Are my mechanics repair costs fair?

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  #1  
Old 06-29-05, 01:33 PM
csims636
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Question Are my mechanics repair costs fair?

Are my mechanics repair costs fair? I never know the answer to this question no matter what the make,model, etc.. or repair. I'm a computer guy.

I looked all over the net. It seems that repair shops estimate & bill jobs using alldata and mitchell1 software.

Shouldn't consumers be able to access this data too?

Thank you in advance for any input or thoughts. I'm recent college grad and trying to manage my tight funds.
 
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  #2  
Old 06-29-05, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by csims636
Are my mechanics repair costs fair? I never know the answer to this question no matter what the make,model, etc.. or repair. I'm a computer guy.

I looked all over the net. It seems that repair shops estimate & bill jobs using alldata and mitchell1 software.

Shouldn't consumers be able to access this data too?

Thank you in advance for any input or thoughts. I'm recent college grad and trying to manage my tight funds.
Answers to these questions could fill a book. Just remember, what's fair to you may seem a ripoff to another, and vice versa. Automotive service is the only skilled trade in this country (that I'm aware of) that has no universal standards. Although a few states have licensing requirements, for the most part anyone with a ratchet set can hang a shingle and open for business. A good tech will spend at least 90 days a year in training - many times at his (her) own expense. A good tech will have $50k - $150k (or more) of his own money invested in tools. My tools, which I no longer use to make a living, are insured for more than my home. Bottom line, find a mechanic you trust and stay there.

Most shops do use alldata or mitchell labor guides. The good shops will use them as "guides" only, and charge accordingly for the job. No job is ever the same between cars. Rusted bolts, maintenance history, driving habits, and on and on, all affect actual labor time on any given procedure.

You, as a consumer, have the same access to repair/labor guide information as any shop out there. All you have to do is pay for it, just like the shop has to. That can run into tens of thousands per year for any given shop depending on how many different vehicle lines they service.

Owning a car today isn't cheap. No offense intended, but if you can't afford to maintain your car, take the bus.
 
  #3  
Old 06-29-05, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by csims636
Shouldn't consumers be able to access this data too?
No
Most consumers look only at the bottom line
They have no idea what it takes to do the job
No idea of the skill needed
No idea of the cost of the continuous education
No idea of the cost of the constant upgrading of equipment
No idea what a basic mechanics tool set costs, never mind a good one
No idea what an alignment machine costs
No idea of the cost of overhead
No idea of the cost of insurance
No idea of the cost of employees
No idea of the cost of a yellow pages ad
No idea of the cost of the software that prints out the bill
I could go on....

It's bad enough the consumer's appetite for cheaper, cheaper, cheaper, at any cost (cost not being monetary) has led us to this disposable society
I feel your proposal would only lead to short sighted consumers beating good mechs over the head with other guys cheap prices until all the good guys, worth every penny they get and then some, are gone

I have to go now, I have to drive out of town to pick up some rotors that aren't cheaply made "offshore" and will warp after a few months
No-one around here has any USA/Canada made ones because no-one will buy them because they are $20 more
Except me
 
  #4  
Old 06-29-05, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by slickshift
No
Most consumers look only at the bottom line
They have no idea what it takes to do the job
No idea of the skill needed
No idea of the cost of the continuous education
No idea of the cost of the constant upgrading of equipment
No idea what a basic mechanics tool set costs, never mind a good one
No idea what an alignment machine costs
No idea of the cost of overhead
No idea of the cost of insurance
No idea of the cost of employees
No idea of the cost of a yellow pages ad
No idea of the cost of the software that prints out the bill
I could go on....

It's bad enough the consumer's appetite for cheaper, cheaper, cheaper, at any cost (cost not being monetary) has led us to this disposable society
I feel your proposal would only lead to short sighted consumers beating good mechs over the head with other guys cheap prices until all the good guys, worth every penny they get and then some, are gone

I have to go now, I have to drive out of town to pick up some rotors that aren't cheaply made "offshore" and will warp after a few months
No-one around here has any USA/Canada made ones because no-one will buy them because they are $20 more
Except me
Amen bro, amen.......
Thankfully not my game anymore.
 
  #5  
Old 06-29-05, 03:31 PM
csims636
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A clarification please

Originally Posted by slickshift
No
Most consumers look only at the bottom line
They have no idea what it takes to do the job
No idea of the skill needed
No idea of the cost of the continuous education
No idea of the cost of the constant upgrading of equipment
No idea what a basic mechanics tool set costs, never mind a good one
No idea what an alignment machine costs
No idea of the cost of overhead
No idea of the cost of insurance
No idea of the cost of employees
No idea of the cost of a yellow pages ad
No idea of the cost of the software that prints out the bill
I could go on....

It's bad enough the consumer's appetite for cheaper, cheaper, cheaper, at any cost (cost not being monetary) has led us to this disposable society
I feel your proposal would only lead to short sighted consumers beating good mechs over the head with other guys cheap prices until all the good guys, worth every penny they get and then some, are gone
I agree with you completely that customers only look at the bottom line and it can impact consumers in the way of cheap, yet lousy repairs / parts.

