What is a pre-paid car service plan?
Many dealers offer service plans that allow you to spread the cost of your annual car service , but are car service plans worth it? To help you decide, we’re taking a close look at what they are, how they work and what’s in it for you, the driver.
Today’s cars are precisely engineered, finely tuned and incredibly sophisticated pieces of advanced technology. To consistently get the best performance, it’s important that we look after them. This means regular servicing and maintenance and the cost of this can be unpredictable.
To help drivers spread the cost and budget for essential servicing, manufacturers and leading dealerships offer car service plans. In many cases, these plans can be paid for monthly, in advance, and when the car service is due, the bill is usually already taken care of. Dealers can throw in extras too, including preferential booking, courtesy cars or a pick up and drop off service, even a complimentary valet.
Of course, the main advantage of these monthly service plans is the peace of mind that comes through knowing the cost of the service is already taken care of. All a driver has to do is get the car to their local garage.
However, as some drivers still wonder if these plans offer real value for money, we thought we’d take a closer look at how they work, what they actually offer, and even some of the alternatives.
How do these monthly service plans work?
Stoneacre’s car maintenance plans make the perfect test-case. To work out the cost, a number of factors are considered. First, the estimated number of miles you are likely to cover in a year. This helps the service manager anticipate expected wear and tear on the vehicle and what level of maintenance is likely to be needed. The anticipated cost of this is worked out using current parts and labour prices, and this figure is then split into 12 affordable monthly payments.
When the time comes to service your car, the money you have paid can then be used to cover the cost of the service – helping you avoid any large and unwelcome bills. Once your service has been carried out and paid for, your monthly payments then continue, building up a further pot of money that can then be used for your next scheduled service.
Why do dealers offer them?
One reason is to help you ensure your car remains in the best possible condition. Dealers work hard to cultivate a long term relationship with their customers and they hope you’ll return to them when it’s time to choose your next car.
Your current car could be used in part exchange and then sold on again by the dealer. So it’s important that your car is serviced regularly and expertly by the dealers’ authorised technicians. It also ensures that any replacement parts are genuine and manufacturer-approved. This way, the value of the car remains high, as does its long-term re-sale appeal – for you and the dealer.
Naturally, dealers recognise that customers are always looking for good value and an effective way to keep their car running costs – particularly the servicing - as low as possible. By offering these monthly service plans, dealers can help their customers achieve this by budgeting the cost. For many customers, having this facility available helps make buying and running a new or quality used car more affordable. For some, spreading this cost makes all the difference.
Additionally, the dealer would also prefer you to have all work on the car carried out by them. It helps to keep their workshops busy and of course, it provides them with revenue.
What are the benefits?
If you’re still asking ‘are car service plans worth it?’ it’s important to examine the full range of benefits. These include budgeting for annual servicing and avoiding a one-off bill by spreading the cost across more affordable monthly payments. However, there’s a lot more to the average car maintenance plans than just that.
For instance, using a plan from a main-dealer such as Stoneacre guarantees that all replacement parts used are genuine and manufacture approved. Plus, the work is carried out by experienced, manufacturer-trained technicians, so you can trust the quality.
That’s not all:
What is the alternative?
Of course, it’s definitely worth acknowledging and exploring the main alternatives to these monthly service plans. These include a variety of approaches:
Fingers crossed - some drivers prefer to opt out of pre-paid car maintenance plans and leave the annual costs to chance. This way, they accept the unpredictability of vehicle wear and tear and choose to settle any one off bill at the time of their service, irrespective of costs.
This can be a risky option, especially for those drivers who clock up a lot of mileage. And as we’ve already discussed, car repairs and even routine maintenance costs can quickly add up – sometimes costing hundreds, even thousands of pounds.
DIY service saving - other drivers choose to put regular amounts away themselves, building their own pot of money to can use when it’s time for their scheduled service.
Yet this is not without its own risks, especially if another ‘surprise’ household bill suddenly needs paying. This can quickly eat into any funds you have saved and leave you needing to find the money again when it’s time for your service. At least with monthly service plans, your money is locked away for one purpose, guaranteed.
Local or independent garage - a small number of drivers prefer not to deal with a main-dealer at all, opting to have their car serviced at a local independent garage. This can appear to be a cheaper option, yet in the long-term, this may not always prove to be the case.
After all, local garages can cut the cost of their bill by not using genuine or even manufacturer-approved replacement parts – this can often be their USP. This will save you money at the point of fitting, but there is no guarantee these parts will last as long as genuine parts, or even perform as well. You may need to replace them more often. And if they malfunction, this could lead to even costlier future repairs. This isn’t the only potential drawback.
The mechanics working at local garages can sometimes lack the make/model-specific knowledge of manufacturer-trained main-dealer technicians. This means they aren’t always familiar or fully up-to-date with the latest version of an engine or the newest technology. And without regular contact with manufacturers, they can miss out on updates about model specific issues too.
Furthermore, your local independent garage is unlikely to be ‘manufacturer-approved’, so any work they carry out could in fact invalidate your manufacturer’s warranty.
If you would like to apply for a car service plan and save money on your service costs, simply enter a few details into the form below and one of our advisers will get back to you as soon as possible.