Aside from the inconvenience of taking a car to a dealer or mechanic, opaque and uncertain pricing has in the past made it the automotive equivalent of visiting the dentist — necessary, but unpleasant.
For a while now, local distributors have tried to make things a little less gruelling by limiting, or sometimes eliminating, servicing costs.
This article is a guide only. You should speak with your brand of choice before making a purchasing decision, and read the terms and conditions of any service pricing promise or plan.
This story was first published in 2015, and has been updated a number of times in the years since. The details below have been brought up to date for the beginning of 2020.
Capped price, pre-paid and free servicing
There are three main ways for automotive marques to curb service pricing.
The first option is capped-price servicing (CPS), which is now offered by many volume-selling brands. Within the limits of their terms and conditions, CPS sets a maximum price that a dealer can charge for a particular service. Prior to these schemes coming into place, dealers were able to charge any price they liked, leaving a large portion of customers who didn’t shop around out of pocket.
Luxury car makers have by-and-large opted to offer pre-paid servicing schemes instead. Pre-paid service plans are popular overseas and lock in pricing years in advance, but may tie the owner into servicing their car at a particular dealership. Pre-paid servicing can be bought at the same time as the car, or at any time prior to a car’s first scheduled service.
For both pre-paid and capped-price servicing, the cost of each service varies depending on the make and model in question, as well as which service it’s up for. Most manufacturers list current prices on their website.
There’s one thing better than a low, low price: free. These are typically offered during sales events or limited to some high-end models.
Capped price: What each brand offers
Here’s the state of play, current as of January 1, 2020:
|Capped priced servicing?||Pre-paid servicing?|
|Alfa Romeo||For all models MY2016 and newer (3 years / 150,000km).||Not available.|
|Audi||Not available. (3 years free servicing on R8.)||Optional (3 or 5 years)|
|Aston Martin||Not available.||Not available.|
|Bentley||Not available.||Not available.|
|BMW||Not available.||Optional tiered plans (Basic tier: 3 years / 40,000km)|
|Chrysler||Not available.||Not available.|
|Citroen||'Confidence Service Price' (5 years).'Confidence Servicing' for cars sold 1/1/2015 to 1/8/2017.||Not available.|
|Ferrari||Free servicing for all current models.(7 years)||Not available.|
|Foton||Not available.||Not available.|
|Fiat||Not available.||Not available.|
|Ford||'Service Price' for all vehicles.||Not available.|
|Great Wall||Not available.||Not available.|
|Holden||'Know Your Cost' for all cars bought from 1 January 2018 (First 7 services).||Not available.|
|Honda||'Tailored Servicing' for all facelifted and new models from 2012. (5 years / 100,000km)||Not available.|
|Hyundai||'Lifetime Service Plan', all models. (Lifetime)||Optional. (3, 4 or 5 years)|
|Infiniti||Brand is withdrawing from Australia, customers should contact dealer to discuss on-going service details.|
|Isuzu||Yes, for all new cars from 2015 (7 years for MY2019 and newer).||Not available.|
|Jaguar||Free servicing for XJ, F-Type, I-Pace (5 years).||Available for all other models.|
|Jeep||Available for all models bought before January 1, 2020.||Not available.|
|Kia||Yes, all cars (7 years)||Not available.|
|Lamborghini||Not available.||Not available.|
|Land Rover / Range Rover||Free servicing on full-size Range Rover.||Available. (Up to 5 years / 100,000km)|
|Lexus||Yes, 3 years, on all models delivered from January 1 2020 as part of the Encore Owner Benefits Program. Details here.||Not available.|
|Lotus||Not available.||Not available.|
|Mahindra||Yes on Pik-Up sold from January 2018.||Not available.|
|Mazda||'Service Select' for all models (Lifetime).||Not available.|
|Mercedes-Benz||Yes, all models from 2015 (Up to 3 years / 75,000km).||Optional, tiered. (Up to 5 years / 125,000km).|
|Mini||Not available.||Optional, tiered. (5 years / 80,000km)|
