Tag Archives: licensing

Is your garage good enough?

The UK garage industry isn’t regulated which means that anyone can open a garage, set up a used car showroom and service or repair our cars without the latest know-how.

I have a statistic on my wall to remind me why this matters. It is that 93000 of us complain to Citizens Advice centres each year, about a combination of used cars and garage services. That’s a lot, bearing in mind that many of us never take it any further than the garage.

When I first uncovered this unsavoury fact, some 15 years ago now, I was quite shocked. Like most motorists I expected anyone who carried out repairs that could affect my personal safety to be licensed to do their job. As gas fitters and electricians are for example.

Types of Garages

Businesses and individuals who do garage work fit into several different categories in my experience. There are very good ones, ones who hide their light under a bushel, those that can do better and those that’ll never be good enough.

Fortunately the best ones are usually licensed to do their job and do it well or at least adequately. Sadly this doesn’t always make them best at customer service but at least your car should be safe.

Then there are others who are good enough and caring enough to be licensed, but aren’t because they don’t have to be and can’t see the cost benefit. Some of these businesses are among the most friendly I’ve spoken to on the phone and often have excellent customer feedback. But without evidently-qualified ie licensed ie ethical staff in their workshop I couldn’t sleep at night recommending them to female motorists. Just in case their work wasn’t good enough.

But the ones that aren’t good enough to be licensed and couldn’t care less about being so are the ones that really wind me up. This is because they can earn a decent living doing a mediocre or worse job, getting off scot-free because too many poorly informed motorists think it’s a good idea to buy cheap MOTs, car parts, servicing and repairs – not realising what good garages need to pay for licensed staff, the latest diagnostic equipment, car parts and the cost of premises and customer services.

It’s just commonsense that the cheapest prices are unlikely to be the best value for money in today’s unlicensed garage industry.

Minimum Garage Standards

So how do you find out who your best local garages are based on signs of measurable quality. Here are a few clues.

Franchised dealers

To begin with, if you use a franchised dealer you can be sure that their technicians have been trained to provide repair services that are approved by the car manufacturer. And whilst you might pay a tad over the odds compared to a good independent garage, you need to decide if their (typically superior) facilities, customer services and specialist training justifies this. Certainly most motorists driving new cars within their warranty period favour franchised dealers, in case they need to make a claim.

Independent garages

There are two main schemes to check if your local garage is as good as it gets. The first one is the IMI Professional Register where you can check for a licensed garage and/or mechanic near you.

The second is to see if the garage is a subscriber to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Approved Code of Practice scheme.

Incidentally if you have a run in with a Motor Codes approved subscriber you can apply to the new Motor Ombudsman to review your case. With that name you might expect them to look after all motor industry complaints but they don’t. Perhaps that’s what they’re hoping to do in time?

It’s a shame that the motor industry feels the need to brag about complaints handling processes but with 93,000 complaints on the horizon and dysfunctional businesses allowed to trade, maybe it’s better to be prepared than let it happen to you.

We hope it’s not you, but if you do get fleeced at any stage, we help Club members sort things out. And if need be (this rarely arises because this is a genuine deterrent), we share the experience with local Club members.

If you’d like to contact me about any of this please email info@foxyladydrivers.com or get in touch via the Club’s Twitter account @FOXYtweets.


Female friendly approved UK garages and car dealers

Steph-garage-250I am often asked if our network is different from others that sound impressive but that any Tom, Dick or Harry garage can join. I can honestly answer ‘yes we’re different’.

We have to be different because a bad garage, or one that pretends to be good but is, at best, mediocre, can compromise our motoring safety. Not just for women but also for men I hasten to add which is why we have many male fans and followers because they realise that our standards are higher than most others….

So, when you choose a FOXY Lady Approved female friendly garage you can be sure that it’s been vetted and endorsed by regular female feedback even if we approve a range of garages. As I see it, there’s no point in sending an out of warranty car and its owner into a franchised dealership and paying over the odds if there’s an approved good independent garage alternative. Unless the dealer is competing with them of course…

Our network is run by FOXY Lady Drivers Club’s sister organisation, FOXY Choice. Approved garages pay us an annual subscription to be identified, promoted and monitored as a female friendly garage or car dealer. I am comfortable with this relationship because it’s their money that funds our not for profit club and if the motor industry was as good as it should be, there’d be no need for the Club or for the good guys to have to be seen to out-perform the cowboys.

