Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Cheap car hire in South West London & other ways of reducing servicing costs

moved to

This year, I own a car as well as sharing one, and feel like a grown-up.

Other people say this about having children. Well, cars are better behaved than children and I make mine work entirely on the rent scene to make money, which is legal for cars but probably not for children.. Here is the proof: a cheap car hire in South West London SW14 8BP near East Sheen, which is a road called Avenue Gardens. If you check the price it's probably very cheap on weekdays and a bit over £30 a day for weekends. Hiyacar's calendar only shows on the smartphone versions of their site but the web version has a search function that knows what day the car is available.

Car club or car hire in South West London, East Sheen, Richmond on Thames
  • There was a link to Easycar but they were like a budget airline to deal-with, and wound-down. Turo of the USA and Drivy of France can both insure car trips in the UK and I this car is on both of them if you are signed-up already.
Small 4 door


automatic with fabric seats

built-in radio, bluetooth, and miles per gallon estimate which usually says over 48

split rear seats

similar to a car club with a remote controlled key safe and low daily rates, but no membership fee

As the miles mount-up on my mum's old runabout I realize what a careful choice she made in getting one of those three-cylinder Toyota / Peugeot / Citroen 5-door hatchbacks with zero car tax and next to no maintenance. I also realize that other people do a thing called car servicing and I made a list of some of the servicing and MOT prices people pay. If you rent a car, you don't have to bother; there is no catch. If you own a car you have to think of something.

In theory, each car servicing deal deal comes with its own list of points covered, and nearly all of them are "check", as in "check steering gators".  I had to google what steering gators are, but remember from my car maintenance adult education class circa 1988 that there were timing belts to check, timing adjustment to fix at "top dead centre", and spark plugs to sandpaper and bend to the right distance between prongs, using a special booklet of metal sheets at different thicknesses. None of this is mentioned in the prices; it doesn't seem to be needed so much on modern cars, except perhaps as a way of getting money back from a below-price offer by upselling over-priced parts to a customer like new oil or spark plugs or wiper blades. Peugeot dealerships have the price list on a web site and it is several tenners for the smallest thing. Fifty quid to change the dust in the carpet. It's a rip-off.

As I chase bargains I realize that I chase something odd.

Other people chase something odd too. Other people look for the same genie and get caught-out when Servicingstop or Fixter offer MOT and services at less than the cost of collection and delivery that's part of the deal. Then Rogue Traders or the BBC or The Guardian do a report on how mechanics have over-charged for un-necessary work in order to make-up. They would, wouldn't they?  So do Halfords and Kwik-Fit according to threads on moneysavingexpert.

Then I look for mechanics on Dealzippy and Groupon willing to stamp a service document and clear my conscience about safety checks, when all they have done is "check". I think that if the car is well checked, then I can get it done by a mechanic or do a DIY job if it is the sort of thing you see in a Haynes manual. Even the minimum MOT list is mainly "check". A bit like the routine for checking fire extinguishers in which landlords are meant to check that a fire extinguisher has water in it by lifting to check weight, and tick paper; that's all. Or those Portable Appliance Checks that big organisations do on the kettle plug, to say that it has been inspected by a qualified kettle plug inspector.

Most of the car checks are simple and simply mean "look at and tick". This in a private place, without witnesses, and without time to do the job carefully, money to employ the best mechanic, or a video to get proof of doing it. Really, what I'm chasing is a garage with a postal address and a rubber stamp that says "serviced", rather than a mechanic, and even that small overhead costs money. I don't want to pay what it costs, so I scheme about going-in with the car and supplying my own spares and somehow hoping that a mechanic can check the car, pay for a garage building and stamp my MOT and service record for next to nothing while paying commission to Motoreasy or Groupon and maybe even collecting the car. Motoreasy are cheap on MOT but expensive for servicing so I guess that's how they make-up. Maybe the service garages on Groupon can just stamp the service record for what they earn, while repeating the MOT safety check.

The system is not all glum. A lot of people pay about £168 - call it £170 - to an independent garage for MOT and service (according to The Guardian in 2014 quoting whocanfixmycar) plus any vital repairs and parts, and it's too much to pay but there is a living in it for good independent garage mechanics. If you leave your own oil, filter, wiper blade and brake pads in the car they can't over-charge you for using their own if they decide to do the work.

Bookmygarage.com lists prices from independent garages. They don't charge the garage a referral fee for the service - they charge the garage a £170 monthly subscription - so there's less incentive for a garage to get cheapskates for a one-off rip-off and more incentive to try to get repeat customers. They can also put the details online because they loose no referral fee by putting it all in public. But £170 is still an amount of money. For me, it's about eight days' car hire for a car hired two days a week. For a garage that services several cars a month, that's one car's takings used-up just to pay for the listing and they probably pay for other directories and referral agents as well, such as Whocanfixmycar who charge the garage £10 for referral and £60 for listing.

Here is my solution. Suppose someone makes a car pit and stand in a public place, and allows anyone to drive their car onto it and see the steering gators from underneath, maybe in some way that allows them to wobble the wheels to check for looseness, and turn them to check for brake tightness and squeeze the be brake pads to check thin-ness as well as checking of tyre tread for thin-ness. And puts a poster on a wall saying what has to be checked for MOT and servicing. And provides some automated way of logging on to car diagnostic systems to that, quite often, the driver can double-check what they see on dashboard lights against results on some app like Torque or whatever. And allows any checks to be recorded on camera for free in some public archive that renters and buyers can see if they want for free.

The solution would make the checking process record-able and do-able for the cost of the time for someone with the right kind of skills. For about half the population, or something like that.  A lot of skilled people who are rich in money but poor in time would continue to use garages for MOT and servicing, maybe paying for collection and delivery, but those with general skills and middling money and middling free time could do the work themselves. A lot of other people are poor in skill or health. They might have a lot of trouble parking in the right place and using the robots and sticking to the facts, but the public place and the chance of asking passers-by to help or to walk-past and learn as a by-stander would all help - it would be a free first guide to car servicing for any teenager who wanted to study further.

There is a lot of detail to be worked-out. When I google things like "mobile car service trailer", I don't see the thing in my mind; I see a scissor-lift on a trailer, but I am sure the problems are solvable. I suppose that breaking and car tread could be checked by a robot for example. Once the problems are solved, all that is needed is for a Ministry of Transport delegate to sign the MOT for - what price? - £20? £10? Maybe changing the oil for something filtered from the last similar car. That would be a decent service at a decent price.

Oh there is an even simpler system. If the government MOT website did the same as Bookmygarage.com, that would save £170 a month out of your local garages costs, but I am not sure if government ministers and civil servants are the best people to do it.


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