Can franchised dealerships justify charging high rates for small jobs?

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Car clinic: can dealerships charge an hourly rate for small jobs

Q. My wife’s 2006 BMW 320d estate was serviced by a local BMW dealership, which also changed a rear lightbulb. The bulb cost £2.50 but the fitting charge was £31.50, which sounds disproportionate to me. Do you agree?
AT, Bromeswell, Suffolk

A. Changing the bulb should have taken no more than 15 minutes, so a charge of £31.50 might seem rather steep. However, your local dealership has an hourly labour charge of £167, so you have been billed for a reasonable amount of time according to its rates.

This is by no means the highest labour rate we have found: three BMW-franchised dealers in London now charge more than £200 an hour. The average hourly rate for a main franchised dealer in the UK is £92 and franchised dealers charge on average 45% more than independent garages, according to a recent report by Warranty Direct.

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The higher charges of franchised dealers are justified — to some extent — by the specialist equipment each is required to buy and maintain, its access to technical updates direct from the manufacturer and, of course, the reassurance that you will not jeopardise your warranty — although, in fact, neither will taking your car to an independent garage, as long as BMW-approved parts and procedures are used.

For owners of older cars long out of warranty, using an independent BMW specialist can make better financial sense. BMW clubs and forums —, for example, or — should be able to point you to a reputable local garage.

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