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Pay for computer diagnostics?

I took my car into the dealer because the check engine light was on. They checked and I needed a new spark plug and stuff. While it was done, I paid for six. I noticed on the bill, they charged $78 for diagnosis. Now it seems to me, they just plug the thing into a machine, get a code and look it up and get the information. Should they have charged me for this? The total repair was over $1100. I don’t ever remember paying for this in the past. I’ve just moved and it’s a new place.

That sounds about right. I don’t know of any local shop or dealership that doesn’t charge for diagnostics.

Equipment costs money, so does heating, electricity, water and time. Somehow, a business has to pay for that and a hefty insurance bill. You are helping the economy. I helped in early December, you dropped in for Christmas. We take our turns at it.

Last time I went to the dentist all they did was clean some stuff, take a few pictures and look at a couple of things. They charged me $185 for that, took less than 20 minutes. I even asked if I had him do the fillings would he take off the exam fee. He said no.

No competent business will work for free. There are shops that offer free diagnostics. Remember, generally you get what you pay for.

I suspect you would be upset if your employer decided not to pay you. Same for the owner of a business. Remember that the business owner has cost that the employee does not.

Car dealer’s service departments have to buy the tools they need. When a new model(s) come out with fancy systems this often means the dealer has to buy special tools and diagnostic equipment. The car manufactures don’t give this stuff to them free, but “require” that the service department buy and have the equipment on hand. This stuff isn’t cheap.

That said some dealers and shops don’t add on the diagnostic charge when you pay a significant repair bill. They will charge for the diagnosis if the customer refuses the recommendation and opts not to repair the car. With an $1100 bill I’m a bit surprised the diagnostic charge was on your bill. It seems this dealer missed an opportunity to win a new customer in favor of short term profit.

Instead of quibbling about the $78 diagnostic fee, the OP should be more concerned about being charged $1,100 for “six spark plugs and stuff”. What kind of “stuff”?

If the OP will post the exact details on his/her repair invoice, we will be better able to determine if he/she was ripped off. At this point, all we know is that a diagnostic fee was charged, and that is customary. But…as to the other charges, some details will help us to sort-out the overall situation.

And, the OP should really fill in the missing details on his/her mystery vehicle:
Model year
Odometer mileage
Maintenance record over the past 3 years

I agree with VDCdriver that’s extremelly high for a tune up. That’s why I tell everyone dont take a car to the dealer unless its your last option.

A full diagnostics usually involves more than just hooking up a machine and getting a code. when it gets that code and they look it up, there are further steps involved in troubleshooting that narrows down the exact cause of the check engine light.

You can go to an AutoZone or many other places that will read the code for free, but they do not do the diagnostics to narrow down the issue. For example, you might get a code for a P0420, that can be caused by a bad catalytic converter, rear O2 sensor, exhaust leak and a couple other things. It could run you over $3k to get all these things replaced at a dealer. would you rather spend the $78 and know you are getting the right part replaced, something that could be as cheap as a gasket? And if it is a bad cat, it would be nice to know that you didn’t spend that much money on a guess.

But for $1100, I’d like to know what the stuff is also, and what year, make and model vehicle this was done on. For example, if your vehicle is 7 years old, has a timing belt and an interference engine and the stuff included a new timing belt, then that kind of charge would be justified.

I’m having trouble understanding why any information about the vehicle is relevant to the OP’s question.

The OP essentially asked if it’s reasonable to pay a $78 diagnosis fee on a repair totaling $1100. Isn’t the answer to that question independent of what the OP is driving?

“The OP essentially asked if it’s reasonable to pay a $78 diagnosis fee on a repair totaling $1100. Isn’t the answer to that question independent of what the OP is driving?”

Yes it is Joe, and I think I helped with an answer to that question, but it was brought up by someone else, and as I read the post for the first time, it crossed my mind too that $1100 seemed like a lot for a few spark plugs. That is a different question than asked by the OP, this is true, but to help the OP further with deciding whether or not he or she got a fair deal, the additional information will be needed.

