Fair charge for tune-up?

Hi everyone. Would appreciate any comments.

I went to an independent shop recently for an oil change; I trust the guys there (family-owned with a good rep. and good reviews on the mechanics files). I have been switching between shops trying to find the right fit. Been to these guys in the past for things other shops could not fix and they are good diagnosticians. I own my subaru so I want to keep it in good shape and running as long as possible; I don’t know much of anything about cars. Was shocked when I got the bill:

mileage ~35,000 (bought new):

reline rear disc brakes, clean and lubricate calipers, slides and all hardware. bleed and adjust system. $110
install new ignition cable wire set $70
tune engine and remove and replace parts $125
lubricate chassis, check all fluids, tire pressures and oil change/filter $15

platuinum spark plugs 4 x 11 = $44
brake pads x 1 = $120
wire set = $120
air filter = $35

total cost came to around $750!

The charges seemed kind of high, so I was a little concerned. I was told that when someone brings a car in, “they check everything”. I paid the bill and the car is running like new. Is this a fair charge? I am willing to pay a fair price for my safety, but I’m not made of money…would you recommend changing shops (especially since I have another car and not sure if I can afford to maintain both at these prices), or should I return since they seem to do good quality work and I would like to keep the car running smoothly and avoid future problems? Thanks again…


parts total ~$380
services total (I think means labor) ~320

not including tax.


Spark plugs and cables typically last close to 100,000 miles. Thirty years ago there might have been a case for changing these every 35,000 miles.

Brake pads last a lot longer than that. My Corolla has over 40,000 miles on it and brakes are a long way from needing replacement.

Again, $35 for an ENGINE air filter is outrageous. I buy them for $10 at a normal auto outlet. Not even dealers charge that much.

If you drove the vehicle underwater or through severe mud, this “tune up” might have been justified.

Please state the make and model of your car so we can judge more accurately. Also describe your driving style; for all those things to be needed, you would have to be a wild driver who spends a a lot of time on very difficult terrain.

IF all these things were necessary, the cost would not be out of line.

thanks for above response.

2011 Subaru Impreza 2.5i sedan
poor/crazy/wild driver.
a lot of city driving, potholes, etc. (e.g. had to have rims fixed a few months ago).
lead foot, like to rev the engine, etc.


OK, obviously this is not a WRX because the WRX doesn’t have spark plug wires. So, $120 for a wire set is 2x appropriate and shouldn’t need changing at 35K. Rear brakes can wear out in that kind of mileage, especially today’s cars that have a rear brake bias that is solved by the ABS. It wears the rear brakes much more than in the past. $110 to do the work seems about right but pads should be $45 for good ones. The air filter price is excessive, should be $10-$12 for paper filters.

You really shouldn’t need a tune up, plug wires or new plugs in only 35K miles. I have 2 cars that didn’t get plugs changed for 100K miles, and the plugs looked great and worked well when I changed them.

Overall the labor cost doesn’t seem excessive for what was done depending on the shop labor hour costs in your area. I wonder if the parts came from the Suburu dealer, no one else charges that much for these parts.

Did you ask for a tune up? If you did that is why they replaced the plugs and wires. As for the assertion that is too much for an air filter, my Toyota dealer charges $30 for the filter and $30 to install it.
Why did you take the car to them in the first place and what did you ask them to do?

i did not ask fora tune-up. i came in for an oil change, but the reminder they mail out said brake check and something else; i think they know i just want whatever needs to be done to be done (to maintain the longevity of the car and the driving experience), so they did the tune-up.

You need to get out your factory maintenance manual and use it to tell the shop what to do. If you don’t they will always try to sell you unneeded services.

None of what they did is out of line, except maybe the plugs and wires. Look in the owner’s manual and see what it says about when to replace the plugs. There are still some cars on the road with more “old fashioned” intervals for plug replacement. The wires? I’d be shocked if those are still a 30K mile item.

But either way, they are supposed to tell you - before they do any work (in this case other than the oil change since that’s what you asked for) - why the work needs to be done and provide an estimate. You should never show up to pick up your car after asking for an oil change and get hit with a $750 bill. You have to approve the work. Are you saying that they never asked you about any of this?

You got new brakes all around, plugs and wires, air filter, and oil change for $750. They’re not the most affordable shop but it’s not out of line. So the question is whether or not they got your approval.

Well, the plugs and wires and installation was about $360. If plugs were needed, ok. If not that’s a lot.

And it was rear brakes only.

