Cheap car repairs come at high cost to road safety, say experts
Safety specialists question benefits of going to independent repair garages
Motorists who avoid approved dealerships for service repairs to save money could be putting their lives at risk, road safety experts warn.
Dermott Kelly, 37, from Ireland, chose to save money by skipping a dealership-approved garage when he needed repairs on his Range Rover.
“My Range Rover had a broken water pump so I chose an independent garage based on a friend’s recommendation,” Mr Kelly said. “They had it for a whole week but the day after I got it back the whole engine flooded.”
That was not the end of his experiences with independent garages. When he later needed more repairs, he went with the recommendation of a Facebook community page.
“I didn’t go to the same garage again but I didn’t go to a dealership either because I thought it would be too expensive,” Mr Kelly said.
He was charged Dh7,000 to have his suspension fixed but after collecting the car, the problem persisted.
“It was pretty obvious they didn’t want to admit they didn’t know how to fix it,” said Mr Kelly, who works in the building industry.
He said he has only had access to his car for 10 days over the past three months because he had to keep returning it to the garage.
The garage owner soon began ignoring his calls, only answering when he used another number.
“I ended up registering a complaint with Consumer Rights and I sent him a WhatsApp picture of the message and he got back to me within two minutes.
“I got the car back but the problem still wasn’t solved so I ended up having to pay another garage owner Dh5,000 to fix it.”
Mr Kelly said that his experience has put him off using independent garages.
“I should have got it fixed through the dealership in hindsight,” he said. “If anything goes wrong with the car again I will definitely go through the dealership.”
Thomas Wuertz, of Mercedes Middle East, said independent garages often did not replace defective parts but tried to fix them by beating out dents and repainting.
“Manufacturer workshops are more expensive than the independent garages because they have to follow specific standards,” Mr Wuertz said.
“They use specialist equipment and tools as well as investing in the training and qualification of all their employees. The labour costs reflect this.”
He said that some independent garages use third party or fake parts to fix a car.
“I have some doubts that all of the independent workshops are compliant with manufacturer’s standards because the rates they charge for their repairs are low,” Mr Wuertz said. “If they follow all the standards I think it would be really hard for them to be profitable.”
He said the complexity of the systems in modern cars meant getting the right repairs was essential.
“That a vehicle might cause an accident because the driving assistance system was not repaired properly is just a question of time,” he said.
Mr Wuertz called for the UAE to introduce a minimum standard of repairs to ensure safety on the roads.
“It is just not fair when some workshops do not comply with safety standards just so they can offer cheaper prices,” he said.
A minimum repair standard across the industry is the very least that motorists deserve, Mr Wuertz said.
Nigel Thorne, of the I Service Any Car repair workshop in Dubai, said the big problems was that insurance companies were directing customers to the cheapest options.
“People are being sent to garages that offer inferior repairs because they are cheaper,” Mr Thorne said. “When the cars get to a certain age it is a price-related issue for insurance companies rather than the standard of the work.”
He said that many garages could not compete with the prices that competitors offered.
“The general public won’t know if the car has been repaired properly and are relying on the insurance company to guide them,” Mr Thorne said.
He said that the key for anyone needing to have their car repaired was to always get a second opinion.
Mark Bachayani, co-founder of BuyAnyInsurance.com, said insurance companies were only responding to what their customers were looking for.
“We also have analysed customer behaviour and have noticed, when a customer takes out an insurance policy, they only look for the cheapest price, even if that means they are compromising on the quality of the repair,” Mr Bachayani said
“Insurance companies are a business and are always looking to maximise their profits, and as a result they are always looking for the option that will make them the most money, even if that means a poor job.”
He urged customers to use insurance comparison websites and do their homework on which insurance policy best suited them.
“They need to review the features such as the agency repair options and the type of garage,” Mr Bachayani said.
Thomas Edelmann, managing director of Road Safety UAE, called for new data on the number of accidents caused by cars with faulty repairs.
“In Saudi Arabia they have a system that evaluates the number of cars involved in accidents because they had not been repaired properly,” Mr Edelmann said.
In September, officials who gathered at an Interpol crime conference in Dubai said cheap counterfeit car parts including brake pads made from compressed grass were some of the items flooding UAE garages and putting drivers at serious risk.
Updated: December 29, 2018 03:58 PM