying a used car) and when your catalytic converter packs up. So keep your eyes open in these instances.

If you can get into the habit of checking your tyres regularly and looking out for any signs of punctures, rim/alloy or kerb damage you will be able to get your expensive tyres repaired and keep them going/safer for longer.

And when it comes to your air conditioning system, it’s best to have this serviced/re-gassed every 30,000 miles or so to ensure its efficiency when you need it most.

Sadly changing light bulbs can be expensive costing c£90 (mainly labour charges) on certain models where the individual motorist can’t do this for themselves. Ridiculous but true.

If you’d like help in any of these areas, it makes sense to join FOXY Lady Drivers Club for just £2 per month to have us handy when you need advice and support.


When is a fixed price not a fixed price?

The ASA upheld a complaint about a recent Toyota advert which claimed that its fixed price car servicing offer meant what it said, whereas some garages were more likely to add extras to theirs.

We knew what Toyota meant and I definitely sympathise with their sales tactic. The problem is that we are talking about an unregulated garage industry with quality workmanship and occasionally ethical problems so nothing is as straightforward as it seems…

For example, in this industry there is no agreed definition of car servicing types or tasks and there is no requirement that the staff carrying out these services should be qualified. Yes, we are told that garages subscribing to The Good Garage Scheme follow an industry standard service but their checklist isn’t the same as the one supplied by Halfords Autocentres or Toyota’s, for example.

So how is a foxy lady going to compare long lists using different jargon before she knows which one is best value for her and her car? She probably won’t; this is a such minefield for motorists.

For example, here are some variations on a type of servicing called an ‘interim service.’
* Buy one from a Good Garage Scheme (GGS) subscriber and it includes 28 items/checks.
* Buy one from Toyota (it’s called an intermediate service) and it includes 30 items/checks which don’t seem to be the same as the GGS…
* Buy one from Halfords Autocentres and it includes 35 items/checks…

And so on… with similar discrepancies when it comes to servicing options such as ‘oil servicing’ ‘full servicing’ and ‘major servicing’…

One thing is for certain – no FOXY Lady has the time to compare and contrast different servicing lists that contain items/checks she isn’t used to and may not understand.

Car servicing differences…

But there are other important differences too, for example…

1 Toyota’s servicing prices (from £99) include manufacturer qualified staff (mostly to Automotive Technician Accreditation ATA standards which means they have demonstrated that they can repair all makes) and car collection/delivery service in addition to dealership standards in terms of waiting areas and washrooms.

2 Halfords Autocentres servicing prices (from £119) are also carried out by ATA accredited staff with the Halfords brand to live up to; but they don’t collect or deliver your car.

3 Good Garage Scheme members are all individual garages who can set their own prices, which may or may not be fixed and who may or may not follow the industry standard service schedule supplied by the scheme owner Forte Lubricants. More importantly, Good Garage Scheme members don’t need to demonstrate any minimum quality standards to join the network – all they have to do is promise to use their so called industry standard checklist and sell Forte Lubricant products to order.

And then there’s the question of the best (not just cheapest) car parts…

NB: Some garages/dealerships discount the cost of an MOT that is done at the same time as a car servicing and others don’t. FOXY advice – always ask for and expect a discount when buying car servicing and an MOT together.

Garage brokers…

And if this isn’t complicated enough you then have schemes run by third party garage brokers like NSN, servicingstop.co.uk and service4service.co.uk where the motorist deals direct with these brokers but doesn’t know which garage will be servicing their car or what their credentials are. Needless to say (but this is a significant factor) if a garage is paying a broker commission and is expected to perform to keen car servicing prices as well, this suggests that the garage will be looking to shave its costs to turn a small profit at the end of the day.

But back to the title of this blog…

Q: When is a fixed price (car servicing) not a fixed price?

FOXY answer: When the work reveals a problem that could not have been predicted. Which is fair enough providing the customer is told or shown the problem and given a quotation for the new work.

Fortunately this exercise has taught us a few important lessons…

1 Car servicing is a very competitive arena with franchised dealers, independent garages and fastfits jostling for position. So shop around for price AND measurable evidence of quality.

2 Dealerships aren’t always the most expensive car servicing solution but at least their work is carried out by manufacturer approved/trained staff and will normally include a car collection service.

3 The same old quality concerns arise because this is an industry that isn’t regulated.

What other industries treat a ‘straightforward, swift complaints procedure’ as a selling point?

And what is the point in any quality garage initiative if it’s a voluntary standard that only the good guys belong to and the rest don’t have to join?

Finally, if I struggle to get my head around all this (and garage quality is supposed to be my specialist subject) how will Joanna Public fare, thinking that all garages and car servicing options are the same?

No wonder so few women enjoy their garage visits… This is all far too confusing.


Are they having a larf?

How much did you say?

A number of garages expect me to start the buying process before they tell me how much my car servicing is likely to cost. But I’m foxy, remember; I’m used to comparing prices first and I have no intention of being fobbed off in this way.

If I pick something off a supermarket shelf or High Street clothes rack, for example, I expect to see the price before I buy it.

If it’s more than I want to pay I can keep looking or go elsewhere. Whether it’s a tin of beans, a car service or a fitted kitchen…

And I don’t expect to be asked for my personal details before I’m given a price. That’s enough to send me packing elsewhere…

So when my car needs servicing or repairs I want to know what my choices are and to be able to compare, like for like, what it’s going to cost for my car and model. Because otherwise it’s nigh on impossible to judge what’s best value for money for me, the car and the occasion.

As things stand…some garages publish car servicing tariffs online and others don’t.

Most dealerships and leading independent garages include car collection services whereas few national chain garages and fast-fits do…

And some garage brokers publish a price tariff and collect your car but don’t tell you which garage will be doing the work. This worries me because a low price can be a function of quality workmanship and this is an industry where garages aren’t regulated and mechanics do not have to be accredited as fit for purpose...

Yet many garage and main dealership websites expect motorists to book car servicing and MOTs via their website without confirming a price or giving an estimate for starters. And one assumes people trust them sufficiently to do this…

Well, knowing what I do about the UK’s garage industry I wouldn’t buy expensive garage services without knowing
1     who the garage is
2    whether it’s up to the job ie what are their credentials
3    what my local choices are and
4    that the price is a fair one in my circumstances (from a value for money point of view).

So my advice to all foxy lady drivers is to check the garage in question for measurable signs of quality (like ATA, BSI and OFT logos), look for a tariff (or ask for an estimate in advance) and shop around. And my advice to garages is to publish some sort of estimate before they go to someone else who does.

It’s a very competitive world when it comes to buying car servicing and/or vehicle repairs and this means that independents, dealerships, fastfits and bodyshops must each set out their wares to attract the right customer and car. Prices, customer services and amenities – not just the work they do.

Having said that, it is rarely in any motorist’s best interest to buy a used car or garage service on price alone and no-one should be fooled into buying any garage service or repair without getting a quote in advance…

Sadly too many foxy lady drivers are paying more than they need without realising this until afterwards.

To find out about your choice of garage solutions and signs of garage quality to look for, see FOXY’s Good Garage Guide. And if it’s female friendly garages you’re after, visit FOXY Choice’s website and email selected businesses direct to compare their prices and service levels first.

Finally let us know how you get on and, whilst this offer stands, we’ll thank women who give us garage feedback with a free gift of membership of FOXY Lady Drivers Club worth £23. Where we share the word about the best businesses to benefit foxy lady members and their families…