How Often Should You Service Your Car?

Once a year or every 12,000 miles. Whichever comes first.

How often should you service your car? Regardless of its age or model, there’s no doubt that regular checks will improve its performance and prolong its life. 

But how many times a year should you get your car serviced? What type of servicing does your vehicle require? And what are the benefits of regular maintenance?

Here, we answer all of those questions below. And we also look at average servicing costs, where to go, what you’ll need to take with you, and what to expect on the day. 

Ready? Let’s get started.

Do I really need to service my car every year?

It depends! The general rule of thumb is to have a full service done at least once a year or once your car has driven 12,000 miles. Whichever comes first.

How do I know when my car needs a service?

Each car manufacturer has their own guidance on how often to service their make and model, and you can check this in your vehicle’s handbook.

It’s vital to stick to your car’s service schedule if it’s still within the manufacturer’s warranty. This is a list of tasks to be completed, and parts replaced at specific times during a car’s early years. This ensures the warranty remains valid and your car runs efficiently. 

The first service may only be an oil and filter change, but the second a year later may require the changing out of those car parts with a limited life span. For example, this could be the glow plugs and the brake fluid on diesel cars. 

What happens during a car service?

There are several categories of service:

  • Regular maintenance: This is as simple as changing out the oil and replacing its filter.
  • Interim service: This is a mini version of the full service. Usually done at six months or 6,000 miles, whichever comes first. This service is often recommended for cars with higher mileage that spend a lot of time on the roads. 

It includes a routine inspection and changing the engine oil and oil filter. You could expect to have your wheel nut torque and tyre pressure inspected, as well as the clutch fluid, power steering reservoir, brake fluid and windscreen washer, among other things. 

  • Full service: This is the standard yearly complete service at 12 months or 12,000 miles.

This will likely see the engine oil and filter replaced, a check and top-up of all other fluids like coolant and brake fluid, and a complete examination of car parts for wear and tear. 

  • Major service: This service sees additional jobs like replacing spark plugs, fuel filters, timing belts and having the cooling system drained, flushed and refilled. 

A major service is often done at two-year intervals. Between full and major services, you can expect gearbox oil, axle or transaxle oil, air filter, and non-sealed battery units to be investigated.

  • Manufacturer service: this is vehicle dependent and is laid out by the car manufacturer in the vehicle’s manual.

There are various other parts that may need to be replaced or work to be carried out at the time of service. These include brake pads and discs, tyres, exhaust and drive belts. However, it can be tricky to put a timeline on the replacement of these items as they tend to differ by driver, vehicle and the type of driving undertaken in the car. 

What are the benefits of regular servicing?

A car is often one of our most valuable assets, and as such, it requires specialised care. The rising cost of living has us all asking: “How often do I really need to get my car serviced?” 

The truth is that well-running cars cost less money in the long term, and regular servicing has many benefits.

  • Regular servicing of your vehicle will mean your car remains as sound as possible on the road, keeping you, your passengers and other road users safe.
  • Keeping on top of the wear and tear of your vehicle will extend the life of your engine. It can help avoid breakdowns by spotting potential problems earlier, which often means they are cheaper to fix. 
  • In addition, it could lower your fuel costs. An engine running well and with newly fitted filters after a service is likely to be more fuel efficient.
  • Finally, a full service history can help increase the resale value of your car. New owners prefer well-maintained and cared-for vehicles over their neglected counterparts.

Can I service my car every 2 years? Fixed vs variable service schedules

Following a fixed service schedule is simply sticking to the 12,000 miles or one-year service intervals, regardless of how your car is driving.

On the other hand, a variable service schedule monitors the time and distance of your journeys, the oil temperature, average vehicle speed and fuel consumption to determine the ideal time for your regular vehicle maintenance. Ultimately, it aims to increase the time between services, meaning you could go a maximum of up to 18,000 miles or two years before you need to book a service.

Are there any car maintenance checks I can do at home?

Outside of your scheduled services, you can do a few checks at home to ensure your car remains in tip-top condition.

