Auto Repair Estimates And Car Repair Prices– The Real Information You Need To Avoid Car Repair Scams
Worrying whether or not you were overcharged for your car repair is an awful feeling. There is tons of advice on how to avoid getting ripped-off, but few discuss the actual car repair prices. We really need to look at the charges on a car repair estimate or auto repair invoice to determine if were paying too much.
The focus needs to shift from giving outdated and ineffective advice to addressing the “actual” and “specific” charges. Are they legitimate charges? Can they be justified by industry guidelines?
Now car repair estimates can be confusing. Lets break it down to get a better idea if your auto body repair shop is billing you appropriately.
A glossary of terms is in order, as the auto industry has a language of its own
Aftermarket Parts: parts not made by the manufacturer.
MSRP: Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price
OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer. Manufacturer approved parts designed specifically for your vehicle.
TSBs: Technical Service Bulletins. Notes and instructions provided by the manufacturer for known and specific concerns(they are not recalls).
Flat Fees: services such as alignments that don’t get broken down into parts, tax, labor
Miscellaneous Charges: these can include, but are not limited to shop supplies– rags, chemicals, hazardous waste disposal fees, waste oil … etc
. Labor Rate: a repair centers hourly charge to service your vehicle
Labor Time: the amount of time or hours determined that it will take to fix your vehicle
Labor Description: the step-by-step written details of repairs and/or services
Ok, lets look at the Anatomy of an Auto Repair Estimate:
There are six basic components to a car repair estimate
1) Customer/Vehicle Information
4) Miscellaneous Charges
5) Flat Fees
6) Summary of Charges
Customer and Vehicle Information
Using a generic top down style estimate, the top portion simply contains your personal information and your vehicle’s specifics: year, make, model, mileage … etc, as well as your request or concern.
We also want find the shop’s labor rate. Most repair centers don’t list the labor rate.
Parts are listed usually with a brief description, as well as the quantity, and the price. There are three types of parts: OEM (parts made by or for a manufacturer). These are the parts installed by a dealer, although many local shops use OEM parts too.
Aftermarket parts are non OEM parts, and there are various degrees of quality, depending on the brand and where theyre made China versus USA.
There are Used parts purchased from a salvage yard.
To determine if you paid too much for parts, first find out what type of parts are being used. Used part prices are all over the place, so pick the price in the middle.
Auto Repair Labor
Labor is billed in tenths. 1.0 equals 1 hour. 1.5 equals an hour and a half.
Labor rates range from $60 to $100 per hour at local repair shops and $80 to $140 per hour at the dealer level. Labor times are based off established industry guidelines, which are frequently abused.
If you don’t see the shop’s labor rate posted on the car repair invoice, ask your service center for the rate. Repair shops can manipulate the labor rate (among other things) with a labor matrix.
To ensure that you’re being charged properly, you’ll want to multiply the number of hours billed (which is also often not posted) by the shop’s labor rate.
Most labor descriptions are poorly written and difficult to understand. Ask questions.
Heres a “clear” labor description for a 30,000 mile service on a Toyota Camry.
Performed 30,000 mile service per customer request, and in accordance with manufacturer guidelines. Performed lubrication services and confirmed proper vehicle operation. Note: vehicle is pulling slightly left.
The bulk of your car repair invoice will be parts and labor, but we can’t forget about Miscellaneous Charges. These charges can include, but are not limited to, shop supplies– rags, chemicals, hazardous waste, disposal fees, waste oil … etc. The latter of these may be billed out separately in a summary at the bottom of your repair invoice.
Very few of these “extras” are actually used during regular repairs. Miscellaneous charges are calculated off the amount of labor hours billed, not the amount of miscellaneous items used.
Flat fees are services, such as an alignment, which don’t get broken down into parts, tax and labor. On the plus side, most flat fees are competitively priced.
Be warned however, another term for Flat Fee is called Menu Selling. In other words, you might see Tune Up: $99.99 or Transmission Flush: $89.99. Follow your manufacturer’s recommendations only, not a dealer’s or repair shop’s menu.
Summary of Charges
The last part of an auto repair estimate is the summary of charges. It’s usually found in the bottom right hand corner of the invoice. Check it against the charges above to ensure that it all adds up mathematically, as well as logically.
This basic estimate outline may differ from your particular invoice, which may have other categories such as “Sublet” or “HazMat.”.
A sublet charge is added when your auto repair shop uses another vender to fix or repair your car, such as a glass company that replaces your windshield.
A HazMat charge may include waste oil or other disposal fees. Just make sure that the charges are warranted, as again, they too are often calculated off the labor time rather than actual need.
In sum, understanding the actual charges, asking the right questions, and breaking down your auto repair costs is the best way to avoid paying excessive car repair prices.