Do shops charge an hourly rate for the time that it takes to do the job, or the
time that "the book" says that it takes?
I took the P T in to have the snow tires taken off. When I picked it up, they
told me I needed lower control arm bushings. He looked in the book and said it
would take 2 1/2 hours per side, a total of five hours labor. So I made an
appointment, dropped the car off Wednesday afternoon. They called at 11:10
Thursday morning and said it was done, they started it first thing in the
The labor was $288. 5 hours at $57.50 an hour would be $288. But they only had
it for 2 hours and 40 minutes. This would translate to $107.87 per hour.
Should I question this charge??
I would certainly question it.
Not sure what state you are in (or if you are even in the states now that I
think of it), but most states require the hourly labor rate to be posted.
If this guy tells you he is worth $107 an hour I would not return.
99+% of all shops work on the "book" system - otherwise known as flat
rate. The law in Ontario stipulates the charge rate must be displayed,
and that the charge system must be explained.
Technically, the book lists "labour units" which are nominally an
A competent mechanic should be able to do the job properly in this
period of time. The good thing about the system is they give you a
"quote" of, say 5 hours at $80.00 per hour (not out of line at a
dealership) - for a total of $400. If the mechanic does it in 3 or 8
hours, you pay $400.
The bad part of the system is "generally" the mechanic does the job in
60% of book time.
The worse part of the system, is mechanics often take short-cuts to
beat the time, as they are "generally" paid by the flat rate as well.
A lot of (usually smaller independent) shops pay the mechanic by the
hour (so he has no incentive to cheat) and quote by the book.
If a 6 hour book job takes 4, they often knock the price back to 5, so
that if the next 6 hour job takes 7 they do not have to charge above
the quote to get by.
The mechanic is also paid to clean up the shop, take out the garbage,
service the hoist etc which is "really" part of the job you are paying
for, whether your car is still in the shop or not.
I'm not defending "flat rate" - just explaining it. When I was service
manager, my men were on straight time, and "the book" was a good
guideline for scheduling, estimating, and quoting. The law does not
say I cannot charge less than my quote, so sometimes, when things went
better than expected, the customer got a pleasant surprise when they
picked up their car.
Had to be carefull though, because Warranty work is ALL bby the book,
and warranty payment was based on "door rate" or "chargeout" -
typically 80% of retail rate, and if you did customers favours, the
factory rep figured you could do it for less for him too ---------.
The week after I left the SM position, the shop converted to straight
flat rate, and lost a fair number of formerly loyal customers.
On Fri, 23 Apr 2004 23:27:18 GMT, Joseph Oberlander
No, the chargeout method did not change.
What changed is the mechanics were now PAID by the flat rate system.
The customers started noticing the quality of workmanship
deteriorated, as the mechanics cut corners to beat the book and make
more money. Little things like the steering wheel and door handles not
polished after the job, so greasy fingerprints remained. When new
tires installed, the blue soap not washed off the whitwalls. Hubcaps
with fist marks in the dust, rather than cleaned up.
Also, the bills went up, because flat rate mechanics make money with
their pencil. If a minor procedure was required when they were paid
straight time, they just did it and didn't mark down the extra labour
code - like replace Rt R signal bulb, or replace driver's wiper blade.
Now that they get paid extra for every job, it gets written down and
You might gripe a bit. But you must keep in mind that you knew going in
what you agreed to pay, and they charged you just exactly that.
Frankly, mechanics starve if they can't beat the book time on a job. It is
commonplace for a mechanic to book 40 hours of "labor book" time, sometime
on Wednesday or Thursday of a five-day workweek. It is not dishonest, as
long as the mechanic only charges what the customer agreed to pay, in my
But like I said, you might gripe a bit. If they're feeling generous,
(likely because you promise to bring them additional work soon--and look
like you intend to keep the promise), they might give you a small break.
But they would be doing you a *favor*, and you should treat it as such. I
would be looking for a discount here in the future, rather than a refund, by
After all, the most important thing is that they charged you *what you
agreed to pay*. All such dealings are open to negotiation prior to the
commencement of work; you just happened to leave a little more money on the
table than you might have otherwise. Fortunately, it was not an extremely
expensive way to learn this lesson.
And yes, a *good* mechanic, doing solid, high-quality work that he stands
behind, is worth $100 an hour. Try getting a *good* lawyer, plumber or
other professional to work for less. I don't.
I used to have a mechanic that charged "actual time'.
Over time, as I gave him more and more work, he would charge me
"actual time" up to the listed book time. He NEVER charged me more
than the 'book time".
As I figure it, it was a combination of the fact that I was a good
customer, but also a matter of pride for him. He was an excellent
mechanic, and as you said 99% of the time he beat the book - and the
competition - by a country mile. It was awefully sporting of him to
give me a break since sometimes shit happens and a job is more work
than a person might expect - through no fault of his.
