Should a repair bill show separate cost for labor and parts?

Some of the garages I have used don’t differentiate between labor and parts, there is one lump sum plus tax. When asked why, the answer is that’s how they do it. Do I have a right to get a detailed bill?

The same ones also insist that certain old parts need to be turned in, when they replace it with a new part, like starter, catalytic converter. If I want the old part back, it cost $50 more. Strangely it is always $50. When I called the distributor for the catalytic converter, he said they don’t want the old one back.

So how do I handle such a situation?

The legality of it will depend on local regulations. In any case I would avoid a garage that had those kind of practices.

Thanks for the response. I need to check with the attorney general, consumer division, then. Yes, those garages will not see me anymore. I’m frustrated, this is garage #4 with questionable practice.

Laws differ state to state.

In PA and NJ you have the right to examine the old parts taken off the car for a repair. There is no charge for this as the part once inspected by the customer stays with the garage for disposal either in the trash, or sent back for “remanufacture”. The customer is required to inform the garage of their desire to examine the parts before the repair. If you wait until the repair is done to ask to see the parts they may already be in the dumpster and at that point the garage can refuse your request.

As far as itemizing a bill, most dealers and large repair shops itemize. They use computers to generate the bill. Smaller shops still do the bills by hand and some itemize and others don’t. There might not be a law, but if you want an itemized bill and they won’t provide one then you can use another garage for your repairs. If an itemized bill is important to you ask for one before the garage starts any work on your car. You may need to check on the laws in your home state.

Thanks for your comment. I did ask to hold the old part for inspection. But since I live out in the country, almost 20 miles from the garage, it is not that easy to drop in to look at the part before the mechanic exchanges it. It costs me more time and gas. The mechanic said he had to turn in the old part when the new part gets delivered. But he can keep the part for me till I show up to pay the bill and pick up the car. But then he will have to add $50.00. Not only does he not itemize, he also refused to give me the cost of
the starter itself.
Yes this is a small shop in the “South”. His bill is not handwritten. Yes, no more business with this garage. Yes, I’m will check with the consumer division of the state attorney general.

All auto repair shops get daily parts deliveries, or several a week, from their wholesalers and suppliers. If he dosen’t give the supplier the old part that day, he will still get a credit for the “core” return in a later delivery - so the $50 charge is for his inconvienience. I’d dispute it. In PA and NJ he has to hold onto the old parts until you pick up the car and pay the bill. You should not have to make a separate trip to the shop to inspect old parts, bogus on that one.

you are absolutely right, his business handling here is bogus, thanks for the reassurance -
no more dealing with this place -

As stated, some states have laws governing the format of a repair bill, requiring separation of parts and labor. In the end, what does it matter? The only thing that counts is the money you pay. If you get multiple estimates the first couple of repairs, you will know which shop deserves your trust and business. Businesses often dislike stating parts costs because it leads to the customer saying “I can go to PartsRUs and get this part for cheaper than you’re charging”. Then they have to teach the customer about business costs versus prices charged to customers.

Some parts are rebuildable like a starter. Those parts come with a core charge from the parts supplier. If you keep the old unit, you suck up the core charge.

Some parts have residual value like the catalytic converter. Those have salvage value. If you want to keep it and sell it yourself, then they may charge you back some amount they had factored into the bill as a credit towards the work.

One more vote to find a different shop. I manage a bike shop and we would not DREAM of pulling any of these bogus schemes on a customer. These are truly shameful business practices that you describe, and a couple of red flags that this is a dishonest mechanic/shop.

I guess you have a point, but if you want your customer to come back, you give him this info without any excuses.
Afterwards I went on the web and researched the price for the item myself, and figured one
hour of labor. So why be so secretive. I think that’s ridiculous. If your mechanical service is good, and your charge is reasonable, I will come back.
my car was towed to the garage, it did not start, and I did not know what the problem was-
I was not in a position to get multiple estimates, due to cost of towing and location where I live - I got an estimate, it sounded reasonable, I did ask to view the old part at the time when the car was dropped off -
if the mechanic factors in the value of an old part in the bill, he can tell me this, but
I don’t accept the lie that he has to return it to the manufacturer or distributor in order
to not charge extra as it was in the case with the catalytic converter.
I think I’m looking for a mechanic who is willing to communicate honestly with a customer.

Thanks for your compassion. I think the people in this state accept the status quo and don’t fight back.

If the shop did not seperate these two some time in the process how is it going to know how much sales tax to charge you (or how much to return to the State?). The shop must have some type of plan in place when it comes to figuring how much labor to charge, it just is not letting you in on it.

Good question- I checked my bill. I had a starter replaced. Part and labor cost are lumped together as “labor”, so there is only a “labor tax”.Parts total are listed as 0.00.
Does it matter? Maybe labor and parts are taxed at the same rate.

I have never lived in a State that taxed labor, but now I have never lived in Texas either.

I don’t know the tax code for Texas either, this is the neighboring state of Arkansas.

I reverted back to my old ways a bit, I was implying that if you have not been to Texas you really have not been anywhere.

Afterwards I went on the web and researched the price for the item myself, and figured one hour of labor.

Thanks, you proved one of my points perfectly!

To gauge whether or not you got ripped off, you searched the web for parts costs and then figured some minimum labor time. First off, the web price probably did not include tax or shipping (which can be expensive on heavy parts like a starter). Regardless, your mechanic cannot match an online price for any part. They are running a BUSINESS and have expenses. How would you react if you saw the mechanic’s price for that part was 2.5x what you could buy it for?

You’re exactly the type of customer I was illustrating in my post…

All maintenance computer software is set up to collect labor, parts, 3rd party services (such as towing), “shop supplies”, and now "environmental fees (for oil disposal, tire disosal, etc.) and roll this up to a total bill. It also has provision for adding taxes to any or all of these categories.

Dealers and reputable shops use this software all the time; in fact the govenrment in many jurisdictions requires it. If there is a dispute and the item installed is faulty, you may get a new part free, but you might have to pay for the labor is some cases.

A shop that charges by lump sum will likely also be cooking their own books for the taxaman. Stay away from them.

I think you’re looking at this wrong and receiving some bad information. The lack of breaking a bill down does not automatically mean that something devious is going on. It’s simply a small shop that is keeping things as simple as possible on the paperwork end. It’s not that rare.
That being said, I think all bills should be broken down into separate areas; labor, parts, sublet, shop supplies, tax, etc.

Since paper Repair Orders may not have enough room for details, any additional items or comments should be written on the back.
You mention core charges similarity. Well, core charges are often similar.

What I do have an issue with is your going on the internet, looking up something, and then apparently making the assumption that you were ripped off because of what you read.
Since we’re discussing breaking a bill down then why don’t you provide some info about this bill as to what was done the car, total bill, etc., etc.

Also, keep in mind that that markup they have also includes a little bit of a warranty on the part and labor.
If you bring in a part and ask them to replace it, they cannot guarantee part or even the labor should something go wrong. Say you were having a problem starting the car on cold mornings and you figure it’s the starter going out. So you buy the part, but don’t have the tools needed to do the job and figure it’d be cheaper to go somewhere else than buy the stuff you need. The mechanic installs the part, but it doesn’t fix the problem, so you blame the mechanic for installing it wrong or something. You head back to the mechanic and he tells you tough luck because you paid him to install a part, not diagnose a problem.