Is this a fair cost?

Ford Transit Connect XLT 2012

My Serpentine belt came off due to a broken idler pulley. The local service shop said they would purchase a new serpentine belt and idler pulley.

Here is what My bill ended up being:
Job 1-- Inspection .5 hrs = $64.98

Job 2–Labor 1.0 hrs = $72.95
Belt Tensioner assembly- $154.95
Idler pulley— $31.95
serpentine belt- $96.95

After everything was done, the total cost to fix my serpentine belt and idler pulley was $416.76.

Does this sound correct? (Seems high to me.)
Or is this a Company that consumers should avoid?

My vote is for not fair. The shop isn’t charging nearly enough for labor.

6 months ago I was shop manager at a local independent auto shop in a smallish city. Our labor rate was $144/hr. Now with inflation the rate has been raised to $160.

I haven’t seen a labor rate of $72 in 20 years.


The bill doesn’t make sense. Almost $130 hour for inspectioN but only $72 for labor?

Perhaps the inspection rate is set by the state if this is something mandated? Separate from the other work done? It doesn’t say “diagnosis” so I assumed (probably incorrectly) that it was something like a safety inspection. It is also listed as a separate job.

Here in Southern CA labor is around $170/hr+. Your labor rate is low, but here, the diagnostic fee is waived if you use the same shop. So, your inspection fee would get added to your labor rate. All in all, I think it is a fair price out the door.

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I am as cheap as the day is long, and I think you got a good deal.


Not if they do good work.

It’s cheaper to DIY. But lacking the tools and know how, even minor repairs can be expensive. It varies by location, metro areas higher.

Operating a business in a retail location is expensive. Why would anyone work as a mechanic if they couldn’t make good money. It’s not air conditioned office work.

To keep maintenance and repair expense down, I do what work I can using hand tools, jackstands, and ramps. I can’t do everything, but I’ve saved a lot of money.

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Yes, it’s a fair charge for the work. You might consider going back in the future.

About 5 years ago I began using a garage recommended by a friend. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I’d always done my own work before that. At first, I didn’t believe the pricing. Over time, I got used to them. The place charges about the same as a dealer, but the mechanics are all experienced, long term employees. They stand behind their work and will fix their errors at their cost. They almost never make errors. I’m happy and will continue using them.


Only problem I see is in the area of labor and possibly parts pricing. At 70 something an hour I don’t see how they can remain in business at such a low rate unless they are discounting the labor and bumping up the markup on the parts.

The 2013 up shows a different belt tensioner than a 2012. The later Motorcraft part from Ford shows to be roughly 160 dollars and the early one 51 dollars.
So; are they using the 51 dollar early tensioner and charging for the price of the later one?
Same applies to the idler and belt as the 2013 parts are more expensive.

The inspection labor rate is roughly 130 an hour so that comes across as a bit odd unless I’m missing something or it all revolves around the parts pricing.

Portions of the itemized breakdown could be disputed I guess, but the total bill seems very fair to the customer. Going forward, OP might want to consider proactively replacing the serpentine belt, idler pulley(s), and tensioner at the serpentine belt replacement interval. The tensioner in particular really takes a beating. Here’s some pretty good info:

I recently stopped by to see a friend/shop owner who was “friendly competition” when I ran my own place. Business seemed brisk and when I asked what the labor rate was he said “$89, same as always. I haven’t raised my rate in 12 years.”

I said “That’s crazy you should be in the $150 range now. How are you making any money?”

He replied “Oh I mark up parts 3X cost across board, that makes up for it.”

Whatever dude.


Just curious, do you think internet auto repair forums take away very much business from auto repair shops? I’d guess “no”, that if a person wants to do a job themselves they will, irrespective of forums. The forums might make it a little faster to the solution for the diy’er is all. The other reason I’d guess “no” is b/c while it is easy enough to talk about auto repair, actually doing it isn’t easy at all. Very tough job for the pro, even harder for the diyer. Reminds me, oh my aching back … and that’s just from repairing my lawnmower … lol …

No, there are always DIY’ers that are on the fence about having a shop do their work. Internet just makes things move a little faster. Now instead of having to go home and call around for prices someone can sit in the waiting room and compare. Either way, I never gave in to the “Well XYZ says they can do it for $$”.

As far as the flow of information like we exchange here, that has always been around as well, just a little slower. Used to be it was normal for someone to take a couple of days to decide on a big repair, now they can come to CarTalk and get advice in an hour. Things are the same, just a little faster.

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I get the parts markup. That is a must no matter what.
The thing I might have an issue with in this case is whether or not they are (for example) charging the Motorcraft price for a 2013 part when this vehicle uses the 51 dollar 2012 part.

I have not priced any aftermarket parts but I assume they are using cheaper AM and that bumps the profit margin up more by charging the Ford MC prices.

I get why they do this. It’s much easier to gloss over high parts prices when someone thinks they’re getting a steal on the labor rates.

Parts markup I have no issue with. The only thing I don’t like is when lying or fudging the truth takes place because that leads to something with no end.
If I were a customer and found I was charged for a 2013 part when the 2012 part was 1/3 the price I’d be a bit hot about it.

What say you?

Job 1-- Inspection .5 hrs = $64.98
Job 2–Labor 1.0 hrs = $72.95

I wonder if the shop charged for the inspection, just in case the customer didn’t get the repair done there. But then rolled in the inspection charge into the actual repair because the repair was done there.

Just a thought. Otherwise, I too am wondering how they charged so little.

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When doing my own work, I micro analyze parts prices. Sometimes I buy OEM, other times I opt for a bargain on Ebay, provided the seller has a good reputation.

But if I take it to a shop, for work I can’t do myself, I only care about the bottom line. If I can pay it and they did good work, I don’t second guess my decision to let them do it.

You know as well as I do that if a shop is to stay in business, out of every $100 invoice $60 or more of that needs to be gross profit. How you get to that 60% gross isn’t really important, unless you have customers who try to second guess the cost line by line.

BUT…and that’s a big but, due to industry standards and conventions repairs have traditionally been divided into parts, labor, sublet, etc. So we determine a labor rate and parts markup that allows us to remain profitable. And that’s where it gets tricky. I can buy a $5 part and sell it for $15 and no one complains. But if I buy a $500 part and sell it for $1500, I’m gouging, right?

We also use different hourly labor rates for what we are doing. You may need front brake pads on your '08 Camry. You may have a '56 Chevy that you want converted to power steering. You may have a '15 Navigator with odd electrical issues and rodent damage to wiring under the dash. Three different levels of technical expertise required, billed out at 3 different rates.

sounds like you were treated fairly.

now, I will add on, to keep a close eye on the running of this engine. It’s possible that more engine damage was done, if this engine overheated during the aftermath of the belt coming off. You may be fine, but keep a close eye on it.

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They are making it up in parts markup. The OEM belt goes for about $40 retail , Tensioner assembly is about $85, and the idler pully is about $15. I’d expect about a 100% markup on inexpensive parts like these, this shop is a bit over that.

For what it’s worth the shop I use the most charges $75/hr labor. I get a 10% discount since they are a business partner of my employer so a bit under $70/hr effectively. The dealerships charge around $120/hr though.

Where abouts are you? Here in the Seattle metro area dealer labor (as reported to me by one of my students) is $188. Indy shops tend to be $140-$160, at least the quality ones.