Vehicle Repair Price Rant


#1

I find it really irritating when someone comes on a forum such as this and makes disparaging remarks about mechanics and the prices they charge.

I have a good friend who ran a front end and alignment shop. My wild guess did not even come close to the cost of his equipment. Add in the building lease payments, property insurance, utility bills, workmans comp insurance for employees and every thing else I don’t know how he slept at night.

Anyone running their own business these days has my respect. My friend says he may have retired at the right time.

You have my permission to ignore this post but I feel better now.


#2

Plus 1 for me too. The only one I’ve ever complained about is Rollie the transmission guy that kept my car for 7 weeks hostage and the overhaul only lasted a year. He’s not a mechanic though, he’s a crook so doesn’t count.


#3

Agree; running a properly equipped shop with the attendant overhead and paying a decent wage to mechanics does not come cheap.

I use an independent shop that is in a low rent location and charges $94 per hour shop rate using very qualified mechanics.

My Toyota dealer with his very deluxe shop and free coffee charges $124 per hour. I only go to the Toyota dealer for oil changes (a loss leader) or warranty work.


#4

But, but, I can buy a ball joint on Rockauto for $50, so it’s GOTTA be cheap to fix it, right?


#5

I will question charges, The place I have most my work done rated a question. Being lazy with the $37 oil change I asked them to change the gas filter.

45 minutes labor! Now I have done the filter often, explaind 2 quick disconnects in a plastic latching cage right on the driver side rail, being as how the car was already up one the hoist this seemed little extreme.

Got a service advisor not the guy who wrote it up, said the book showed 1/2 hour, so he said see me when you get the struts done (as it was noted one was leaking) and I’ll give you $50 off. Happy enough with that.


#6

I have had mechanics spent up to half an hour, solve the problem and then not want to charge saying “I didn’t really do much” or “I should have seen this right away”. Of course I don’t liked to be overcharged, but I think a mechanic’s time is valuable. I’ve seen too many good mechanics in my time that weren’t good businessmen. I hate to see a good shop close its doors because the proprietor/mechanic didn’t charge enough for his time and I have seen it happen.


#7

Well sometimes thats true ,but I do not want a shop trying to make back the price of the equipment on a simple job for me ,the last time I had something done at a shop ,the mechanic over torqued the lug nuts and actually pulled the threads from some of them (I finally replaced all the lug nuts myself)I think Tom and Ray were unto something when they mentioned the boat payment.There is one town close by (60 miles ) where I will not ever take any of my vehicles again ,overpriced and sloppy work ,there are also a few little independents I wont ever ask to do anything again,most of my work is farmed out to the local shadetree guys ,who believe it or not do good work and you dont have to take out a bank loan to pay them.On the other hand there is a small city nearer to me (35 miles ) where even the auto dealer shops do good work and they dont overcharge. It doesnt take me long to seperate the gloss from the results.
One thing I have found out also ,is this buy something halfway decent and you wont have a hanger queen,life is to short to spend in the waiting room of a repair shop,were the mechanics are eagerly trying to sell you all the higher priced parts they can(been there and done that-if you ask I will give you an example) some shops are true blue and some are for the fast buck,when I buy tools to do a job ,I dont necessarily expect the clients to have to pay for them ,there is such a thing as the cost of doing business .


#8

I agree, but with reservations. Before criticizing a complainer, I’d want the details of the situation. People don’t realize the investment or the risk that goes into owning your own business, but there are also enough crooks out there to justify many complaints. I’ve had the dubious pleasure of meeting a few myself. And of knowing a few on a personal basis… and having even heard one particularly unsavory crook joke about “what I (he) got away with” at a neighborhood cookout. There’s a special place in Hell for that one. And I’ve had a few lie outright to me. One even ended up getting investigated by the AG’s office, with my car involved (I didn’t initiate the investigation, some other victim did)… before going out of business.

There’s plenty of unfair criticism to go around, but remember that there’s also too much unscrupulous activity in the industry too. And a bit of incompetence… need I mention Skippy Lube?


#9

There’s a flyer out now by Snap-On touting a basic 1/4" socket set (no swivels, etc) on sale for 900 and some dollars with a bottom tool box to house it in for 17,000…


#10

As a mechanic and former shop owner, I too get irritated at the disparaging remarks seen about mechanics. But then I also realize many of these “mechanics” deserve it and give a black eye to the rest of the industry. Look at it this way: I need to be trained and licensed to cut your hair but not rebuild your engine.

What’s a decent wage these days for an average working guy? I don’t mean someone living in a 4000 sq ft mini-mansion with a BMW and Porsche in the driveway. Just an average Joe family man, couple of school-age kids, 3 or 4 bedroom house in a family neighborhood. Puts in an honest day and wants a little left over to take the family out to dinner on Sunday. $60K a year? Make that a top-of-his-game guy who can fix anything and has $50-$100K personally invested in tools and equipment, works had to improve himself, and is a professional at this trade. What’s a reasonable wage for him?

That’s just payroll. Look at the equipment, taxes, real estate, and other costs needed to run a shop. I’ll bet most people couldn’t make it work at a labor rate of $100/hour.


#11

When someone comes here complaining about vehicle repair prices, is it any different than any of us complaining about prices in a business we don’t live in?

I view any complaint being brought here as someone who doesn’t understand the auto repair business, as many here do.

Helping the OPs who complain to better understand the reality behind those bills is a big benefit of this board. And if we don’t demean those OPs in our replies, they’ll come back.


