Drivers in some parts of the UK are paying almost £100 per hour more for garage labour than in others, according to new research.
A study of independent garages around the country found massive differences between areas as drivers face a postcode lottery when it comes to workshop bills.
In the cheapest areas, motorists pay an average of £47 per hour for servicing, repairs and maintenance while in the most expensive regions, hourly rates reach as much as £141, according to the study by consumer title What Car?. The study also found that rates could vary by more than £30 per hour between garages just a few miles apart.
Despite this, three-quarters of motorists reportedly don’t shop around when having work done on their cars, potentially costing them hundreds of pounds at a time when household budgets are stretched.
The survey of 279 independent garages found that the average hourly labour rate is £76 but drivers in and around London are paying far more, with nine of the 10 most expensive postcodes lying within the M25. Oxford, where drivers pay an average of £91 per hour, was the only other area to make it into the top 10 list of most expensive areas.
South-west London is the most expensive area in the country, with garages in the SW postcode area charging an average of £141 per hour. Behind it, garages in North London and north west London, Watford, Southall and west London, Harrow and Twickenham all charged more than £100 per hour. Completing the top 10, garages in Croydon, Bromley and south-east London, and Sutton all charged between £90 and £94.
In contrast, garages in Huddersfield, in West Yorkshire, charge an average of just £47 per hour, with those in Chester (£56) and Hull (£58) close behind. The combined areas of Llandudno, Shrewsbury and Swansea saw drivers charged £59 while motorists in Blackburn, Bradford, Belfast, Darlington, Hereford and Warrington and Wigan all paid an average of £60 per hour.
The investigation also exposed how prices could vary even within short distances. Huddersfield’s average is £31 per hour cheaper than garages in Leeds and Oldham, despite them being just 20 miles apart. And drivers in south-west London could almost halve their labour bills by travelling to nearby Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey, where the average rate is £74.
The study contacted three garages per postcode area, using only garages which are members of the Independent Garage Association and listed on Trust My Garage. All garages were asked for their hourly labour rates for a 2009 Volkswagen Golf and an average worked out for each area. However, the most extreme individual examples uncovered by the study were the £36 per hour charged by a garage in Bradford and the £216 per hour asked by one in London’s Belgravia.
What Car? consumer editor Claire Evans said: “As the rising cost of living continues to stretch budgets for people across the country, our research highlights the postcode lottery facing motorists when it comes to garage labour rates.
“However, you can often avoid paying too much for servicing by shopping around and comparing prices up front. Such is the size of the disparity, there are examples here where driving for up to an hour could save you enough to enjoy a night in a hotel and a good meal.”