Avoiding Big Bills


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06 July 2024
Tom wants to set the service history bar high : credit: © Ed Evans
Tom's invents a new standard: Better Than Full Service History

According to family legend, my uncle Dominic invented the heated rear window. This is entirely feasible as he worked for the component maker Smiths for most of his life, but it never brought him fame and fortune, as the patent belonged to the company rather than him.

This got me thinking about my legacy, so I think it’s about time I invented something. My brainwave is a simple phrase which is something every Land Rover buyer should look out for – the BTFSH.

This stands for Better Than Full Service History and it is something I think any Land Rover built in the last 25 years really needs. If I saw it on an advert or auction listing, I’d be prepared to pay top money.

Not just a service and oil change

It’s needed as the engineers at JLR are faced with a constant battle with the accountants. The bean counters will tell them they need to keep service costs down, so it’s claimed that automatic gearboxes are ‘sealed for life’ and that overall vehicle servicing is only needed every two years.

We all know the consequences of this, and they are expensive for the owners who have the cars when they are five or more years old. The problem is exacerbated when we all wince at the £200 per hour labour costs and £50 per litre oils at the main dealer, and go independent. A non-specialist is likely to slosh in cheaper lubricants which can’t last the 18,000-mile gap between services and suddenly you’re told you need new turbos or an EGR valve.

Would this TDV6 meet the standard?

We don’t need to go back to the days of oil changes every 3000 miles, but older Land Rovers should be getting a good flush, oil and filter every year according to the experts, especially the V8 diesels and the Ingenium engines. If you have proof that this has been done, I reckon your car can be said to have BTFSH and will therefore be worth substantially more because it is unlikely to have the big bills looming. To prove my point, I watched with curiosity as a Discovery 3 TDV6 SE went through my local auction. It had just under 188,000 miles on the dias but 14 services listed and an MoT history which showed it had been looked after. That’s not quite BTFSH but it’s not far off, and the matching factory-spec Pirellis also showed its previous custodian didn’t skimp on bills. It looked tempting at the book guide price of £930 to £1325 but the other buyers had spotted the BTFSH and it went for £2450 including the fees.

Discovery 3 HSE: Desirable model

Good D3s are starting to leap up in price as buyers start to see them as useful future classics which have aged much better than anything else of that era. Buy one pre-2006 and it gets the cheaper tax too – a fact which is mentioned increasingly in adverts.

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At the top end of the scale is a 2004 4.4 petrol HSE with just 54,000 miles which the owner describes as ‘garaged, nurtured and serviced far more frequently than the schedule’. The price? A dizzying £12,900.

The day after I’d finished ogling this, its twin hobbled into the auction ring. It was exactly the same spec – 2004, 4.4 V8 in the desirable green/tan combo. It had a stack of bills but that’s where the good news stopped. Whereas the first example had been nurtured, this car had done 273,000 miles before having a spectacular MoT fail sheet in 2020. It had only moved since then to fail its test again a week before the sale, where it raised £975, presumably to a breaker.

Back at the top of the market, a 38,000-mile TDV6 seemed better value at £9995, probably because it was an SE with a bland colour combination and just the wrong side of the April 2006 tax cut-off. It was one of a few sub-100,000-mile D3s I could find priced below £10,000.

Range Rover Sport TDV6: The Devil is in the detail

These proper car ads tend to have far more details of a car which has been pampered, and will also contain clues to help you learn about potential problems. Ads are pretty much all online these days, and this allows these lengthy descriptions.

On older Range Rovers you’ll often read something about the ‘troublesome air suspension replaced with springs’. TDV8 sellers will boast about replacing the turbos, D4s will mention the weak cranks, and Evoque ads will talk about EGR valves. A quick Google will tell you what all these mean if you haven’t already quizzed owners on forums or asked your friendly specialist.

If there’s no mention of the common issues in the advert, then you can ask the owner, of course. A friend of mine quickly went back and changed their online advert wording after the fifth call asking about the head gasket on their Freelander 1.8. I’m going to get him to add BTFSH just to get the ball rolling on my invention, too.



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