However, isn't part of the purpose of this software to compile national averages for repair costs? The figures should take into account varying overhead, mechanic experience, standard of living etc... and provide a reasonable average.

My hope was that this information could be used to provide low, medium, and high range estimate for repair costs. With the sole purpose of preventing people from getting completely hosed.
 
  #6  
Old 06-29-05, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by csims636
However, isn't part of the purpose of this software to compile national averages for repair costs? The figures should take into account varying overhead, mechanic experience, standard of living etc... and provide a reasonable average.
No. The sole purpose of a labor guide is just that - a guide for determining an average labor time for any given job. It has nothing to do with national cost averages of any kind.
 
  #7  
Old 06-29-05, 04:19 PM
csims636
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Originally Posted by pmgheritage
No. The sole purpose of a labor guide is just that - a guide for determining an average labor time for any given job. It has nothing to do with national cost averages of any kind.
pmheritage,

Thank you for informing me of how it works. Are you familar with this site? http://www.labortimes.com

They claim to collect real-time figures from auto shops and provide more meaningful estimates. From what I can tell this is closest to what could possibly be useful to consumers. I take it AllData products provide what I see referred to as flat rate books and software that provide labor time / part costs only.

--

PS: I also read this thread. I agree that it sucks to have customers who know just enough to think they know it all. I'm hoping to gain understanding and do what I can to help myself and others avoid the few bad apples out there. Like I said, i'm a computer guy. I won't charge someone $300 to fix a frayed power connection with my soldering gun. It's easy to find out online that it should cost $100 max. With cars it is more complicated, and that is why your feedback is very appreciated.
 

Last edited by csims636; 06-29-05 at 04:36 PM.
  #8  
Old 06-29-05, 04:51 PM
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I have no direct experience with that software. I have heard comments from a handful of people who have tried it and I don't recall any of them being positive. I can say that the derogatory coments that I have heard were directed towards the management/invoicing package, which apparently is a seperate but integrated program. I have no idea the possible differences in labor times. No software, that one included, will have parts costs available without manually adding them. That can include many prepared "canned jobs", but the majority will be manually entered on every invoice.
 
  #9  
Old 06-29-05, 05:06 PM
csims636
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Originally Posted by pmgheritage
I have no direct experience with that software. I have heard comments from a handful of people who have tried it and I don't recall any of them being positive. I can say that the derogatory coments that I have heard were directed towards the management/invoicing package, which apparently is a seperate but integrated program. I have no idea the possible differences in labor times. No software, that one included, will have parts costs available without manually adding them. That can include many prepared "canned jobs", but the majority will be manually entered on every invoice.
I have requested a demo and will post whatever I find out, of course I'm no mechanic though.

What do you think it would take to put the AllData labor times and OE Part prices into a form easy enough to use for consumers? That is to protect them from ripoffs (not normal variations in cost). I'm assuming right now AllData is expensive, but really just too complicated for consumers anyway.

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm trying to police y'all. I'm just very interested in the subject for my own understanding.
 
  #10  
Old 06-29-05, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by csims636
PS: I also read this thread. I agree that it sucks to have customers who know just enough to think they know it all. I'm hoping to gain understanding and do what I can to help myself and others avoid the few bad apples out there. Like I said, i'm a computer guy. I won't charge someone $300 to fix a frayed power connection with my soldering gun. It's easy to find out online that it should cost $100 max. With cars it is more complicated, and that is why your feedback is very appreciated.
I had forgotten that one, but good example. I agree - to a point. You stated that you're fresh out of college. If you're good, and work hard to get better by the day, you'll learn very quickly that you should charge as much or more for "what you know" vs. "what you do." As far as the bad apples go - for every bad one there are dozens of good ones. The consumer has to shoulder that responsibility by educating themselves, research, and asking questions. "Cheap" will never equate to fair in the end, or quality. Part costs will vary considerably from one place to the next based on many factors - quality, availability, GP requirements, etc. Business 101. Profit is required to remain in business. As long as all of those factors are legitimate and result in a quality repair, who's going to regulate what that business should make?

Alldata, Mitchell, and all of the OE info sites are available to any consumer now. They cost money to access. I think you can get a 1 day subscription to Alldata for as little as $20. Great deal for occasional need. Many, if not most, OE sites also have single use access. NASTF lists them. I doubt you'll ever see one single labor/part cost guide put out by anyone. The cost alone would be astronomical. Beyond that, what average consumer today would even care? "Billy-Bob will do it cheaper"......
 
  #11  
Old 06-29-05, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by csims636
Are my mechanics repair costs fair? .
A friend just paid $227 to replace a $30 outer tie rod end, and get the needed alignment.

Is it fair? Who can say?

Could I have done it myself for the price of parts? Yes.
 
  #12  
Old 06-29-05, 09:22 PM
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I have an alldata subsciption for my taurus and when looking at the labor hours it takes to replace a part there are 2 figures, one for warranty labor hours, and one for standard hours. The amount of labor hours listed for a paying customer (for an out of warranty repair) is typically 20-40% more than the hours it would take to do the same repair if is covered by a warranty.