If the OP doesn’t want anymore help on this issue, then we won’t hear for him/her. Just trying to help here.

“I’m having trouble understanding why any information about the vehicle is relevant to the OP’s question. The OP essentially asked if it’s reasonable to pay a $78 diagnosis fee on a repair totaling $1100. Isn’t the answer to that question independent of what the OP is driving?”

Of course it is independent.
My point, which I guess you did not pick up on, is that the OP may be focusing on the wrong issue.

According to an old saying, some people “can’t see the forest for the trees”, and I am wondering if the OP is one of those folks. If he/she provides the extra info that I asked for, we can provide more information that–ultimately–may be of more help than just telling him/her whether the diagnostic fee is justified (which it is).

I suspect there has to be more that 1100 dollar bill than what was related here.

As to a diagnostic charge, the mechanic works on flat rate and should be compensated (although in many cases it does not happen at the dealer level) for everything they do.
A mechanic could scan cars all day long for free.

Typically a shop willl charge about $100 minimum for a diagnostic fee. $78 sounds to me like the shop actually itemized and charged for only its total diagnostic time and perhaps included its labor. I applaud that approach.

As to the $1100 total, without seeing what the “and stuff” consisted of, it’s impossible to guess its reasonableness.

Precisely what I was thinking mountainbike. I’ll bet he got a lot of “stuff” for that $1100. The $78 is pretty much standard operating proceedure.

It seems that a great many people are unable to comprehend that shops only charge for the specific procedures and parts that can be itemized on the invoice. Whether on salary or working hourly the vast majority of working America doesn’t realize that they are being paid while stopping to shoot the bull at the water fountain or reading the paper in the rest room. Not so for flat rate mechanics or the shops they work in. I wonder if the public would feel better served if they were charged half the price for labor if that reduced labor was charged from the time their car arrived on the shop floor until it was parked on the ready line? The flat rate system can be a demanding task master for mechanics and shop managers can abuse mechanics with it but if fairly administered “good” mechanics, working for “good” managers can earn a good income and make customers happy doing so. But a good mechanic has many years invested to learn the trade and most have in excess of $50,000 in personal tools and equipment. How many white collar workers have that much invested directly in their jobs?

No matter how it’s figured in, you’re paying for a diagnostic scan. If they choose to spike it out separately, then the labor rate and/or parts pricing should be a bit lower than the shop that is giving the illusion of free scans but accounting for it in their overhead or inflated parts pricing. There is no free lunch.

Doctors, lawyers, and so on do have their expenses; that’s true. They also make a lot more money than a mechanic whose schooling and tool buying never stops.

The people in the careers mentioned also have a say-so in how much they earn either individually or as a group. A mechanic, whose schooling and tool buying never cease, has no say-so.

I went through a neck surgery about 5 years ago and the surgeon’s bill (excluding everything else) for that 1.5 hour operation was 17 grand. And people complain about 60 dollars an hour shop time for a car repair…

Chiropractors? Snake oil salespeople.

I guess none of us feels properly appreciated.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t begrudge that surgeon one bit for the 17 grand and I’m fully aware that he has expenses to cover. If you saw his ranch and herd of prize bulls you would see where much of that money goes… :slight_smile:

My point here is that doctors, lawyers, or whomever can pass their costs along. Materials, outsourced services or regulatory fees go up? They raise their hourly rates.
A mechanic walks out to the tool truck on a weekly basis and gets hit with an astronomical price on a have-to tool or the latest software update that mechanic can’t walk back into the shop and say he’s charging more starting tomorrow.

The car manufacturer slashes labor times, or even flat refuses to pay legit warranty claim, the mechanic can’t do a damned thing about it and believe me; mechanics at dealers get coerced and BSed into doing free repairs all the time.
It’s not uncommon to look for ways to slash the mechanic’s labor time and then raise the door rate to the customer; meaning a profit increase for the dealer and a smaller, harder to obtain check for the mechanic.

For what it’s worth, my youngest son is an accountant and whenever he has to attend some seminar related to the field it costs him nothing. All expenses are paid.