Pay Raise/Rate Reduction

I’ve recently gotten into the career via courses at my local community college and working my way into competency at a local shop. Recently we have all been given raises as many of us have been talking to the boss about the rate of inflation. Today, however, we were also told that many of the quick-service jobs (the ones that I end up doing as I am still new) would be reducing their flag rates. One example is oil changes going from 0.5 to 0.3 hours. I’m not dumb and can tell that over a year my pay is staying the same at best. I don’t want to be identified so I am not saying where/who I work for, but is this a common thing or should I start putting out applications?

I don’t know what is common. But, I do not see any harm in applying and see what else is out there. Worst case scenario you will not find anything better but at least you will feel happier at your current job. You might be surprised and find a much better job too.


While you have said that the allowed time is now 0.3 hr, you haven’t said what the hourly rate is, or your location. My suggestion: Since changing oil is probably not your life’s work, get some good training, network with others, and use your higher skills to find a better position. Never stop learning.


You should look around. Since you have a job, you can be selective. Don’t take just anything. Make sure it’s an upgrade. While you are at this job, enhance your skills so that you can earn the new job you want.

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I don’t disagree but here is the other side. Inflation is up over 7% for one year and no ceiling seen. Gas went up 30 cents in just the last month which affects everything that is bought. If they raised wages, they have only two options, either raise prices or get more production out of staff. Sounds like the later is being tried but it ain’t gonna work next year too. Right now I think it is more important to work at a place where the management is fair and reasonable rather than count pennies. It’s gonna be a tough few years for everyone. But if the guy is a cheat, the sooner you leave the better.

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I would have great advice for you if we were still in 1968 and you just inherited $40,000. All I’m left with now is to file new ignition points a little bit before installation and they will work.

Nowadays, I might say to learn a different trade. The restaurant business needs help badly. Mcdonald;s teaches cashiering 101 and pays you to do it. Learn to cook and have great short term memory and you could go far. It would be good if you like to clean things in kitchens.

Forget all that and remember the ignition points. Can you tell how long I had to wait for dinner last night?

Instead of focusing on your pay and inflation you need to think of your “first real job” as an apprenticeship; an opportunity to gain training, valuable real world skills and experience without having to pay additional tuition and actually getting paid a little something while you’re training

Since any “first real job” only lasts about a year or so before you start moving up or out, most important for you will be how you approach it.
You can grab any opportunity or downtime to observe and assist the real pros at work in any way you can (and who wouldn’t want some free help) while taking advantage of any learning opportunities or you can do your 9-5 and spend your downtime hanging around the water cooler or bar “gassing” about how unfair life is.

And as I told my kids, “Opportunity isn’t something that comes around every day but when it does you need to grab that sucker hard and use it for everything that it’s worth because you’ll never know when it will come around again.”


This is a fantastic time to be a skilled and motivated mechanic. At the right shop you can name your price. Even if you’re on the lube rack, just show a little more effort and ability than the next guy and you’ll be on your way up. Invest in yourself and remember that while you may be replaceable, so is your employer. Meaning that if you work hard, learn more skills, and become a better tech, move on if you’re not being compensated properly.

Having said that, this industry is long overdue for a change in how it treats its most valuable assets. All of the Big 3 carmakers have been reducing their warranty and diag labor times, and that trickles down to the aftermarket. I’ve heard that GM will now pay .3 hours to diagnose a check engine light for a car that’s under warranty. For an established mechanic working flat rate $30/hr, that’s $9 he will earn. You know what? I won’t even plug a code reader into a car for $9. It’s not worth the walk out to the parking lot. The shop I work a now pays a tech 1.3 hours for a check engine light/driveability issue.

Now despite the problems I have with the flat-rate system, I jumped at the chance to work flat-rate several years ago when looking for a job, and I think it’s good for every tech to work flat-rate for a couple of years to learn how to work quickly, efficiently, and maintain quality.

I think specialization will be the key to success for techs in the coming decades. The days of a Master Technician who can fix everything are gone, there’s just too much to know. You can either be an expert on a few lines of cars (like Toyota/Lexus) or be an expert on systems on all cars (like an alignment/suspension specialist or engine performance/driveability specialist). Just remember, that takes time. It will happen in years, not months.

