The joy of driving a continental car is palpable from its widely proclaimed reputation for quality, comfort and luxury that precedes it, and subsequently quickly confirmed when one steps behind the wheel of a Mercedes, BMW, Audi or Volvo. From the distinctive comfort of the driver’s cabin to the electronic functions ergonomically installed within easy reach, the driving experience is an elevated experience.
However, continental cars also have the reputation of being costly to maintain; servicing is more expensive, genuine parts take longer to arrive, prone to breakdowns. This tarnishes the gilded dream that some have of owning a prestigious continental vehicle such as a Mercedes Benz. It’s as much a well tuned driving machine as it is a status symbol. This then raises the question of how to keep this gorgeous machine purring like a kitty without breaking the bank?
A Growing Taste for Continental Vehicles
The population of continental cars has been on the increase1. Growing affluence, demographics and no small amount of advertising has pushed the popularity of continental cars. Taking the absolute numbers of Mercedes Benz as an indication, over a period of the decade leading up to 2020, it can be seen that the German brand has grown over 100% from 30,467 to 64,886 vehicles. In the same period, the ever popular Toyota fell 9% while the total car population in Singapore increased by 6.4%2. Despite the growing fondness for these European imports, the fact remains that its upkeep is not the cheapest. To the new owners of a Mercedes Benz, and probably to many existing ones, the perennial question is how to keep running costs low. That usually leads to the million dollar question; are specialist workshops or dealership-operated after sales centers the better choice for Mercedes Benz servicing?
The Options for Mercedes Servicing
New cars typically come with a servicing package for the first few years. Within that time, repair work might also have to be done at the dealership’s service center in order to keep to the terms of the warranty. After that, an owner has two choices, to continue going to the dealership or to switch to an independent car workshop.
Mercedes Benz servicing comes in two packages, simply named A and B3. Service A is done after the first 10,000km, while service B is performed after 20,000km, with each alternating every subsequent 10,000km or 1 year.
Service package A being a minor servicing consists of the following at a cost of between $400 – $500.
- Mercedes Synthetic Motor Oil Replacement
- Oil Filter Replacement^
- Brake inspection
- Tire pressure checks & adjustments (including the spare)
- Maintenance counter reset
Service package B is considered major servicing and costs roughly $700 – $800 to perform the following:
Mercedes-Benz Synthetic Motor Oil Replacement
- Oil filter replacement^
- Cabin filter replacement
- Tire pressure inspection
- Brake fluid inspection
- Brake component inspection
The equivalent at an independent workshop could cost5 approximately $300 and $600 respectively. Which option to choose looks like a foregone conclusion but how does the private workshop achieve its cost savings?
Advantages of Using an Independent Workshop for your Mercedes Servicing
Cost savings is the biggest advantage of going to an independent service center, speed is another which comes about because there would naturally be many more independent workshops than a dealership can operate. Securing a date and time to suit your schedule would be much easier. Drivers might also find that last minute bookings may even be accommodated.
Returning to the point on competitive pricing, independent workshops are usually able to offer lower prices for several reasons. Lower overheads is one reason. Operating as a standalone workshop, it does not have a big facility, multiple departments or a large payroll to account for, so overheads are typically lower. They are also able to source for non OEM parts, discounted original parts or even used genuine parts. They are at liberty to exercise more resourcefulness to meet clients’ budgets.
Dealing with an independent workshop is also a more personal process. Over the years a relationship can be built up whereas an authorised workshop is more impersonal. As such, better pricing or discounts can be extended to their loyal customers. The workshop owner would also be better acquainted with the problems and service history of the vehicles; knowing its particular quirks and how to repair it more efficiently. In contrast, drivers usually meet the service advisor at an authorised workshop and would not have a chance to meet or speak with the mechanic assigned. An additional benefit of building relationships with privately owned businesses is that there is greater flexibility to go the extra mile, such as staying open a little longer to allow drivers to collect their car at the end of a long day at work. They might also be more willing to do work that authorised service centers would not be willing to due to the time and labour needed or in a bid to upsell products.
Advantages of Dealership Service Centers
Servicing a vehicle at the dealership is strictly by the books. The rules of engagement are predictable and fixed. The mechanics follow a manual and a prescribed list of steps when attending to vehicles. Mechanics are all trained to a uniform degree of expertise and the appropriate industry standard tools and diagnostic equipment are used. Original parts are always used to guarantee optimal performance but that could take time to ship in which adds to the cost.
The process could also be more streamlined as many have adopted the use of apps or websites to receive and make bookings. Even when dropping off the car, the driver only has to deal with a service advisor and never has to meet the technician or understand any of the mechanical issues. Lastly, as a larger entity, dealership owned service centers are less likely to close down.
As with many decisions in life, few questions can be answered with a definitive answer. Both options have their pros and cons. The decision to pick one over the other comes down to the value a driver puts on time and quality assurance. Finding a trustworthy and experienced private workshop can take time in order to reap the benefits of better personalised service at a more favourable price. To make the decision just a bit more complicated, large independent workshops such as ETHOZ blur the line between the two and can offer the best of both worlds.