But there is a need, because, other than MOT’s, this isn’t a licensed industry. One where anyone can tinker with our cars because service and repair mechanics don’t have to be licensed or trained re the latest technology. An industry where she who knows when, where and how much to haggle will usually pay less for a new car than a more trusting neighbour who might venure into a showroom on her innocent own. Where used cars glint as does the salesman’s eye when he sees a gullible prospect to sell a used car to that he knows is about to blow a metaphorical gasket, just outside a mythical warranty he’s sold you. And where you can buy part worn (aka part safe) tyres or buy a car with part worn tyres without your knowledge. Or get your car repaired using cheap and not authentically original car parts. And so on. You get my drift – scratch any surface in this industry and you’ll find standards that aren’t good enough and that let the genuinely good garages and dealers down.

Clearly Rome wasn’t built in a day but FOXY has always started with minimum quality standards. We like to see businesses (garages and dealers) that have invested in training staff, listed on the IMI Professional Register. We also like to see manufacturer approved businesses because, if things go wrong, you can at least escalate problems through the dealer to the manufacturer…

A second standard is the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) schemes run by Motor Codes (backed by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders ie SMMT hence the emphasis of franchised dealerships), another me-too scheme run by Trust My Garage (backed by the Retail Motor Industry Federation ie RMIF hence the emphasis on independents more than franchised dealers) or the identical code-scheme operated by the Bosch Car Service network – mainly independents at the high end of the quality spectrum. Amazingly none of these Code of Practice schemes require staff to be licensed but Motor Codes is an Alternative Dispute Resolution services so at least you have somewhere to go if any of their members (and non members) behave badly.

We also expect businesses to sign the FOXY Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women services they don’t need’ which is sadly the image that too many women have in their heads. A huge number of women dread the garage experience meaning they don’t go as often as they should for this reason and, in too many cases, delegate the actual MOT, car servicing and often new car test drive to their (male) partner.

Shame on this industry for making us feel intimidated and without a means to fight back. We who are about to outnumber male drivers and who want more for our money. Those who are members of FOXY, can fight back of course, as we will always support them, assuming they’re in the right of course.

My personal bete noir is cleanliness and toilets in garages. These are mainly areas run by men so perhaps cleanliness isn’t as important to them as it would be to us. So where loos are pristine and impressive I heave a huge sigh of relief and want to shout this from the rooftops when inspecting washrooms as customer facilities.

Finally, even garages and dealers with all the quality ratings can be rude. In fact I have encountered some of the rudest men and women in customer facing business roles ever when phoning garages and/or dealers who are clearly oblivious to the way potential customers are treated.

So that’s about it really. A commitment to the FOXY Promise, minimum quality standards, any indication of investment in being better than others in the industry, value for money (I don’t mean cheap here), cleanliness and a warm welcome is what we look for before we award FOXY Lady Approved status. Then minimum supplies of female feedback to make sure they’re keeping their side of the bargain.

PROVISO – Not all FOXY Lady Approved garages tick all these boxes because this has to include a FOXY (as in female) Choice and clearly the more you expect (vehicle collection/courtesy car/italian coffee, WiFi etc) the more the business overheads are but at least you’ll know the garages are doing a good job for women. And that if they get this wrong, they have us to answer to, as per our Terms and Conditions.

My final advice is, don’t buy garage services on price alone. Make sure you know if they are good enough to do the job. Just like a cheap used car, there’ll be a reason for this and it won’t be because the business wants to do you a personal favour.

Trust me – this is the motor industry and it just isn’t good enough yet.

Here’s where to find our FOXY Lady Approved female friendly garages and dealers

Please tell us about your latest garage experiences here

Finally for just £24 you can join FOXY Lady Drivers Club and get a lifetime subscription in 2016 opening the door to cheap car insurance, car deals and VIP garage services we’ve vetted so women (and men in many cases) can trust too.

If you’re a member please tell your friends and help spread the word that women drivers have a female choice.


UK garages charge women more for car repairs

car-repairs-at-rip-off-garagesBritish women are charged an average of £45 more than men for car repairs, an investigation by ClickMechanic has found. ClickMechanic, the online marketplace for car repairs, examined independent car garages across the UK and found that a standard repair costing a man £571 will typically cost a woman £616, an increase of 8%.

Male and female mystery shoppers requested quotes to replace the clutch of a 2011 Ford Focus from 182 garages across ten UK cities. The investigation found that eight out of the ten cities charged women a ‘female premium’ and only 6% of the surveyed garages gave a consistent quote to both male and female customers.

“For every female car-owner in the UK this report will come as an unwelcome surprise,” says Andrew Jervis, Co-founder and CEO of ClickMechanic. “While the vast majority of mechanics strive to provide honest and reliable quotes, these results show that there is a worrying minority of garages failing to do so. There is a desperate need across the industry for transparency and consistency in price in order to establish trust with consumers of both sexes.”