I’m not sure what motivates you, but it sounds like decent pay is a large part of it. That means you should not be afraid to put in the work required to make some money. As a shop manager and former shop owner I can tell you that if you’re only interested in working 40 hrs/M-F this is not the career for you. Like any other skilled trade, the little bit extra you put in will give you skills and experience that you carry with you from job to job. The tools you will buy for this job are expensive, but if you buy quality they will be with you for decades.

Finally, don’t be afraid to quit your job if another one offers you better pay and benefits. The shop I work at is interested in keeping its crew. As a result, last month the owner announced an immediate 18% increase in our labor rates and parts markup, in order to pay the crew what the market demands. If your current job isn’t willing to pay for quality, find one that does.


There’s an old saying “When your ship comes in, you need to be at the dock.” Always keep your resume up to date and keep an eye out.

If no one has told you this yet, when you are first starting out, the starting salary isn’t the most important thing, potential advancement is. You need to work in a place that has upward mobility, where you can learn different aspects of the job and have an opportunity to move up.

You will need to judge this for yourself. I would not recommend leaving a job at an all around repair shop for a slightly better paying job at a quick lube. But if you were in a small garage and the owners son works there as well, I’d look around.

Edit: one more tip. When you get a job interview, the most important question you need to answer is not going to be asked. If you answer this question, you get the job.

The question not asked is “How will you contribute to the bottom line?” Usually the best time to answer this question is when they ask you to tell them a little about yourself. This is your opportunity tell them how much you can do for them. Start working on your answer now and keep the answer fresh and up to date in your mind always, even when you are not looking.


No, they have 3 options. Do one of the two things you said, or take lower profits.

In other words, how much is the owner taking home, and if the answer is “a lot,” then it would seem that this is something the owner could absorb for awhile. Especially since inflation is unlikely to remain high forever, whereas those flag rates are unlikely to go back up to their previous levels even if inflation turned into deflation.

All that aside, I’d be a lot happier if the company had said “No, we’re not giving you raises because we can’t afford it” rather than saying “everybody gets a raise!” and then trying to pull a fast one to neutralize the supposed raises. The first might be dishonest, but the second definitely is, and I’m not a fan of selling portions of my life to dishonest jerks.

While I don’t disagree with this, even brand new workers have to pay rent and buy groceries. And the price of both is sky high right now. It’s hard to gain skills and learn new concepts when you’re hungry and worried about being evicted.

Plus, I’m not sure of the wisdom of learning from a place that’s so blatantly dishonest and callous toward its workers. If you choose to work for a place that can’t afford to pay you more, but is honest about it, that’s one thing. I don’t think it necessary for even the greenest worker to work for a place that is deceptive in its pay practices. That’s not only because if they’re screwing OP here, they’ll screw him elsewhere too, but also because part of being in the service industry, if you want a good reputation, is being honest, and a dishonest employer isn’t a good place to internalize that concept.


I have worked the flat rate system my whole life. 20 years plus now. Let me tell you this about the automotive trade, it tends to be one of the lowest paid trades out there with the highest amount of investment in tools.
I have seen first hand the craziness of flat rate madness, how about replacing a long block in 3.8 hrs. Does this sound like something you could have done by lunch time?
This is just the tip of the iceberg, there is a reason that it is hard to find good mechanics right now…


This is when you need to speak up to your employer and lay it on the line that the “book time” is unrealistic, and that you cannot properly complete the assigned task in the allotted time. Nowadays, jobs are plentiful and applicants are scarce, so I would be a lot more aggressive with an employer than I might have been during harsher economic times.

What I would do, in your position, is research what the median annual income is for someone with your job classification and experience level in your geographic region. Then, from that, I would extrapolate the daily pay that I need to receive in order to clear the median in a year, and from that figure out what my hourly wage/piecework rate/commission rate/whatever type of pay scheme the company is using rate must be in order for me to clear the median in a year. Then I’d put that figure in writing and demand that the company pay me that much. Any BS? Then I’d walk.

