Tools for Sale

Click to Browse Tools

Sales 800-524-9783

Mon-Fri. Sales 10am - 5pm Eastern Time or order on-line anytime.
Call with questions on application.

ATD Tools

Baum Tools

Calvan Tools

Rescue Bits

Time Sert

Win Tools

Thread Repair

Advice? 800-524-9783 x251

Car Repair Costs Explained – Flat Rate

9:17 am Public Service


©  Summary: Article written based on what I’ve learned as a Master Auto Tech for over 25 years regarding shop rates and repair costs. I’m often asked how much a particular repair job should cost because people are worried about being taken advantage of. I have some tips to avoid being ripped off and for choosing the right repair shop that you can trust.

Auto repair costs at a shop are basically comprised of labor and parts. Labor is typically calculated based on a standard “flat rate” estimate. Flat rate labor guides estimate labor time down to the tenth of an hour. For my example, if a starter for a specific vehicle pays 1.2 hours to change, the labor cost will be determined by multiplying the time by the shops labor rate, lets say the shops labor rate is $90.00 per flat rate hour (1.2 x $90.00=$108.00). Keep in mind that actual labor times can vary greatly depending on the year, model and engine size. Also automotive repair shop labor rates vary at each shop and from city to city. Labor time does NOT take in to consideration the requirement for special tools, experience or lack of.

Flat Rate or Actual Time

If the actual time it takes to repair the vehicle is LESS or MORE than the estimated flat rate time, the customer still pays the flat rate amount. More experienced auto technicians and techs with time saving tools can most of the time beat the flat rate time (AKA book time). The technician, if paid by flat rate has an incentive to do the job fast and correctly. If he makes a mistake and has to do the job again (commonly called a comeback) he does it the second time for free! Also keep in mind that a flat rate technician does not get paid time and a half for over-time, or for standing around waiting for work or parts. It’s necessary for the technician to be productive and make up for this lost time by learning from his experience and buying tools that make him more efficient. Tools with exception of larger shop equipment items are usually the responsibility of each mechanic to purchase individually.

Parts Cost

The cost of the parts to fix the vehicle will depend on the deal the repair shop gets when they purchase the parts at wholesale, if they are new or rebuilt and how much their profit margin is. The typical markup is 30 to 40%, although this may vary. Yes, some money may be saved by shopping around and buying the parts directly, but most shops won’t install parts provided by the customer. Also as far as the warranty goes, if a part fails that the facility provides, the shop will be responsible during the warranty period. If a part fails that was provided by the customer to the shop, the customer would be responsible for paying the labor all over again and handling the warranty replacement.

I personally would prefer to have a knowledgeable technician work on my car and repair it faster than the book time as opposed to having a less experienced tech work on my car longer to achieve the same results.

Tips for a good auto repair shop experience.

1.  Choose a shop that has a good reputation.

2.  Ask to inspect the old parts, ask what has failed or worn.

3.  Talk to the technician when possible to eliminate a break down in communication.

4.  Ask for a discount, the worst they could say is there is “they cannot provide one”.

5.  Have a written estimate on large repairs.

6.  Test drive vehicle before paying if possible.

7.  Choose a shop that specializes in the type of vehicle make.

8.  Consider if you prefer a national warranty or not.

How much is too much? That’s a difficult question to answer. However, choosing a shop that you can trust, BEFORE your car needs a repair, is the first step to avoid being ripped off.

2 Responses
  1. wendy :

    Date: August 4, 2014 @ 5:50 pm

    I just want to know why they always charge your for diagnosing when you tell them what’s wrong. Example: making noise, I think I need the alternator decoupler pulley, opens hood, listens, looks, yep (as I think yep). Pick up car charged for diagnosis.

    I want the water pump replaced, pick up truck, diagnose and replace water pump. Do they just assume if you’re female you haven’t figured out a few things after driving 40 some years.

  2. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: August 4, 2014 @ 8:23 pm

    Wendy, thanks for your comment, I certainly get what you’re saying. The short answer for the reason mechanic’s charge for checking a suspected faulty part, is to make sure you’re right. An idea or even an educated guess on what might be wrong by the car owner and a confirmation of what is wrong by an experienced tech are two different things. If you really want them to replace whatever you say without checking and verifying it first, get that straight with the shop up front before the hood is even opened. At least you can do that with auto repairs. A medical doctor is not just going to perform a surgery or even prescribe a medication without doing their own tests first. Thanks again.

Comment Below, Please Unlock Caps

Tell us your thoughts or ask a question. For best results please provide relevant details like your vehicle's year, make, model, engine size, the problem and when it occurs etc. - Comments need to be approved before they are seen by everyone. Notice we don't post Spam. Comment below (*SPAM, ALL CAPS & unrelated comments will be deleted). Click the following to view Dennis' "about page" for info on his background in automotive repair.

Please note: Your comment will not be posted until it's approved. We appreciate and read all on topic, relevant comments. Please don't ask for repair manual info like torque specs, wiring diagrams and specific repair procedures. If quick assistance is needed with purchasing a tool or part, please visit our tool website or call to place an order at 800-524-9783. *Note we don't offer repair advice on the phone.