In October 2014 WhoCanFixMyCar.com marketing director Alex Rose presented analysis of the maintenance costs of the three German premium brands, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
It proved to be one of the most popular articles on AM-online.
Here Rose (pictured) updates his findings.
Back in 2014, for the first time, WhoCanFixMyCar.com lifted the lid on that ‘big data’ to show which of the three big German brands cost most to maintain.
Now, using all-new data, it re-examines the question: BMW, Audi, Mercedes - how do repair bills compare?
Insight #1: For the second time, data shows Audi repairs to be pricier
Audi is 12% pricier than the average across the three brands, to be precise, and fully 26% higher than the average Mercedes repair estimate.
Rose said: “It’s a concerning stat for owners and fans of the Ingolstadt-based brand, particularly with the results so consistent with our 2014 study, which showed a 15% increase vs average and a 31% hike compared to Mercedes.
“But what is it that causes the difference across the three brands?
“Is it related to one particular model, or a single, fiendishly complex repair?”
Insight #2: The trend is consistent across volume models
The trend doesn’t vary across the core model categories. Whether A3, A4 or A6, there’s a clear pattern: repair quotes are higher than the equivalent BMW or Mercedes - typically by an amount comparable to the overall brand average.
“Mercedes should also be applauded here, consistently registering the lowest estimated repair bill against their two greatest rivals.
“That said, A-Class estimates are higher than one might expect - while Audi and BMW’s smaller models (A3 and 1 Series) attract lower estimates than their bigger stablemates, A-Class repair pricing is almost identical to E-Class.”
The reasons behind the differences in repair bills
Insight #3: prices for routine work are comparable - the discrepancies lie in more ‘involved’ repairs
Looking at the detail, the cause becomes clear: all three brands record comparable average quote pricing for the most regularly required work, such as servicing, new batteries, braking and exhaust system (in which Audi quotes are actually the lowest) as shown below.
However, the real gaps open up when requesting less-frequent repair types, such as clutch replacement, cambelt replacement, issues with central locking and the like.
- The average transmission repair quote (most commonly clutch-related) was £94 dearer on an Audi than a Mercedes
- Within the ‘engine and cooling’ category, both water pump replacement and fuel pump replacement showed Audi repair quotes to be 18% higher than the class average
The trend within these categories can be seen below.
So, should drivers simply accept that higher maintenance bills for less-frequent repair types are par for the course when buying into the Audi brand?
Not quite, said Rose.
Insight #4: higher bills are limited to older Audi models
“Understandably, repair work such as replacement cambelts, clutches, water-pumps and fuel pumps tend not to afflict a car in the first few years of its life, and our data reflects that perfectly.
“Where the car is under six years old, service and maintenance quotes vary between the three brands by just a few pounds.
“A noticeable, and consistent, gap only opens up beyond a car’s sixth birthday. At this stage, garages’ quotes for Audi repair work trend around £50 above Mercedes, and £25 above BMW.”
Consistently repair quotes tend to get cheaper - for all brands - as a car gets into ‘old age’ (say, beyond 12 years old), for a few reasons:
- They cover fewer miles
- They may be more mechanically simple, requiring less labour time during the repair
- Owners are often more willing to ‘live with’ certain faults or imperfections for longer, or are more likely to turn to non-OEM parts (or even reconditioned ones.)
“As BMW, Audi and Mercedes models get older and require more ‘non-routine’ work, so Audi bills will trend highest, with Mercedes costs trending lower (some might say, surprisingly so.)
“However, drivers of younger Audis, or of older Audis in need of servicing, brake or exhaust work, shouldn’t worry – they won’t find themselves won’t be out of pocket.”
Notes on the methodology: every month 14,000 drivers use WhoCanFixMyCar.com to find a local garage or dealership, receiving over 35,000 quotes in the process. This provides nationwide, multi-brand, multi-repair type insight into vehicle reliability trends.
For the above analysis, it included quotes from all outlet types, but set a minimum- and maximum-quote threshold, in order to discount any obvious outliers within the data, leaving 23,000 rows of data specific to these three brands over the past 12 months.