For example, to replace head gaskets on both banks, it takes 5.6 warranty hours or 8.8 standard hours.

Which of the figures for repairs, warranty or standard, is closest to the actual time the job takes and why the difference in hours?
 
  #13  
Old 06-30-05, 03:14 AM
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it takes 8.8 hrs for an experienced mechanic it would likely take considerbly longer for an inexperienced mechanic, the manufacturer has a set amount it will reimburse the dealer for a repair under warranty which is often lower than standard time.
 
  #14  
Old 06-30-05, 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by bejay
the manufacturer has a set amount it will reimburse the dealer for a repair under warranty which is often lower than standard time.
Dead on - warranty times are for the benefit of the manufacturer. They screw the dealer, the tech, and in the end the customer.
 
  #15  
Old 06-30-05, 07:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Lugnut
A friend just paid $227 to replace a $30 outer tie rod end, and get the needed alignment.

Is it fair? Who can say?

Could I have done it myself for the price of parts? Yes.
And by doing so, in many states, you also would have (with or without your knowledge) assumed full liability for your friends' life, limb and property (and that of other innocent victims) in the event of failure of that part, or anything remotely connected to the job. Whether you charged him for it or not. Even though it would slide through a criminal prosecution, civil juries can be much more vindictive. I know - I've testified at such trials in 3 different states.

You don't have the knowledge, experience, training, equipment, tooling, liability insurance, or warranty to justify a $227 charge for such a job. The shop does. What's fair, and who gets screwed?
 
  #16  
Old 06-30-05, 08:22 AM
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I'm not sure how this went from tie rod ends to criminal prosecution. However, my newphew is a District Attorney and I love to ask him questions like that. It's an interesting point because insurance companies do not sell business liability insurance to diy'ers, yet diy'ers consitute perhaps 75 percent of all car repairs based on sales to the public at parts counters.

On another more interesting note regarding your jury duties on diy'ers verses liability lawsuits, there is a forum here called 'whines and chats' for off topic subjects. I would ask that you post a thread there to summarize the trials you attended in these cases. As there might be implications that diy'ers might like to hear. At any rate, I am serious when I say, I think it would interesting reading to many people here, including myself.
 
  #17  
Old 06-30-05, 09:06 AM
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Any decent shop I've ever had work done at never quotes me a price for a elaborate job. I get a ballpark figure and if other related work is done it's discounted. I have found about the worst thing I can ask a shop if for an exact figure. If they run into lets say a rusted bolt and they're under pressure they might just break the bolt and leave it off. It's better to give a shop you trust some leeway. When I bring my car in I want the job done right and I'll sacrifice those dollars for it. Establishing a good rapore with a service facility usually means they will take the time with the details.
 
  #18  
Old 06-30-05, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Lugnut
I'm not sure how this went from tie rod ends to criminal prosecution. However, my newphew is a District Attorney and I love to ask him questions like that. It's an interesting point because insurance companies do not sell business liability insurance to diy'ers, yet diy'ers consitute perhaps 75 percent of all car repairs based on sales to the public at parts counters.

On another more interesting note regarding your jury duties on diy'ers verses liability lawsuits, there is a forum here called 'whines and chats' for off topic subjects. I would ask that you post a thread there to summarize the trials you attended in these cases. As there might be implications that diy'ers might like to hear. At any rate, I am serious when I say, I think it would interesting reading to many people here, including myself.
Actually, I think the current figure on car repairs is something like 80-85% are done at independent repair shops. I won't argue that DIY sales at the discount retail outlets can amount to 75% of their business. That's why you'll find every one of those discount retailers on the support list for the Right to Repair legislation, which, since 2002, has no basis in reality. That's another argument however. Bottom line, the days of DIY auto repair are fading fast, and they are doing everything they can to prevent that to the point of pushing useless legislation.

As far as liability goes - the difference lies in performing the repair on YOUR car vs. friends, neighbors and relatives. In a nutshell, the cases I was involved with were in FL, NJ, and here in IN, all civil suits. I spoke out of hand in my original reply as well, in that all 3 involved working mechanics performing side work. Money was exchanged in 2 of them (FL & NJ). Although I honestly never researched it, from what I gathered during my short stints in the courtrooms, neither of those facts could be considered in the final decision. 2 involved property damage as a result of fuel fires (IN & FL), NJ was personal injury from brake failure. Original rulings in all 3 were for the plaintiffs, 2 of the 3 were overturned on appeal. For the 2 overturned, it could just have easily gone the other way. 2 of these guys were your typical dumb-ass warm bodies who had no business holding a wrench. IMO, the responsibility for these accidents lies as much or more on the shoulders of the "customer" as it does on the man doing the work. The desire to save a few bucks resulted in catastrophe for all parties. The moral of this story (again, my opinion) is that in today's world of lawsiuts and lack of personal responsibility, the thought process of the DIY'r and his/her patron must go far beyond the $20 you'll save today.
 
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