Autotechnician’s Nicola St Clair considers the test fee and whether a fixed fee or statutory minimum could be the way forward…
The debate over the MOT fee is ongoing. As it stands, the government stipulates that workshops can only charge up to the official maximum for an MOT – £54.85 for cars or motor caravans and £29.65 for motorbikes.
But many companies promote cheaper tests to the motoring public, using the MOT fee as a loss leader to attract customers through the doors in the hope of making a profit on the possible remedial work. Customers researching online will be presented with offers to book an MOT online for as little as £19 – and some will even collect and deliver your vehicle for that!
Call me an old cynic, but as a consumer I disregard offers which seem too good to be true, fully expecting to find hidden costs along the way, which mean I end up paying over the odds. As a fully-fledged supporter of independent workshops, and having an appreciation of the labour cost, overheads, training, equipment and profit margin etc. that need to be accounted for, I am disappointed when I see massive discounts on the annual safety check. Workshops who invest in their staff, premises and equipment should be charging a fair price for a fair, quality and transparent service. I think discounting does the independent a disservice.
Would it be better to have a fixed fee – to ensure a level playing field and to make it less ambiguous for the customer?
We asked Stuart James, the Director of the Independent Garage Association, for his thoughts on the matter. He told Autotechnician: “The Independent Garage Association does not believe that a fixed fee for the MOT is the answer for either consumers or the industry. However, this is a complex subject and we do think that a statutory minimum fee combined with a mandatory re-test fee would serve to stem the increasing and undesirable trend towards discounting.
“The cost of the equipment and the time needed to undertake a proper MOT test means that significant discounts can only put pressure on both profitability and quality – and this is reflected in the fact that the DVSA considers discounting as part of a MOT station’s site risk assessment. However, where one or more garages in an area choose to discount the MOT, others have to make a business decision as to whether to follow suit or risk having their expensive MOT lane under-used as consumers take up the lowest cost offering.
“We can only change this mindset by ensuring that consumers are informed about the costs in carrying out an MOT test and the importance of the test in terms of road safety – it is not an alternative to a service. This will be reinforced if the government itself starts to talk about the MOT as a road safety issue rather than as a burden to motorists.”
You may be in the unfortunate position of having to discount the fee under duress because you are competing for business with a local fast-fit who offers the test from £27. Apart from the problematic downward spiral of the charge in this situation, what type of customer are you actually attracting with your cut-price MOTs?
“If you discount MOTs, you’ll get people who are trying to wrestle a wreck through. All they are interested in is a scrap of paper, they don’t care if the vehicle is safe or not”, Kath of Abbey Motor Services told us. Joe McGeoghan of Chequers Lane Garage echoed this sentiment, saying: “I don’t discount MOT fees. It attracts the kind of work I don’t want.”
What do you think?