Determining shop rates are fair

I want to make sure the shops I am using are not charging me for more time than it takes to do a job. In the past, I have been charged extra for jobs that took longer than expected but I have never recieved a refund for a job that took less time. Where can I find going rates?

Most shops charge by the BOOK. What I mean by this is there actually is a book that determines how long a certain job will take. MOST good shops can actually do the work in less time then what the book says. But you’ll still get charged the book rate.

The only way to determine if you’re not getting ripped off…is to check around. Get different bids from different shops.

If you were to examine a flat rate manual in the foreword it will state that the time given is what it takes for an average mechanic in an average shop under average conditions to do the job. Some will do it faster, others will take longer.

This will also state that those times are guidelines and consideration should be given for extra time for unforseen things that crop up. This could include rusted or frozen bolts that may break, extra labor operations required to get around a problem that surfaces that is no fault of the car owner or the mechanic. It’s an occupational hazard so to speak.

Those who work on cars for a living know that little snags and snafus surface all the time. Some are minor and may get eaten as part of the job; others are not so minor and require an extra charge.
It’s no different than a doctor performing a procedure and running across snags and snafus and you can bet they’re going to charge extra for those snags and snafus.

Another way of looking at this:

If book time for your repair is 3 hours, but your mechanic can do it in 2 hours because of his years of experience and investment in special tools, doesn’t he deserve to get paid the full 3 hours?

This webtool will tell you how much certain repairs should cost for your car in your area, based on local labor rates:

I think checking labor times is an OK idea but idealy you should try and develope a trust relationship with the shop you use. Are there forums where people question how much plumbers charge?

There’s also a lot of time-related incidentals revolving around any flat rate job that are seldom mentioned or thought of by those who have never worked the system.