We were happy to experience one of these when our BMW 320d Sport reminded us that it was in need of its first service. This service is a minor one of routine checks and an oil change so the bill would not result in a sharp intake of breath.
However, there was no bill because the 3-series carries an offer of free servicing for 60,000 miles. It means that most fleets running a BMW 3-series delivered in the last year or so will not have any servicing bills during the car's working life and the deal is still available on new models.
And when the competition between the top premium brands has never been stronger, with the Audi A4, Jaguar X-type and Mercedes C-class all offering a superb choice of vehicles for business drivers, features like free servicing can influence decisions on which vehicles are offered to drivers.
Free servicing on a car of this type might amount to a saving of about £2,000 over three years/60,000 miles, and would have an impact on monthly contract hire rates, enabling drivers entitled to a car within a monthly allowance to perhaps choose a higher-specification 3-series than one of its rivals.
The service was carried out by Sycamore BMW in Peterborough, who collected the car from our office and returned it in pristine condition after weeks of frosts had resulted in a salty coat.
Even after 13,000 miles and nine months on our long term fleet, the 320d still looks and feels like new. With a few more months to run before its return to BMW we have no doubt that the car will make a highly desirable used buy, especially with 40,000-plus miles of free servicing carried over to its new owner.
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (40% tax-payer) £152 per month