AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Garages

Contents

Consumer rights

You have a number of rights when getting your car serviced or repaired, including:

  • The work must be carried out with reasonable care and skill.
  • If no time is agreed at the outset, the work must be done within a reasonable time.
  • The materials used must be of satisfactory quality; essentially the same rights as you have when buying a car.
  • The materials must be as described, so new parts must be new and not reconditioned.
Finding a reliable garage

Shop around for an established firm with a good reputation. Ask the advice of friends and look for a trade association sign, such as the Motor Vehicle Repairers Association, which should mean the garage follows a code of practice.

A reliable garage will do some or all of the following:

  • Display a menu of fixed-cost work.
  • Tell you how much they will charge to diagnose a fault.
  • Have trained staff and display certificates.
  • Have a complaints procedure.
Before getting work done

Before getting any work done, you should:

  • Find out how long the work will take and agree a collection time.
  • Check whether the garage will fit manufacturer's parts.
  • Find out if the work will be guaranteed and for how long. Get this in writing; note that a guarantee is only ever in addition to your legal rights.
  • Insist on an itemised bill.
  • Agree how you will pay before the work is done.
Before a service

Ask exactly what the service includes and costs and get this in writing, that way you can compare one garage with another. Many garages, especially 'fast fit centres', have a standard list of fixed-cost items.

Ask what the garage service covers under these headings: engine, brakes, electrics, steering, bodywork and suspension.

Before a repair

Get a written quote (a fixed price for work specified) not an estimate (an informed guess). If you don't know what's wrong, get a price for diagnosis and ensure that the garage informs you of any work required prior to carrying it out.

Tell the garage what you want, preferably in writing, and make it clear any further work will need your approval. If you're clear about what you want and how much it will cost, there is less chance of the garage doing extra or unnecessary work, so be precise: don't just say you 'have a rattle'.

After a repair

After the work is finished make sure that you:

  • Insist on seeing any parts the garage has removed.
  • Ask for an invoice or receipt, and all relevant guarantees.
  • Keep all paperwork.
If things go wrong

Contact the garage as soon as you can and give them the chance to put it right. Keep a record of all contact, including dates, times and what was agreed.

If you don't get the outcome you want, put your complaint in writing to the garage manager and send a copy to any trade association the garage belongs to. The association may be able to resolve the dispute. You have a legal right for servicing and repair to be carried out to a proper standard.

Substandard servicing

This matter falls within the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. Under section 13 of this Act, there is an implied term that "the supplier will carry out the service with reasonable care and skill". While this act does not apply in Scotland, Scottish common law provides similar protection. The goods/services supplied must be of satisfactory quality and fit for their intended purpose.

If the above terms have not been complied with, the customer will have a good claim against the garage owner.

Damages during the service

Under the law of bailment, a bailee (the mechanic/garage owner in this case) is responsible for taking reasonable care of goods whilst in his possession. If your car is damaged while in the possession of the garage, you can claim the repair costs from it.

In Scotland, the mechanic/garage owner is said to have the car in their custody and they are known as the custodier. They have the same responsibility as garages in England and Wales while the car is in their care, although the law of bailment does not apply.

Disagreement with the service charge

If you do not agree with the price you eventually receive from the garage following an earlier quote, you can write a letter to complain to the garage owner.

It is prudent in this case to obtain three estimates to determine what is reasonable in this case and offer a reasonable sum for the work undertaken.

For advice on codes of conduct and other services, contact the Retail Motor Industry Federation.

If the car is still under manufacturer's warranty, then contact the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.