#12

I agree there are many people who complain about the service and/or price of the service…but upon inspection it’s determined they got a very fair price. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t crooks out there. Some of the chains (Firestone,Sears, Midas…etc) just to name a few have been sued numerous times by different state attorney generals. It takes numerous (probably several hundred ) complaints before the attorney general gets involved. I think it was California that had tens of thousands complaints before the AGs office even got involved.


#13
There's a flyer out now by Snap-On touting a basic 1/4" socket set (no swivels, etc) on sale for 900 and some dollars with a bottom tool box to house it in for 17,000

First of all, requiring mechanics to supply their own tools is insane to me. What other occupation does this? Mechanics have somehow been bamboozled into this arrangement and it continues to be an acceptable practice.

That being said, you don’t need the Cadillac of tools to do the job. A $17,000 tool box is ridiculous. Yes, I know people that own them. I also know people that bought more generic boxes and get along just fine with them. This to me is a luxury and one you don’t gain from the onset. You have to work up into it over time as you save and grow.


#14
I have had mechanics spent up to half an hour, solve the problem and then not want to charge saying "I didn't really do much"

I’ve had the opposite. Years ago as a broke college student before I knew anything about working on cars I had a car that kept stalling. Took it to one mechanic. He replaced the distributor. Still kept stalling. New ignitor. Still stalling. New coil. Still stalling. New plugs/wires. Still stalling. Finally he gave up and said he couldn’t fix it, but wasn’t willing to return the $2,000+ he’d made off of me throwing parts at the problem.

So I took it to the dealership figuring they might know something. They kept the car for two days, after which they gave it back to me with a $300 diagnostic bill and “we don’t know what the hell is wrong with it, sorry.”

Got with the local club for that brand, which is what I should have done in the first place, and they helped me strip the thing down to sell for parts, and I used the proceeds to pay for another car that was much more reliable.

The guy I sold the engine to came back and said he replaced the bad injectors and it ran perfectly.

So, I think the takeway is that many mechanics are worth what you pay them, but some most decidedly are not and are giving the rest of the mechanics a bad name.

It only takes one surgeon to accidentally amputate the wrong leg to instill a lifetime feeling of distrust of doctors, y’know?


#15

One dealer experience that shook me up related back to my field as a math teacher. I bought a Ford Windstar from a small town dealer about 15 miles south of my location. The Windstar would die when I let up on the accelerator. I called the dealer and was told to bring it down. I had three hours between classes, so I nursed the car to the dealer. While I was waiting for the diagnosis, a little high school girl approached the counter and asked the service personnel if any of them knew any mathematics. Whwn nobody offered to help, I volunteered. I figured that with two degrees in mathematics and one in statistics, I should be able to help. Her textbook was one of the worst written texts I have ever seen. It took me 20 minutes to figure out what the author was asking the students to do. I then worked through a couple of problems with her and had her work several more for me. She seemed happy and I returned to my office in a,loaner car. When I went back the next day to get my Windstar, I asked who the high school girl was that I had helped. It turned out to be the daughter of the owner of the agency. He came out and talked to me. He told me that the whole geometry class his daughter was in was frustrated. The students couldn’t understand the textbook and neither could their teacher. All he could say to them was “Do the best you can”. I find it hard to be critical of people in other fields when there is so much in my own.


#16

Well you can say this fairly enough ,"the current business model does not favor small businesses " one reason why there are so few owner operator truck companies now .The expectation of shop facades and waiting rooms rooms etc ,has put many good shops under ,The auto industry figured out a way to get rid of a lot of dealers like this,so many Ford dealers went out because they were not willing or couldnt afford to do the million dollar showroom facelifts .


#17

Someone mentioned Snap On ,I have a friend who was an ex UPS mechanic (you would be amazed the way they handle things) He had one of everything Snap On carried ,I dont know if He kept it up or not(He feel on bad times-what a hobby )


#18

I actually don’t have a problem with the idea of a mechanic buying tools. Nobody needs to feel sorry for me.

Before I even got into the business, the high school shop teachers were telling me it can be a brutal life. They told me all about flat rate and having to buy tools. They also let me look at several snap on catalogs and price sheets, just so I could get an idea of the potential expenses. I was not discouraged

It’s not as if you’re going to start off with $10000 tool box full of snap on tools. Most everybody I knew started off small, and with craftsman tools or something along those lines.

They stressed that flagging hours wasn’t necessarily easy, and that some of the ase exams were no joke. I don’t remember exactly which exam he was talking about. L1, I imagine

I’ll say one thing . . . those guys were pretty good instructors, had lots of experience and common sense. But they never worked as mechanics. They pointed out that just because they could teach it, doesn’t necessarily mean they could do it for a living and support a family

I’m not criticizing teachers when I say this

My dad was a teacher. My mom’s a retired teacher. In fact, there are several teachers in my extended family. I’m pretty much the only guy in the entire family that’s blue collar

Over the years, I’ve found the best teachers to be the ones that were working professionally as a mechanic, then went to evening school, got their degree(s), teaching credentials, etc., and then taught it. I . . . and everybody else in the class . . . had the utmost respect for those guys. They could talk the talk, and they had literally walked the walk. Of course, these are usually the guys that are at community colleges, not high schools


#19

Machinists who are employees of large companies have to buy their own tools too I think. My guess is that the corporate bean counters figured out that if the company buys the tools, the tools aren’t carefully taken care of and tracked, and over time tend to disappear.


#20

I used to hang out with an aircraft mechanic who worked for a major airline. He had to buy his own tools too. Imagine trying to keep track of your toolbox in a garage large enough to hold two 747’s! :wink: