Do you love your car, but more importantly, do you need it? Do you want your car to be repaired, quickly, correctly, and of course, for the best value for money?
Changing a tail light can be done at home. But these days, car repair can be very complicated, almost like working on a spaceship! Sooner or later, you need to know: what is the ongoing labor rate for auto repair? There are a lot of different issues to consider, let’s take a look!
Factors That Determine The Labor Rate
It’s easy to see how and why the labor rate for auto repair will vary wildly. First off, of course, is location. Having your oil changed at a Rodeo Drive luxury car dealership will obviously cost a lot more than at a quick lube shop located far from anything glamorous.
This is not unfair at all, any repair shop in a prime location will be paying more for everything; rent, taxes, and higher internal costs, from cleaning to marketing, even landscaping!
The skill level of the staff at a repair shop drives their labor cost. A specialized, expert electrical repair house can be very busy with repeat customers, and naturally charges more per hour. Usually well worth it! On the other hand, a diagnostic expert is not needed to perform an oil change. Shops can have very different salary levels depending on what business they usually perform.
The age and make of your car drive the costs of labor for the shop. Some cars have parts that can be fixed with complicated procedures, others can only be replaced. Luxury cars must be repaired to a very high standard in order to keep finicky clients happy, and the mechanic may even need to have “bedside manner” skills to explain the situations they are working on!
The manpower of the shop is not the only cost influencing their labor rates. An excellent repair shop needs specialized equipment, testing harnesses, and special tools. These must be kept up to date and ready to go for the newest technology from different car brands. These costs are “baked in” to the labor costs.
Some auto repair shops will work around these costs driving labor charges by focusing on only doing certain types of repairs. One shop does mufflers and welding. Another looks after only certain brands of cars. Shops specialize in radiators, air conditioning, or mostly bodywork. This can keep labor costs down as not all equipment and not all expertise needs to be available for all cars.
A dealership often has higher labor rates as they must have ALL the answers – fully trained up to date mechanics, armed with brand new diagnostic tools, and ready to tackle any job from collision to rebuilding.
Of course, the labor rate at a dealership can be a lot higher, as they have a captive audience to go along with their higher overhead. Most new cars must be serviced at a dealer (or other high-end, fully authorized shop) in order to keep the warranty intact. This gives a different business model for dealerships, which changes the labor rate.
In reality, a lot of other factors can come into play on costs driving the labor rate. Is the shop very established and busy, or are they struggling to build a business? Can the shop use a junior staffer for a job, or must they wait for the busy expert? Shops usually hide the labor rate in some cases by giving a quote to cover the entire job, not breaking out the labor rate.
A high-end repair shop will usually require all parts needed for a repair to be purchased in-house. In today’s world, there is a huge selection of aftermarket, or even used or refurbished parts that can be located by someone who cares (you) on the internet.
Some shops still say “would you go to a restaurant and bring the chef the food to cook?” But many other repair shops will allow clients to bring in parts to be used in the repair.
When working on classic cars, bringing in parts may be the only possible way forward. Shops really should charge a little bit more for the labor rate when they are deprived of any income made by markups on parts needed in the repair.
What Is The Labour Rate For Auto Repair?
The labor rate for auto repair is said to range from $50 to $150 per hour. Realistically, you can, will, and should pay even more, or less. Most garages put a sign on their wall, sometimes required by law, to state what their labor rates are.
Having a brake job performed at a Walmart has nothing to do with these types of labor rates. Having a brake job done on your antique Porsche almost certainly will. You probably only end up paying a per-hour labor rate for experts to do diagnostic work to understand what the problem is and how to fix it. Otherwise, the job will be quoted at a flat rate, which buries the labor rates inside a larger bill.
How Is The Labor Rate Determined?
Different shops have different procedures, but generally, the labor rate is set internally depending on the type of labor required: expert or entry-level, with different rates for structural, painting, electrical, maintenance, etc.
Most shops either know from experience or use a manual to decide how many hours of what type of labor are needed for a given job. These hours are based on how long on average it would take an expert in the required field to do the job properly. Labor rates usually come with a minimum hourly charge, and are often rounded to the nearest half hour or hour.
Am I Getting Ripped Off?
Here is the biggest question, the one we all care about the most! There are many ideas to consider when you work to not be ripped off.
If you have a car new to you, and you love it, you may want to skim repair manuals before you choose a shop and before you talk to a shop mechanic. This used to mean paying up for a good Chilton manual, or better still, the official repair manual from the auto manufacturer.
Now, many of these resources are available for free or can be rented online. Looking at the official manual for your cars, you may have the same info that a repair shop has when estimating labor charges for a rare repair.
Sometimes this can catch a lazy, greedy, or careless shop in a situation that could be close to a rip-off – maybe the shop does not really want to do that type of business and claims that it will take much longer than it will. Usually, it just helps to understand why some jobs will take long hard labor, while others will not.
You can have an old Italian sports car that literally requires pulling the radiator and dropping the engine to change a spark plug. Or, the job can be pretty easy, to where you might feel comfortable taking the business to a less expert or more specialized shop.
One thing to note: Some official German repair manuals can be fun to read, with their reliance on “specialized tools” and seemingly strange procedures (a lot more fun to read about than to do yourself.)
But only the Chilton, or other aftermarket repair manual, will give you the information that a certain job may look simple, but is actually a “gorilla job.” This is a repair that is known to be very difficult, and often requires extreme strength, faith, and expertise on the part of the mechanic.
Usually being ripped off on labor charges means you went to the wrong shop for the job, not that the shop is trying to rip you off. They would not be in business long if they are! Being armed with a quick read of a repair manual can stop the off chance that the repair shop misquoted the labor charges.
Sometimes an upright shop will be upfront about the possibility of widely ranging labor charges. Changing the glow plugs on an older car may be slick as a whistle, or it may require carefully drilling out and repairing stuck threads. A good shop may give an estimate of a range of hours of labor.
It is not fair to expect a shop to charge less than the expected standard hours required for a job, just because they have a great mechanic who breezes through a complicated repair he has done many times before.
Most importantly, repair shops are horses for courses. Different repair shops will have great values in some areas, which are their bread and butter, with bad deals in other areas, which they may not be comfortable working in either.
Some low labor rate shops will have procedures to maximize profits, where they insist on doing work other than what was originally requested. Beware of the low labor cost of the “free inspection” for some of these!
Tip: In reality, there are times when you should be very happy to pay the full boat labor charges to have a trained, experienced technician use the best tools to diagnose your problem and make a lasting repair.
Other times, you just want a hose changed or fresh antifreeze. If you bring your car to Rodeo Drive for that, the labor rates will seem like a ripoff, but it is not their fault.
Now you know the full spectrum of labor rates for auto repair! The overhead costs that the repair shop bears vary widely, and must be passed on to the average client. High-end cars and repairs can require high-end dealerships, while simple car needs can be best handled by volume specialists.
The more you know about your car’s specific needs, by experience or by looking at an actual repair manual, the more confident you can be in choosing the right shop, and therefore getting the best labor rates for auto repair.
Happy hunting for the best labor rates for auto repair for YOUR car!!!