Birmingham repair garages charged the highest female premium at 31%, closely followed by Manchester (28%) and Glasgow (20%). Only two out of the ten surveyed cities bucked the trend and charged men more for a repair, with Sheffield and Edinburgh garages quoting males 5% and 19% more than females respectively.

The investigation uncovered some price-hiking across the country, regardless of the customer’s gender. On average, garages quoted both men and women £594 to carry out the work, £80 more (16%) than the £514 recommended by industry standard guidelines provided by car manufacturers, parts providers and trade bodies.

“Customers, both male and female, rely on mechanics to be accurate with their pricing. We recently carried out a study that found roughly half of people (45%) have no idea how much common repairs on an average household car should cost. While there is a small number of cowboys taking advantage of the fact that most consumers just don’t know how much their car repairs should cost, most mechanics are reliable and trustworthy. These results should therefore encourage the car repair industry to focus its efforts on making sure mechanics have the best possible tools in place to provide reliable quotes.”


This survey confirms what we have suspected for ages but couldn’t prove. And few believed us. Clearly there is no excuse for price-hiking of any kind with the technology available to tell garages how long a job should take. All they have to do is add the cost of the parts they choose (that’s another area for discussion) and their labour rate which includes their profit presumably.

Why can’t the motor industry be more professional here? Yet again it’s the few cowboys letting the majority good guys down and doing untold damage to the industry’s reputation in women’s minds.And in so doing the women steer clear of garages when they should be using them more, not less, from a safety point of view.

Nothing short of regulation will do the trick we say, especially if one of the unintended consequences of this report is to encourage women to choose cheap repair quotes in future, regardless of whether he/she is licensed or not…

guestreviewThis is a Guest Blog from ClickMechanic, an online marketplace making it quick and easy for drivers to get online quotes and book a vetted mechanic using an online quoting engine so users know how much they should really be paying.

The survey was carried out during April-May 2015 across 182 locations in Birmingham, Manchester, London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, and Edinburgh. Male and female mystery shoppers separately requested quotes for replacing the clutch plate, cover and concentric slave cylinder (release bearing) of a Ford Focus TDCi 2.0L 2011.

Home Secretary Theresa May visits PK Automotive in Lincoln

PK_Theresa May1

When you are one of the best businesses in the motor industry, like PK Automotive Solutions (PK) in Lincoln, doing all the right things and with professional staff and smart premises to be proud of, you can expect the likes of politicians to come knocking at your door.

So it probably wasn’t much of a surprise when PK was chosen as a prime business to visit by Home Secretary Theresa May.

She was visiting Lincoln at the invitation of Conservative MP (March 2015) Karl McCartney who explained how this came about.

“Theresa May and I go back 20 years to my early years in the party and I was really keen to invite her to Lincoln to see a real success story in PK. They also look after a number of Lincolnshire Police vehicles.” Karl McCartney JP (and Lincoln MP in March 2015).

The business case for apprentices

With four apprentices taken on in as many years, PK encourages further vocational development through a combination of on-the-job learning, external education and practical hands-on experience. The business knows from its practical experience that offering training and ongoing support to new technicians and people entering the motor trade is essential to both maintain their interest and loyalty as well as to improve and fine-tune their skills.

Coming from a training background himself, Paul Killingsworth (PK’s owner) puts this experience into practice on a daily basis, often training the apprentices himself.

Ashley Maclaughlin, PK’s latest apprentice, was surprised and then delighted to meet Theresa May on his first day. He discussed his new career path and aspirations with her adding afterwards “She’s very nice and easy for me to talk to.”

Well done PK Automotive!

It’s not every day that the Home Secretary pays a visit to meet and talk to and about apprentices. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that such an influential figure has taken time out to listen to the viewpoint about industry standards on behalf of other quality independent garages.

It’s worth reminding blog readers that PK has recently been awarded the IMI Employer Recognition Award; this is further proof of their professionalism and a guarantee of the highest quality of service, knowledge and skills within the automotive sector.
PK is also the only FOXY Lady Approved ie female friendly independent garage in Lincoln recruited on the basis of these standards. As such they maintain an exclusive 5 mile area within our network of garages for local women drivers.

Licensing in the motor industry

This is a subject dear to FOXY’s heart too. Whilst research suggests that over 70% of consumers think it is a legal requirement for technicians and anybody carrying out repairs on your car to hold a licence to practice, this is not the case.

Many technicians, garages and industry leaders including PK Automotive Solutions (and FOXY Lady Drivers Club) are backing the move for licensing so that only The Professionals can work on your car.

This matters because, if you get your car repaired by somebody who is not qualified to do the job and doesn’t have the right skills or know how, this could be VERY expensive AND dangerous.