Pay is not thee only thing you should be looking at. I’ve taken jobs with less pay or stayed at a job with lesser pay to advance my career. You can advance your career by what experience the job offers or what levels of advancement you see where you are working. I know pay is important, but look at the WHOLE picture - NOT just pay. I’ve seen many people ruin their careers by constantly chasing the highest pay.

If you do, only do this when you know you have another job available.


For the vast majority of mechanics out there, benefits are close to non-existent compared to the white-collar world. It’s not unusual for an independent shop (even some dealerships) to offer only what’s legally required as far as insurance and sick leave. Many flat-rate mechanics don’t get vacation pay, since their pay is based on production. You might get holiday pay a few times a year if the holiday falls on a weekday, but when 4th of July or Xmas falls on a Sunday, you’re out of luck. At the shop I worked at, the day after Thanksgiving was an unpaid holiday, meaning you couldn’t come in and earn even if you wanted to.

For example, a couple of years ago at work we were talking about “Ray” from “Tom’s Garage” down the block. He laid down his motorcycle and broke both ankles. Obviously he can’t work for a while. Hard for him, because his job didn’t provide medical coverage and the insurance he had was pretty lousy. Also he only gets 40hrs of vacation per year, and he’ll be out for 6 weeks or more. And when he does come back he’ll be light duty for a while, so probably only get half a paycheck. He’s 55 years old, but can’t really retire yet since Tom’s Garage doesn’t offer any retirement plan either.

I’ve been a mechanic all my life, from lube kid to shop owner and everything in between. I’m in the middle of moving and switching jobs right now, I will be an automotive instructor. Now I can make significantly more $$ as a shop technician than an instructor, but the benefits that come with a large corporate job far outweigh anything I can get in the field, except maybe fleet mechanics at a union shop like @db4690.

I’ve seen a tech complain about a low labor time for a job, and the service writer take the repair order out of his hand and go hand it to another guy. “You could have had something to do, now you got nothing.” Fortunately, the current situation has changed and techs are finally getting some of the respect they need. On the other side, there are still techs out there who need a swift kick in the ass!

I used to work with a mechanical technician in aerospace. He complained about the low hourly rate he had. I asked him why he wasn’t working in auto repair. He said the hourly rate was higher, but he couldn’t get enough hours to make up the difference. At the garage, he was sent home if there was no work. He got 40 hours a week at aerospace, and that trumped the unpredictable hours in auto repair.

I work about 15 miles outside Boston. If I wanted to work IN Boston I could easily demand and extra $50,000. But it comes with a price - The Commute. It’ll easily add 3+ hours a day to my commute. Those 3 hours are worth it to me. No thank you. Maybe if I was 20 something and single.

I understand. My nephew is getting married there so we were looking at reservations at the hotel. Seems to be an unusually bad time in Boston. Rates were upward to $800 a night with a 3 night minimum. Looking to maybe rent a boat that holds 13.

We’ve pretty much all emphasized the value of experience over immediate cash, especially early in your career but a couple of comments about “inflation”

  1. Costs go up but they also go down too. Have we forgotten the Real Estate Crash of a few years ago or the Covid drop in gasoline and car prices of a couple of months ago?
  2. The “Inflation Rate” is based on a bucket of prices, some of which don’t affect us at all. For example Used Car prices, which is included in the bucket, surged in the last year but since I didn’t buy a Used Car that surge had no effect on me at all.
  3. And Inflation can also be Regional. For example Rents soared in several of the Big Cities but hardly changed in a lot of the smaller cities, towns and rural areas. Likewise Heating Oil, commonly used in the Northeast, soared but my buddy in Florida didn’t even notice it.

My point is that as an employer, simply using “Inflation” or “length of time” in a job as a justification for a pay increase doesn’t cut it.

What does cut it and trumps everything else is simply, “I’ve acquired additional skills/experience which adds value to my services and adds value to the firm”.
If you can honestly say that, back it up with a competitive offer (pay, benefits, future prospects, work environment) and your current employer can’t match or better it, then it’s time to move on.

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Look outside Boston near an MTBA stop. Might be cheaper.

I’ve stayed at hotels in Boston - but only on company dime. Way too expensive.