|Mitsubishi||Yes, all cars (4 years for cars bought before 2017, 3 years for cars bought after 2017).||Not available.|
|Nissan||Yes for all cars bought after January 1, 2018 (except GT-R). (First 6 services)||Not available.|
|Peugeot||'Assured Service Price Promise' for cars bought after 1 August, 2017. (First 5 services)||Not available.|
|Porsche||Not available.||Not available.|
|Renault||Yes. (5 years for MY2020 Kadjar and Koleos, 3 years everything else)||Not available.|
|Skoda||'Service Pricing' for all cars sold from 8 February 2014. (First 6 services)||Optional. (3 or 5 years)|
|Subaru||Capped price servicing for all cars bought from 1 July, 2014. (5 years)||Optional. (3 or 5 years)|
|Suzuki *||Yes, vehicles bought from May 1, 2013 on. (5 years)||Not available.|
|Toyota||'Service Guarantee' for all cars. (3 to 5 years)||Not available.|
|Volkswagen||'Assured Service' for MY2017 onwards (5 years). 'Capped Priced Service, Every Calendar Year' for MY2010 to MY2016.||Optional. (3 or 5 years)|
|Volvo||Not available.||Optional. (3 years / 45,000km)|
* Suzuki vehicles sold in Queensland and northern NSW come through a private importer, and are not covered by Suzuki Australia’s capped price servicing arrangement.
The table above was correct at the time of our latest update (January 1, 2020), but car makers are constantly tweaking their schemes. This includes which models are covered, the duration of coverage, capped prices, inclusions and exclusions, and other terms and conditions.
In March 2015, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) pinged Kia for changing the price it charged existing owners for servicing under its capped-price program. In response, Kia amended its offer to fit in with the ACCC's definition.
As you can see in the table above, most major brands in Australia now have some form of capped-priced service program, but some prefer to brand their offering with a different name, such 'Service Price Promise' or 'Tailored Servicing'.
Regardless of the name, visiting the website for any brands you're interested in is a must.
Without doing so, you might not know, for example, that the prices quoted for Holden's 'Know Your Price Service' is valid for 30 days, while Citroen's 'Confidence Service Price Promise' is good for an entire calendar year.
Other fine print
Beyond whether the capped price can be amended over time, it always pays to read the terms and conditions, even if doing so makes Tolstoy’s War and Peace seem like easy and quick reading.
As car manufacturers and dealers aren’t charities, they can’t cover everything that might need fixing or replacing on a car. Costs for repairing crash damage, replacing tyres, aligning wheels, fixing aftermarket parts, and replacing wear and tear items (such as, wiper blades, brake pads and batteries) are excluded from all CPS plans, free servicing schemes and basic pre-paid service programmes.
Almost all brands’ servicing schemes include labour, parts laid out within the regular service schedule, oils and fluids, and environmental charges.
Some of the pre-paid servicing plans offered by luxury car makers feature both basic and more expensive tiers. The entry-level plans broadly align with the CPS programs offered by mainstream brands, with the exception that payment is made upfront. High-priced plans often include wear and tear components, such as brake pads and discs, clutches and wiper blades.
Which cars are covered?
In our handy table, we've tried to provide as much information as possible, but to maintain legibility we've had to cut out a lot of information.
Even if your car is on the old side, it's best to go to the manufacturer's website and see whether your vehicle is covered, as some makers have introduced plans that cover cars that pre-date their plans.
Typically a car’s eligibility or otherwise for CPS is tied to its VIN, rather than its owner. This means that a car keeps its CPS status when it’s on-sold. Second-hand car buyers should note that many brands’ programmes exclude cars purchased with corporate or fleet discounts, or by fleets, government agencies, taxi companies and rental car concerns.
Some manufacturers’ websites allow users to check a car’s CPS status via its VIN.