How do you figure out if you’re being overcharged by a mechanic? I was just told that I need new rear struts on my 2004 Ford Taurus (106,400) because they were very weak. In turn I also need two new tires because the weakness of the struts had caused cupping in the tires and the steel radials are coming through the tire. Its not that I don’t believe the work needs done, as they showed me the steel belts in the tire, but I just feel the price they quoted even after some decent discounting was too high.

I looked up the parts I needed on autozone.com for example and the struts they were quoting were $100 more than the list price at autozone. When I asked, I was told that if I wanted “economy” struts they could put them on, but that I might as well leave these on if I were going to do that.

I just feel like I’m being taken advantage of but I have no way to be sure.

All struts are not equal…are you sure you are comparing similar ones…list price and retail price allows the mechanic to make a living…sometimes a boat payment as well…an informed educated shopper will eventually make the correct decision.

You don’t mention if a 4 wheel alignment is suggested by the mechanic. Two tire issues, “cupping” (usually seen on the front) and flat worn out. Are you sure these tires were not damaged by running on the front but their condition is being attributed to a failure with the rear suspension?

Does the car pass the “bounce” and visible leakage test?

Has anything been suggested with the front of the car? If no I say the mechanic is looking for a quick buck and does not have your best interests at heart

Yes, an alignment was recommend as well. I think that I tend to agree with what you’re saying because at my last oil change in January, I also had the tires rotated, which would have put the front tires on the back. At that time they did mention there was wear in the tires, but nothing about any other suspension items.

Neither of those tests were mentioned. Is the bounce test one I can do myself?

“How do you figure out if you’re being overcharged by a mechanic?”

Umm, he’s charging you for something. That’s how you tell. You’ve already figured this out. It’s a shame he’s the only mechanic in town.

Of course he’s not the only mechanic in town, but he’s about the fourth one I’ve had since I’ve lived in this area. I have had a lot of trouble with them trying to sell me things I don’t need. When you’ve been fed a line of BS so many times its hard to see through the fog.

Here’s the quote I was given:

2 struts @ $164.99 before $30 per strut discount
Alignment @ $90 before $18 discount
2 Kelly Charger GT tires @ $114.99 before $20 per tire discount
Road Hazard Coverage @ $15 per tire

Pre tax total of $760

If labor is included, these prices do not appear to be out of line. Ask about warranty on the struts; reply should be lifetime. If not, ask what the additional cost would be.

Most competent mechanics and tire dealers can do this work. Get some estimates over the phone and compare. You can forego road hazard if you are willing to accept a bit of risk on the tire becoming unusable due to possible future road hazard issues.

I happen to disagree with their advice about economy struts because new struts in general have to be better than old, worn out struts. I happen to advocate good quality struts that come with a lifetime parts warranthy, though.

Actually that sounds like a fairly good deal overall. How much do you expect to pay? This isn’t 1980…

If there are no additional labor charges and your final bill is $760 that sounds fine to me. The prices you saw for struts at AutoZone are just for the part - no labor for installation.

I ran the numbers you provided taking the discounts and the total is $561.96 per tax total. This seems fine to me.

Above you say $164.00 before a $30 per strut discount. My math means $134.99 per strut installed - OK deal in my opinion. $100 per tire installed is fine, you can always decline the road hazard coverage and save $30.00. $72 for a 4 wheel alignment, not a bad price.

You can still get other opinions as to whether the diagnosis is correct, but the prices quoted if I interpret them correctly are fine.

You can count this as one more vote for the quoted price estimate being a fair one.
Those parts and the labor to install them, for a total of less than $600, is not out of line–by any measure.

i agree with oblivion. these are great prices. most strut jobs will cost over five hundred. give your mechanic a tip after he`s done.

Another vote for your quote being reasonable.

I think that if you wanted to know more about why it seems to cost a lot while everyone says it doesn’t - watch what has to be done in order to change the struts. You don’t just pull them off and tack new ones on (as you would with shocks). Of course, your shop probably won’t let you watch - b/c it is a dangerous, though they will use the tools required to keep it safe. As you know by now, you’re doing fine with these prices.

I should have stated, thats all parts only.

Labor was an additional $100 for the struts (2 hours). The alignment is listed as labor only, no parts charge obviously, and there is no labor on the tires, but the total price of $760 pretax includes the $100 labor charge.

Sorry for the confusion, its not that I think its 1980 as someone suggested, I was only asking because I see struts at $165 each or $135 discounted and then I go look at a parts store and see struts for $30 or $40. It doesn’t say anything on the estimate other than “sensa trac strut”. I realize now those are Monroe struts which are pretty high quality. The Kelly tires also seem very expensive based on their reviews on consumer reports.

Anyway, thanks for all the advice. Last night I gave the car the “bounce” test myself by pushing down on the back end of the car and letting it come back and it didn’t seem to have much bounce to it. Anyone know if I’d be better off just going with 4 tires and leaving the struts alone?

At 106K miles, It’s time for four (4) new struts. If just ONE is gone,the rest can not be far behind.

You must be careful with “struts”…Some (better) shops will change the ENTIRE strut unit with a new one. Others just “slip in” a new strut “cartridge” and call it “new struts”. I would have a shop the specializes in steering and suspension work ONLY give you an estimate on replacing all four strut units. Don’t be surprised if they recommend replacing the front springs too. Buy the tires someplace else…

You will be amazed how much better your car will ride and handle with the suspension restored and tires replaced. There is no free lunch with “deferred maintenance”. Sooner or later, the bill comes due…

$50/hr. is actually pretty cheap for labor. My mechanic charges $90 an hour. Is he replacing just the strut or the whole assembly. The struts retail for about $60-$70. The strut assembly retails for $150-$180. The tires are reasonably priced, a quick check on tirerack shows that tires for your car run from about $76 to $130. If you’re buying from the mechanic and he marks them up a little, $95 a tire is reasonable.

Ask him if he’s replacing just the struts or the whole assembly. If he’s doing the whole assembly them you’re getting a good deal, if he says it’s just the struts, then the $135-$165 per strut sounds a bit suspect.