Flat Rate Auto Repairs Explained – Automotive Repair Costs

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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 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.

  • Choose a shop that has a good reputation.
  • Ask to inspect the old parts, ask what has failed or worn.
  • Talk to the technician when possible to eliminate a break down in communication.
  • Ask for a discount, the worst they could say is there is they cannot provide one.
  • Have a written estimate on large repairs.
  • Test drive vehicle before paying if possible.
  • Choose a shop that specializes in the type of vehicle make.
  • Consider if you prefer a national warranty or not.