  • The engine oil level is pretty simple to check, requiring a rag or paper towel. And car light bulbs and windscreen washer fluid are all similarly easy to check and fix. 
  • Tyre tread and wear is an important safety feature on any car, so worth keeping an eye on. Look out for any cracks, uneven tread, or bald spots. 
  • Tyre pressure is crucial for safe driving and can be easily checked at your local service station. The correct pressure will be noted in your car’s handbook, inside the driver door or on the fuel flap.

What should I take with me when I have my car serviced?

First and foremost, take along your car’s service book so the service can be logged. If your vehicle does not have a physical service book, it may be digitally updated online.

It’s also worth making sure your alloy wheel keys and locking nuts are still in the car, usually with the spare wheel, as the technician will need these to perform the work. 

It’s also a good idea to clear out the car of all your possessions when you take it in, just in case.

How much does a car service cost?

The cost of a car service depends on the make and model of the car, its condition, what type of service is required, and the mechanic’s labour. 

According to Fixter, 2021 saw average pricing for an Interim Service to be between £80 to £200, a Full Service between £133 to £300 and a Major Service £250 and £400.

Halfords, for example, offers an Interim Service and MOT priced from £144.99, a Full Service and MOT from £199.99, and a Major Service and MOT from £244.99. 

These prices are location and car-dependent. Luxury and sports cars tend to have more expensive components, and servicing can cost more than the average family vehicle as a result.

Where should I have my car serviced?

When servicing your car, you can use a franchised dealership, an independent garage or a fast fit centre.

Franchised dealerships often specialise in particular makes of cars and manufacturer-trained technicians and approved branded parts, tools and equipment.

Independent garages, on the other hand, tend to be slightly cheaper, using both original equipment manufacturer (OEM)/genuine parts and aftermarket/generic parts.

Many people want to know, “will using an independent garage invalidate my warranty?”

Not necessarily. As always, check the conditions of your warranty, but the EU Block Exemption allows car owners to use independent garages, specialists and fast fit centres to service their car while maintaining the warranty. However, manufacturer-branded OEM parts and the latest equipment and technical information must be used.

This will be updated when the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption regulation expires on 31 May 2023, but it is likely to be replaced with similar UK-based rulings.  

How long does a car service take?

Depending on whether it’s just an Interim Service or a Major Service, your car will usually need to be at the garage for about a day. 

The actual work on the car may only be a couple of hours, but if additional repairs are required, the garage may require more time, and you may only be able to collect your car a couple of days later. 

It’s best to be prepared to be without your car for at least a full day. Be sure to check in with your garage, as they may offer you a courtesy car or even a lift back home or to your office once you drop your car off. 

Is a car service the same as an MOT?

While equally essential and seemingly similar, the short answer is no. An MOT and a car service are not the same thing.

An MOT (Ministry of Transport) is a government requirement for all cars on the road. It’s an annual test done to assess safety and exhaust emissions, and most importantly you cannot legally drive or park on the road without one (unless en route to a pre-booked MOT appointment).

Contrary to popular belief, there is no grace period of 14 days on the expiry of an MOT. You can be fined for driving without one as soon as the previous one expires.

A car service, on the other hand, is a much more thorough check of all the working parts of your car engine. It serves to maintain the safety and function of the car, rather than simply evaluating it (like an MOT).

If you’re unsure whether your car has a valid MOT certificate, you can check through All you’ll need is the vehicle number plate details. 

In summary

To recap, how often should you service your vehicle? The general rule of thumb is once a year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. And if you’re on the road a lot (driving as part of your job, for example), your car will probably benefit from an interim service, which is every six months or 6,000 miles. 

Like buildings insurance, car insurance can require you to keep your vehicle in good working order, which could be a critical factor in the event of a claim. 

Do you have any questions related to your current car insurance policy? Searching for new cover? A-Plan can help. Get in touch today.

Also read:
Tips on servicing and maintaining your car
Should you service your car at a dealer or independent garage?