While the answer to this question varies wildly, the real question is how much should a car service cost. At My Auto Shop, we think this should be an easy question to answer. Why? Because manufacturers set out the maintenance schedule for your car and all the vehicles just like it, detailing what needs doing and when. This includes intervals for spark plug replacements and cambelts for example. What’s more, they also indicate how long a service should take, and the parts required to complete it.
What does a mechanic do on a petrol car service?
Most garages have multiple service options – typically a “basic” option and a “comprehensive” option. These usually differ by the amount of time spent on safety or damage checks by the mechanic, with oil and filter replacements covered by both.
A decent service will cover:
- Replacement of all the engine oil and the oil filter;
- A top-up of all other engine fluids (replacement only if required);
- Checks of the engine hoses, belts, steering, suspension, brakes, etc;
- Battery check;
- Check of the underbody of the car for rust or excessive wear;
- Full safety check of lights, seatbelts, and windscreen; and
- A final road test.
Assuming this is completed annually you should avoid any major unplanned repairs. However, over time other components will wear out. Famously, if your car has a cambelt, you will likely need to get this replaced every 120,000 – 130,000 km for example.
So, how much should a petrol car service cost?
The cost of a service will differ by vehicle type, your location, and the km interval your car is currently at. We found that a comprehensive service for a Honda Civic in Auckland can be booked for between $177 – 316, while in Christchurch that range is $222 – $365.
Comprehensive service costs by vehicle and region on My Auto Shop (as of 13/9/21).
In any case, a service cost can be calculated as = (labour rate x time) + (parts required x their price) + (Consumables and/or Freight).
The labour time required to complete a service is defined by the vehicle manufacturer. The labour component of the bill should therefore be that time multiplied by the mechanic’s hourly rate. Labour rates differ from garage to garage, and by region.
The parts are much more straightforward. If you drive a Honda Civic, it will take a specific amount of oil and a particular model of filter. Once you know the parts required to complete a service, you can find the price for those parts easily online. Generally, European vehicles tend to have slightly more expensive components when compared to Japanese or Korean vehicles, but this does vary by vehicle and part.
What else should I look out for on a service?
We recommend sticking with MTA-approved garages and looking at what’s included in the service closely before booking your car in for a service. Here are a couple of specific things to look out for when you book.
- Always be wary of “from…” pricing. If possible secure the price upfront;
- Many services have a fixed allowance on engine oil and allow for a particular oil filter. This frequently leads to unexpected costs at the end. For the record, almost no car in NZ takes <4.5ltrs of engine oil!
- Common issues – it also helps to be familiar with the most frequent issues with your make and model.
My Auto Shop allows you to search between hundreds of MTA-approved mechanics, compare prices and book a car service in minutes. You can book with confidence knowing that we’ve vetted the garages for you.