Yes, it’s a lot . I said it wasn’t the most affordable shop. They put in platinum plugs at $11 ea. Yes it’s a lot but a pretty typical mark-up. Of course, if platinum plugs are called for then there’s no way they need to get done at 35K unless there is an issue. $120 for a wire set is also very steep, but IDK - perhaps they sources them from Subaru in which case, probably not.

On the brakes, texases may be right - I read rear brakes relined in one place and “brake pads” in another, but I think I misread the list and that was all listed as labor in one place and parts in the other. So I think I counted the same brake job 2X. Very expensive brake job too if I’m now reading it right.

so should i stick with the shop or dump them?
they didn’t tell me what they were doing up front, but the reminder they mail out did say brake check and tune up or something like that…

@Yusaka You should first become “car smart”, and read your owner’s manual over several times. Then have only done what the manual calls for.

Once you have reached that stage you will likely shop around and find a place that will only do what’s needed and at a reasonable price.

I would dump them.

  1. If they’re sending you “reminders” in the mail they are probably mostly geared toward selling you stuff.
  2. they are very expensive on both parts and labor
  3. with their expensive rates they ran you up from an oil change to a $750 bill without telling you what they were doing, asking you about it, or letting you know what to expect.

I call that 3 strikes. It reminds me of a shop near me that I used to go to once in a while.

I think the labor (service) charges are quite fair for a quality reputable shop. The parts prices might be a little high, but without knowing the brands they used I can’t say for sure. Unlike some, I don’t believe a shop can sell original quality brake pads for $45 or an air filter for $10. The parts probably cost them that much.

Its not unusual for a severe duty driver to need brakes by 35,000 miles. And your manual may require spark plug maintenance under the severe duty schedule at 30,000.

You say you’re happy with the way the car runs and drives. Isn’t that the goal? Sure, you might be able to save a few bucks at another place but you could say the same for your dentist, accountant, or favorite restaurant.

The tune up was unnecessary. I have a 2011 Outback, with the same engine as your Impreza. My 30K maintenance schedule called for oil change/tire rotate/air filter change, and that was all. All else are checks I do myself, or my dealer does for free when I have the car there for other reasons. I think the work you got done more closely resembles a 60K service. I don’t have access to my maintenance guide at present, but 35K is far too soon for platinum plugs and wires. In this respect, you are now good to 95K or longer.

My past Subarus had plug wire changes closer to 120K.

Brake work seems to be on a par with the costs I have seen in the Kansas City metro, so I wouldn’t argue much with that price. Some places charge as much as $87 for a brake fluid flush.

You need to read your owner’s maintenance schedule carefully and follow it. For any service interval, I review the maintenance schedule and provide a specific list of what I want done to my mechanic. That way we both know what is expected.

It seems this shop is quite a bit more pro-active than I would want them to be.

I just checked. For severe duty service (you say you’re a wild and crazy driver, lots of engine revving) spark plug service is recommended at 30000 miles. As for the wires, maybe one of the boots tore on removal. Maybe a rodent chewed away some insulation. I don’t see much wrong with this shop, as long as they got your ok before doing the work.

BTW, if your car is an automatic I would also have the transmission fluid serviced.

On the surface of it, it sounds like they did unnecessary work, but I sense that there’s missing details here, the most important being the content of the up-front discussions and what was actually requested and authorized.

A lawyer friend who taught law courses at the college where I worked used to admonish me with the words “specificity; always specificity”. It’s always wise to be specific in your discussions with the shop and to be clear about anything that they recommend. Perhaps it’s best to just write this one off as the cost of an education.

Overall I don’t think the prices were out of line except for the spark plug wires, they should last the life of the vehicle. I have taken modern vehicles over 300k miles on the factory wires. My Saturn has 267k on it with the original wires.

The pads were over priced by a factor of 2, but if they were lifetime pads, that is normal as they know that someday they will have to change them again. I was going to say that the bleed and adjust was bogus until I remembered this car has ABS and it was the rear brakes. You have to open the bleed valve to compress the calipers so it has to be bleed afterwards and the parking brake may need to be adjusted too.

They were no bargain though.

Anytime you take your car in for service, you should go over the scheduled service in your owners manual to see what is needed. At some intervals, there will be inspections, such as the brake inspection and that can result in higher costs, but the repair has to be authorized by you in advance and it must have a separate estimate. If this was not done, you can take them to small claims court and get some of your money back in most states.

It was like I said; I got the reminder card that said my car is due for: oil change, brake check, etc. and i left it at the shop; when i came in to pick it up they said they had done x, y and z…