How does a mechanic estimate how much a car repair will be?
How does your mechanic decide what a head gasket replacement should cost on a Subaru Impreza, or how much to charge for the cost of a brake repair on an Audi A4? Repair estimates are in fact, pretty straightforward. Because there are rules, regulations, and guidelines that repair shops must adhere to when creating repair estimates. To help you better understand the repair estimate (known in the industry as an R.O. or W.O.), I’ve broken it down below to illustrate just where the figures come from.
No matter what shop you visit, the repair estimate should have a breakdown of the following:
- The parts to be used and specific prices: The price of a part is based on many factors such as where the part is coming from or whether it’s new, used or rebuilt. The most expensive parts are parts from dealers referred to as OEM parts (stands for original equipment manufacturer). An example is a new brake caliper directly from the Audi dealer. New aftermarket parts are next on the list of most expensive parts, followed by remanufactured parts, and lastly, used parts. How much a shop charges for a part is generally set by the supplier of the part. In most cases shops will charge the same list price to the customer that is given to them by their supplier, without tacking on an additional cost.
- Labor charges: Fortunately, there are labor guides to level the playing field. These guides specify how many hours should be allotted to each task or service. For example, a labor guide might state that a water pump replacement on a Chevy van takes 1.5 hours. That is exactly how many hours the shop charges the customer, regardless of how long the job actually takes. While adhering to labor guides is standard industry practice and required by law in many states, it is the cost per hour that is generally left up to the repair shop’s individual discretion. This is referred to as the labor rate, which will be listed on the repair order. In other words, to determine the labor cost of a particular job, the labor rate is multiplied by the number of hours allotted for the task, as determined by the labor guide.
- Miscellaneous charges: This is where little charges, such as for shop supplies, get tagged on. After all, shop towels and degreaser don’t come for free. If repair shops had to bear the entire cost of these items, they would quickly be out of business. Miscellaneous charges are calculated as a percentage of each repair order. For example, if a shop charges 6% percent for miscellaneous, a $60 work order will have $3.60 add on.
- Flat fees: These are repairs or maintenance-related services that are NOT broken down into parts and labor. An example is a $39.95 oil change of up to 5 quarts.
- Summary of the total estimate: At the bottom of an itemized repair invoice everything will be tallied up. The grand total will tell you if you want to fix your vehicle.
We hope the next time you’re in the repair shop, you’ll know exactly why it costs $425.82 to have your thingamajig and whatchamacallit replaced. And just do a little homework if you feel you aren’t getting a fair deal on the works performed on your car. At JP Autoworks we also give free estimates on repair, however there are times that it takes many hours of diagnosis to pin point the problem.