A $1400 car repair?


Hi, I’m sorry for such a basic question, but here it is:

My husband went to get a tune-up, oil change and rotate the tires on our 1999 Dodge Caravan this morning. He just came home with a $1400 bill, because the mechanic said we needed:

--four new tires, not just new front ones

--new spark plugs

--a new muffler

--brake pads

And on top of which labor was $45 an hour, for two guys, for four hours–$360!

How do you know if these charges are reasonable?


The fact that they charged for two mechanics is unusual, but the $45 per hour is not. You didn’t tell us any of the other prices.

Was this a dealer, a chain store, or an independent garage?


Research research research… Shop for the parts yourself and add about 10-15% and that labor is about the going rate. You should get a written estimate before any work is done other than your basic oil change.


I assume your husband was informed in advance of the estimate and he authorized everything. He may have well have agreed with the mechanic’s assessments of the van’s needs and he decided to pay everything now rather than pay by bits and pieces later.

Nearly half the costs were for quality tires and most of the rest went into a quality exhaust system. He might have been able to cut corners on these products (as I would have done) but the total bill is reasonable for quality components.

A labor rate of $45/hr is well below the national average. Where do you live? I want to take my car there for servicing.


Regarding the labour charge: I think it was a fancy way for the shop/dealer/whoever to get away with charging $90/hr, while seeming to be cheap.

As for the other stuff, it doesn’t seem terribly high. Four new tires can easily cost $600 installed and balanced, spark plugs in a transverse V6 (which I imagine your Dodge has) can be a PITA to reach and change, sometimes requiring the engine to be tilted or removed, the muffler can be expensive to purchase and install (but did you or your husband notice and problem with it?) and brake pads can be up to and over $100 to install.

For what it was, it seems a little expensive, but I think a number of the items may have been unnecessary (namely the plugs, muffler and brake pads.) If you weren’t noticing any problems with them, then chances are they didn’t need to be replaced. But, anyway, they are wear items, so you know you don’t need to replace any of those items anytime soon.


The only thing that sounds funny is $45/hour, I would expect it to be closer to $90/hour. About half the cost could be for the tires, each of the other items sounds like a couple of $100 each, so the total is probably in the right ballpark.


These charges don’t seem excessive to me for the work that was done. I would not have had all the work done at one place. I have one shop that does engine diagnostics and repair that is quite good. For tires, brakes, and alignment, I go to an independent tire dealer. For exhaust work, I take my business to an independent muffler and exhaust shop. When I need transmission work or service, I visit an independent transmission shop. In my experience, shops that have a specialty have had a better track record of getting things right.


Thanks so much for all your input. I live in the Catskills, which is why (some of you) may find $45/hour somewhat lower than avg. Although i agree with the person who said it’s just a sneaky way of charging $90/hr.

p.s. i called another local garage, and the mechanic there says he also charges $45/hour, but a flat fee–he doesn’t double it if there are two guys on the job.

I wish we had done more research. And I wish there was some way to know for sure that these repairs were indeed necessary. Next time, we will get a written estimate beforehand, and go over it with a fine-tooth comb. Thanks much.


There is nothing there to raise a red flag. The only problem may be that some of the work may not have been needed but the only way to be sure is with information we do not have.

For example, some cars need to have all their tyres very close to the same size so replacing two when the other two are worn, but not enough to normally need replacement is correct because the difference in size can damage the AWD parts and they are far more expensive than tyres.


You’re being BSed by the shop who says that they only charge the standard 45 dollar flat rate per hour even if two techs are on the job.
If they do this, then I would like to know how they are even in business.
For a 45 per hour flat rate you should be as happy as a pig in slop. That’s cheap for just about anywhere.

It can be common for more than one tech to service a car. It depends on a number of factors.
A for instance could be if you took a vehicle in for a clutch job and brakes. One tech may do the clutch and flat rate will be figured on that part of the repair and another may do the brakes with flat rate being figured accordingly on that part of it.
Assume for the sake of argument the flat rate on each repair is 4 hours. What difference does it make if 2 guys flag 4 hours each at 45 per or 1 guy flags all 8 hours at 45 per?

I see nothing at all that says you were taken advantage of, unless the vehicle did not really need those repairs. I have no way of knowing, but have to assume your husband figured they were necessary.


Sounds fairly reasonable…$45 for 8 hours labor, It would of took about that long to do it right.
If they did a good job then I’d call that a fair bill. IMHO


$45 “an hour” for 8 hrs I meant…


I think they may have overcharged for the parts if anything, but they all charge msrp.


Not only do the mechanics have to eat and pay rent, so does the business.