Garage licensing please says FOXY

277078When I tell women that garage mechanics don’t have to be licensed to service or repair their cars few believe me to begin with. How can it be that electricians and gas fitters need to be licensed but unqualified individuals can charge money for tinkering with our car brakes and such like?

Then they end up feeling outraged to think that HM Government is turning a blind eye to the safety implications of a bodged car repair job.

How has the UK’s garage industry managed to get in this mess?

Where we are at

The business case remains the same. Why should any middle of the road garage invest in training and/or accreditation if it doesn’t have to? Yet genuinely good garages see quality as a means to differentiate their business from others.

Sadly, this being the motor industry, there are all too many garages promoting membership of quality based schemes and trade associations that they no longer belong to or never belonged to in the first place.

Measurable signs of a good garage

As I see it, the IMI’s Professional Register is a good place to check out if a mechanic is qualified or not. Over and above this FOXY identifies Motor Codes and Bosch Car Service schemes as a cut above other network standards because both operate to a Trading Standards Institute (TSI) Approved Code of Practice.

If only the TSI (and the OFT before them) had grasped the quality nettle when it could have, by specifying that mechanics must be licensed to fix cars.

And surely the fact that the lionshare of the TSI service and repair Code subscribers are franchised dealerships confirms what most motorists know to be true regardless; that a business bearing a franchised badge will have staff that are qualified to that manufacturers standards?

Sadly the anecdotal evidence is that too many franchised technicians overlook the ethical behaviour to go with mechanical competence, but even so, if you choose a dealership to service or repair your car you SHOULD be able to sleep easier in your bed than choosing a grubby back street garage based on price alone.

The licensing past

Since WWII there have been some 16 self-regulatory industry schemes but all that happened in each case was that the good garages joined in, the bad guys didn’t and no scheme was operated on an independent basis or advocated minimum standards re the qualifications or accreditation of mechanics.

In all instances, as I see it, they have been money-making opportunities for trade associations with a vested interest in growing/retaining their membership ranks not outing the bad guys.

Enter the Government in the guise of the OFT (in 2008) and more recently the Trading Standards Institute. All that has happened since then seems to be an additional layer of bureaucracy, intended to preserve the status quo ie to earn from those garages that consider themselves to be good guys.

God help any motorist who judges a good garage based on anonymous feedback influenced by a convenient location, a cheap price and a friendly receptionist.

God help any motorist who buys garage services on the basis of price alone in this unlicensed industry.

God help all women drivers in an industry that expects us to know what they are talking about when they attempt to baffle us with mechanical mumbo jumbo…

Where we need to be

I believe we need to remove all these layers and add one – license your mechanical staff or leave the garage industry.

This is where the accident repair industry is headed, led by insurers who have set the Kitemark in Body Repairs as their minimum standards, to include repair methods and staff training.

And very recently the DVSA started to ‘out’ MOT stations that flout their rules and standards with safety in mind.

So licensing can surely be done with a better end for motorists in sight…

And if the industry naysayers keep on saying that licensing is too expensive, I’d like to know what price they place on vehicle safety or where they recommend their wives and mothers take their cars to be repaired.

Shouldn’t all motoring mums, dads, sons and daughter be entitled to safe garages run professionally and monitored to maintain these standards?

Let’s have no more of the garage cowboys. Licensing is the only solution. First things first. Then we can look to moving the quality bar higher in terms of ethics, value for money, cleanliness and customer service standards.


PS: Industry comments re licensing follow.

“It took me 6 years of training to be able to carry out professional vehicle repairs and work unsupervised, nearly as long it takes to train as a junior doctor. Surely motorists should expect this standard to keep them and their cars safe?”

“Having a licence system will not only given the consumer better workmanship, I am sure that it will justify higher wages for the correct personnel.”

“This is something the industry has talked about since I was an apprentice back in 1979. It is the only way forward to improve the perception of the industry and get away from the poor image portrayed constantly on TV. We have always worked in a sector that requires an immense amount of training and constant updating of these skills and knowledge, so at long last it is good to see some real moves forward.”

“Manufacturers have spent millions making vehicles safer and more efficient, but anyone can repair them without any form of training or experience. More manufacturers are looking at electric propulsion systems, which have the potential to kill or injure unless technicians are trained to use the correct procedures for repairs and maintenance. Surely this is a reason why licensing should be mandatory?”

“Any regulation that ensures the integrity and quality of technicians working on motor vehicles must be supported. Extending training through approved providers and ATA to a license to practice would be a logical framework for trainees/technicians to progress through. This pathway to excellence must be available to all throughout the industry, franchised and independents alike.”