No competition in car servicing

I have a Ssangyong Rodius: it's a big, ugly, 7-seater (don't ask, it wasn't my choice). I had previously had it serviced at the local tyres and servicing place, but took it up the road to the Ssangyong and similar gas-guzzler specialist to ask them for a comparative quote for the next service. My reasoning was that they might get better prices and lead times for parts specific to the brand.

I had the previous receipt with me (from the other garage: oil and filter, brake pads, bulbs, etc.). I asked the owner whether he could give me the quote - and without looking at the paper said "the prices will all be the same".

I had thought we were progressing from this "solidarité" price-fixing thing, I thought consumers were getting a bit more savvy and that businesses would find a way to break out and follow suit, but maybe not.

Does anyone know whether this is a legal thing, a "solidarity" pact between so-called competitors (i.e. not to be competitive), or some other factor (or did i just choose the wrong garage?)


I prefer to use the local garage for more friendly and usually cheaper service. The concessions usually charge the same price ie the going rate for concessions & franchises etc

If your car is still under warranty you used to have to go to the concession to respect the guarantees etc but the past few years have seen other companies provide the same services where the warranty is protected. The cheapest I have found is Midas which can be found in the larger commercial areas. I saved 100€ on a 30000km service on my 308 last year.

It always pays to shop around.

It pays to check out the siren/siret number of anyone you use although it does not necessarily guarantee how good they are. I know of someone working as a mobile mechanic - not in Paul's area - who's siret does not cover car work of any kind. He also does recovery work with a UK reg truck although he has been here for quite a few years so I wonder how his liability insurance works. In the event of damage occurring to your car whilst it is on his truck I doubt it would be covered. Go to & enter the siren number. When the details appear click on "la fiche" to the right of the little blue dot which will tell you what they are allowed to do.

I've had bad experiences with garages over here. One cut the wire from alt' to battery, after I argued a point with them. Denied all knowledge afterwards. Another place charged me over 300 euros to alter my 7 pin tow leccy socket to 13 pin. It took three visits before he got it right..... He kept making errors, added about 4 hours onto the time and then tried to charge me for that labour! Fuming I was and wrote to his head office, he no longer works for that company and the bill was reduced to around 120 euros. Other places simply refused to work on Volvos and suggested I go to Volvo Mainstealer. Had a recent breakdown, recovery took me and the car to Volvo...... With me explaining the problem they gave an 'off the cuff' devis of 'environ 1300 euros' . I told the recovery to take me home. That cost 200 and I repaired it myself for a further 100 quids worth of bits. I now do most of my own servicing and repairs, its become a hobby. For work I am not confident enough to do, I use a local mobile mechanic . He charges 10 euros call out and 35 an hour labour. Have you looked for a mobile mec in your area? This chap is english, found him via another ex-pat forum. Maybe worth a search?

Take a look at the second-hand market for the answer. You could have to pay up to €4,000 for an 8 year old Clio. French people will pay these prices because everyone knows someone who will do backyard repairs in his spare time. For cash? I couldn't possibly comment!

Buying sophisticated foreign vehicles puts you in the hands of the manufacturers and their distributors. They have the tools and the diagnostic kit to do the job. Your local garage may be prepared to do basic servicing for you, but they will be at a disadvantage doing anything more complicated because of lack of experience and special tools. And your backyard man just won't want to know!

Hourly rates are much the same at any garage. It's all related to the cost of employing people in France. But it does mean that the workers get a living wage and reasonable job security.

1999 Vw T4 2.5 TDi

Alan, what year is your VW Transporter, please?

I needed the cam belt and water pump replacing on my VW Transporter and I took it back to the UK . In France 840€ in the UK £273 inc genuine VW parts.

I know exactly how you feel!. I am a garagiste here so service most types of cars but as a one man band I can keep costs much lower than main dealers who not only have to hold a lot of stock they also have to pay for large fancy showrooms on prime commercial sites. This all has to be paid for - by you! With the advent of computers manufacturers have tried to make it much harder for the independent garages to repair their cars by introducing software which is only available to the dealer network & then at great expense. A charge of 50 to 80 euros is not uncommon just to have the car's computer checked! Then you have replacement parts. These are not made by the car manufacterer but by companies which feed into the industry. There are many makers of brake pads, for instance, all of which meet the car manufacturers standards but may not have the car brand on the box. Most will package for the end user - Peugeot on the box for a dealer & Valeo for a parts retailer. Prices reflect this con.

I had to replace the brake pads on a customers Jeep Cherokee so I ordered them on Ebay from the UK. the price was £4.99 + post, made by QH, a company who supply OPEL amonst others. Unfortunately they took too long to arrive so I went to the main dealer in Bordeaux. The price was 285 euros! I've bought whole cars for less! In the end I lent the customer my car & ordered from my local parts supplier where they cost 70 euros.

I have also found that main dealers will replace parts willy nilly until the problem goes away, often replacing perfectly good parts unneccessarily but charging the customer anyway. I bought a Renault which a man had spent 8000 euros on with Renault over a 2 year period. The problem was never found...

If time allows I buy most of my parts either from Ebay or or similar. I do not make a profit on parts but do have to charge 14% on items that I sell as an AE. Customers can therefore source their own parts if they wish.

If I come across a job which I do not feel I have the resources to do I visit a French garagiste friend & vice versa.

Parts here are, for some reason, much more expensive than they are in the UK, & it does not matter what type of car you have!

There are two of us in my village with L-R Discoverys. We both use the same local garage. We both also get all necessary parts sent from the UK as they are about 75-50% of the prices quoted here. The guy in the garage is quite happy with that - it saves him the effort of sourcing bits.

I use my local garage to service my Honda CRV as it is run by a neighbour so he can collect car from the house and bring it back once finished. Last year it developed a problem and his diagnostic box said it needed a sensor changing which wiuld cost 300€. Sensor was changed but problem remained and after a couple of attempts, he admitted defeat and told me to go to local Honda dealer. They said the same sensor needed changing again but wanted to charge me 340€ ! My local garage bought the original from them which just shows how they inflate their prices.

Main dealers and garages specialising in one make are mostly outrageous. I have a good Renault garage where he does not 'arnaque' me every time I cross his threshold. he has even not charged a couple of times when called out and once not for towing in by trailer. On the other extreme, my OH has given up on the Opel main dealer for repairs and servicing, an Opel garage and the place where she actually bought because they obviously smell her arriving and charge for sniffing let alone any work, parts and so on. She now uses an independent garage as the others are saying. I am lucky but such honest specialist garages are thin on the ground according to most people we know. Go and stay independent.

your car does not have to be serviced by a main dealer, any one can do it as long as they use recommended parts, keep the receipt and fill a log book in.

many people assume that if a car has been serviced by a main dealer it will keep better value, this is a myth, all a car requires is a regular service.

probably better going to a small independent garage for a service.

Emily your car uses Mercedes engine and gearbox so parts are common and should be cheap.

Vic's hit the nail on the head, try a local independant garagiste, Emily ;-)

I had the same problem here with our local Peugeot agent. After years of high bills I now take my cars to a small local parts supplier/garage where I get much better, much cheaper & certainly much more civil service. These guys actually seem to want & appreciate my business.