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Buying a new car battery: are you being overcharged?

Jonathan Burn 2019-08-01 12:35

Exclusive investigation reveals the big price differences – and sheer cost – you could face when buying a new car battery

Replacing a car’s battery is something that many buyers will face at some point. But how much does it cost on the UK’s most popular new cars? And are buyers getting a fair deal?

An Auto Express investigation can reveal that some car owners are being charged a staggering £1,250 for battery replacement, while others face bills as low as £98.

How to change a car battery

Auto Express compiled a list of the UK’s 20 best-selling vehicles and contacted three franchised dealer networks across the country to get a price for parts and labour. The only information dealers requested was the vehicle’s registration details.

Owners of the current-generation Mercedes C-Class are in for the biggest shock, because we were quoted a fee of £1,248 for a replacement battery. A second dealership quoted a price of £1,098.90 for the same job, while a third was charging only £315. To check this figure was not an anomaly, we contacted two more dealerships and again received quotes of £1,111.80 and £1,198.80.

A Mercedes spokesperson told Auto Express: “We believe the majority of retailers you contacted have quoted for a lithium-ion battery, and one quote may be for a 12v battery. We can only recommend a retail price for these parts, which means there could be a variation across retailers.”

By comparison, prices for a replacement battery on a comparable BMW 320i started from £296.98 and rose to £392.57.

Best car battery chargers

The Vauxhall Mokka X was also a model that had a big disparity in price, with some dealers offering parts and labour for as little as £98.46, while two other dealers quoted £248.40 and £262.80. “We believe that the cost of the lowest-priced battery quoted to your researcher was based on a unit that was not of comparable quality to the other units for which quotes were received,” a Vauxhall spokesperson told us.

Volkswagen Tiguan owners also face quite a disparity in price for a battery replacement, ranging from £190.66 up to £320.66 – a difference of more than 68 per cent.

The fairest and most consistent pricing was to be found with the Toyota Yaris; all three franchised dealers quoted the same £105 fee for parts and labour.

Industry regulator Motor Codes told Auto Express that the results highlighted the importance of buyers shopping around if vehicle repairs are required. “When purchasing and/or having a replacement part fitted, such as a battery, we always advise motorists to shop around and to spend time doing their research. As the retail price of batteries isn’t regulated, this means that the brands supplied and the cost to the consumer will vary between retailers for the recommended technical specifications advised by the vehicle manufacturer.”

Winners and losers of battery replacement

Losers

Mercedes C-Class

Mercedes C-Class - front

Top price: £1,248.80
Cheapest: £315
Difference: 296.4%

Big price difference shows you need to specify what work needs doing.

Vauxhall Mokka X

Vauxhall Mokka X 2016 - Front Cornering

Top price: £262.80
Cheapest: £98.46
Difference: 166.91%

Price disparity was blamed on offer of a ‘lower quality’ replacement.

Volkswagen Tiguan

VW Tiguan - front

Top price: £320.66
Cheapest: £190.66
Difference: 68.18%

Compact SUV had a wide range of prices quoted for battery replacement.

Winners

Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris - best superminis

Top price: £105
Cheapest: £105
Difference: 0%

UK-wide pricing policy means Toyota garages all offered the same rate

Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra - front action

Top price: £136
Cheapest: £134.40
Difference: 1.19%

Similar prices across the country put Vauxhall in a good light here.

Car battery costs

Car Dealership 1 Cost Dealership 2 Cost Dealership 3 Cost Difference
Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost Bridgend £199 Nottingham £208 Bristol £186 11.28%
Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI SE Edition 5dr Loughborough £194 West London £244 Swansea £250 28.86%
Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost auto Style Maidstone £181 Gravesend £218 Cambridge £193 20.44%
Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 Design 5d North London £284 Bristol £249 Manchester £237 19.83%
Mercedes A-Class A 180 SE Manchester £322 Loughton £444 Coventry £377 37.88%
Nissan Qashqai 1.2 DiG-T Acenta Nottingham £129 Birmingham £132 North London £130 2.32%
Volkswagen Polo SE 1.0 TSI Bristol £234 Newport £212 Ashford £192 21.87%
Ford Kuga Titanium X 1.5 TDCi Manchester £206 Swindon £202 Liverpool £228 12.87%
Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi ISG 2 Solihull £286 Leeds £215 Cardiff £309 43.72%
MINI Hatchback Cooper S Classic 3d Liverpool £357 Milton Keynes £232 Coventry £224 59.37%
Mercedes C-Class C 200 SE* Central London £1,248 Cambridge £315 Harrogate £1,098.80 296.44%
Vauxhall Mokka ecoTEC XDesign Nav 1.4i Tonbridge £248.40 Burnley £98.46 Leeds £262.80 166.91%
Vauxhall Astra 1.4 Design Crawley £135.00 Birmingham £134.40 Carlisle £136 1.19%
Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI 150 SE Nav Maidstone £190.66 Coventry £320.66 South West London £235.66 68.18%
Audi A3 Sportback 1.5 TFSI Whetstone £405.46 Leicester £336.60 Harrogate 388 20.45%
Toyota Yaris 1.0 Icon Tech Ashford £105 Cheltenham £105 Rotherham £105 0%
BMW 1 Series 118i Sport Essex £332.57 Boston £292.57 Newcastle £271.27 22.59%
BMW 3 Series 320i SE Eastleigh £296.98 Coventry £300.77 Doncaster £392.57 32.18%
Hyundai Tucson 1.6 GDi SE Nav Maidstone £289.76 Bristol £321.18 Sunderland £298.38 10.84%
Fiat 500 1.2 Lounge Crawley £207 Chesterfield £192 Glasgow £193 7.80%

* Mercedes prices varied so widely that we obtained two extra quotes of £1,111.80 and £1,198.80 from other dealerships

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