Corolla Repair Job

All four tires and the tie rod are bad on my '99 Toyota Corolla w/ 145k miles. If those are replaced, it will need an alignment as well. The mechanic is giving me an estimate of $785 for everything. Is that a reasonable price for this job? I just wanted to make sure before I spend that much money. Thank you!

Can you break everything down in terms of parts & labor? Can you also give a clue as to what kind of area you live in? Where I live that’s on the high side - but that would depend heavily on the tires. Are you buying Michelins or “Big Box Brand” generics? It also depends on labor rates. I’d guess the range might be anything from $50-150/hr depending on where you are and what kind of shop it is.

Either way I’m sure you could spend less. But you wouldn’t necessarily want to depending on the details.

I live in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. I did ask him how much of that was for the tires themselves, and he said about $375. I assume they’re nicer ones, which would be good to have for the winter here. I will ask more specifically before I do it. I was thinking I could just have the tie rod replaced, then save up/get a deal on some tires. The mechanic said it would be much better to take care of it all at once, because when I replace the tires it’s just going to have to be aligned again, wasting the $75 for the first time. I said I would have money for them within a couple weeks, and he said it will be safe for that long (tie rod isn’t real bad.)

Find another shop.

That $410 for a tie rod and alignment. That seems a bit high to me. They aren’t that expensive or that hard to change.

If he is charging that much for a tie rod, and $75 for an alignment, then I’d guess the tires at $375 are probably not very good. You could get reasonably good tire for that price though.

When you do find out, find out what the $375 for tires actually includes. If its just for the tires themselves then you’re paying nearly $100/tire. That’s a lot. If it includes everything - something like mounting, lifetime balance & rotation, valve stems, & disposal fees (for old tires) then that’s reasonable for the tires alone if they are fairly good ones.

But then you must be looking at about $400 for a tie rod & alignment. It’s all getting to look ugly to me.

Alright, I am going to take it somewhere else. So, if I buy some good tires, should I just have them installed & balanced at some tire center place, then take it to a mechanic for tie rod + alignment? Or have the mechanic do the tires too? Or what?

I would go to a good independent tire store. These stores almost always have an alignment rack and do work on the steering gear. They can replace the tie rods, do the alignment, mount and balance the tires. The tire store has an interest in doing the alignment correctly because they don’t want the tires to wear and for you to be unhappy. We have a good indpendent tire store in my community and I have all my alignment work done there as well as buying tires at this store.

Most places that sell tires also do tie rod and alignment work. I would also confirm whether your estimate included one or two tie rod ends. Your $750 estimate is more palatable if two tie rod ends are required.

OK, thanks for the help guys!

I am actually about to buy a set of tires & have an alignment. And I am going to pay more than I could if I was to shop just by price. I will pay more because I do use a locally owned shop that specializes in alignment/suspension/tires, and I’ve used them a long time and they know me and my cars. As a “loyal” customer what I get for the extra expense is stuff that you can’t directly measure in money. One is support of a local business. A chunk of the profits stay here rather than going to Arkansas or someplace like that.

But its also the case that when they do work on my cars and then I have a problem they take care of me. They don’t stand around and say “well, that’s not our problem” or “oh, well that’s just a whole different thing that has nothing to do with us” and leave me chasing around like a chicken with my head cut off. I suppose the unmeasurable thing that I pay more for is trust. I figure that in the long run I actually save a lot by seeming to spend more.

So - long story, I suppose - but just take that kind of thing into account. Don’t go nuts on just bottom line pricing. Try to look at the whole picture. In the present instance, if you do ask around you’ll probably find that there are a few local shops that do tires/front end work/alignments. If you find a reputable one there’s often reason to just have them do everything even if it might look like it costs more (within reason).

(One side note that also makes me not trust your current estimate: Alignment with tires isn’t “required” - just strongly recommended. If, for example, you had a tie rod replaced & alignment on this month’s money & got the tires on next month’s money there’s no reason to have the alignment done again if it was done correctly - and if you didn’t run over any curbs or anything).

Are you absolutely sure of exactly what this repair entails? You refer to a tie rod and there’s 2 of these on a car plus 2 tie rod ends.

Offhand, the 400ish dollar price sounds high to me also but without knowing the details it’s hard to say.
If flat rate on a tie rod is 1 hour and you live in a high labor rate area (Chicago, SF, etc) then you could be looking at 150 dollars in labor alone on a single tie rod. Mark the price of the part up and if they charge full tilt on the alignment instead of a price special then it could easily hit that much.