Tought to find these guys, but they are worth their weight in gold
when you do! :)
On Fri, 23 Apr 2004 05:42:25 GMT, Joseph Oberlander
I guess it's the ethics. Anyone who can lie right to you that
a job will take three hours when they know it will take only
half that time - that's just not right.
If it takes 2 hours or 4, that's what I should pay.
If I hire an electrician, I don't pay for a full day, afterall.
If he's there 2 hours, that's exactly what I get charged. \
<< It is not dishonest, as long as the mechanic only charges what the customer
agreed to pay, in my opinion. >>
I didn't agree to a dollar amount, I agreed to paying for five hours labor
being done. If it was done in two hours, I should be charged for two hours.
And few mechanics (or Service Technicians as they like to be called these
days), spend what a lawyer, plumber or other professional does on education,
training and licensing! If he quotes you 2.5 hours labor at $xx.xx an hour
and finishes the job in 1 hour then he should charge you ONE hour. Doing
other wise would make him a crook by any definition. If he wishes a higher
price on a particular job then he should quote a 'Job' fee and not an hourly
By the way, $75 is about average for top notch mechanics in my area that
know what they are doing and stand behind their work.
I'm not a professional mechanic, although I've known quite a few and have
worked in the business. Most of the top guys spend as much time, money and
effort as any other professional in keeping their skills up-to-date. The
ASE-certified guys have spent a lot of money on their trade, preparing for
their careers. Many of the dealership techs attend annual courses to bring
them up to speed with each new model year's changes. Some of these courses
are fairly involved, and are quite comparable to the boot camps that MCPs
I can't believe your post is written out of anything other than sheer
So in other words, you're making it a semantic argument. To-may-toe,
Your definition of 'crook' doesn't jibe very well with your definition of
'quotes', by the way. If somebody quotes you a price, and you agree, that's
the price. Period.
Based on this post, I doubt you know the difference between a good mechanic
and a bad one.
Well holding several certifications in the PC field and having a brother and
cousin that each hold several ASE certifications (brother operates a major
repair facility (12 bays) in upstate New York, Cousin car dealership and
racing enthusiest) I have some experience in the costs involved in these
fields. Now while ASE certification courses are thorough, I can assure you
they do not compare in cost to Cisco or ATM certification or courses.
I also have sufficient information to assure you that doctors and lawyers
(professions by the way) bay considerably more that your ASE certified
mechanic to become licensed in their fields (not to mention state licensing
costs). Same goes for becoming a Master Electrician (been there done that in
my younger days).
I could particularly care about your choice to accept facts. Especially
considering that based on this statement, your post appears to be written
out of anything but shear arrogance. Obviously just a mecahnaic who felt
your field was being slighted by my statement (which it was not).
No the argument is based on rate per hour vs. flat rate.
If you quote per hour, and can not finish the job in that time frame, then
be prepared to eat it just as you would expect Mr. Customer to eat the
additional cost if you went over the quoted time. This also enters a legal
area as many states have laws stating that a signed quote is a contract to
perform "listed" services for the price quoted. If you do not provide 2.5
hours of labor, then in many states you may not charge for it (exception
being that I know of known that do not allow rounding up to next whole
And if you quote states you with provide specific goods or services (such as
2.5 hours labor) for that price, that is what you must supply...period!
Based on your response, you have yet to display much knowledge about
anything other than shooting off your mouth.
Any comparison between a professional mechanic and a medical doctor is
ridiculous and surely your own.
Actually, smart guy, I'm a degreed and certified computer programmer.
Obviously you're the arrogant one. "Just a mecahnaic". Feh.
"I know of known"? Huh?
What is this "provide 2.5 hours of labor" crap? What, is this a
ditch-digging job, or skilled labor being performed on a complex piece of
Obviously you've never worked at *anything* billed by the hour before, have
That's pretty funny coming from a guy who can't even manage to do that
effectively! Learn some spelling and grammar!
But mechanics don't charge anywhere near what these other
professionals do for their services.
Around here, a lawyer on a per hour basis will cost over $300 per
hour. On a contingency basis, the lawyer will get 1/3 of the
total settlement regardless of what the plaintiff actually
receives. For that 1/3rd share, the lawyer may have merely
filled out some insurance claims forms and spent some minutes
negotiating on the phone with an insurance claims adjuster.
The lawyer can in some cases be making in excess of $10,000 per
A plumber is likely to cost about $50 and hour more than what the
prevailing labor rate is for auto repair and there is no way he's
got as much spent on tools as the auto mechanic does.
Doctors? heh... The ones I've been to get around $1000+ an hour,
so they're not even in the same discussion.
If he quotes 2.5 hours, it's a 99% certainty that he got that 2.5
hour number from a labor time guide such as Mitchell or Chiltons.
The time studies used in these labor time guides are based upon
the job being done using hand tools. If the mechanic has made an
investment in air tools and/or other specialty tools that speed
the process (and that usually IS the case), he's certainly
entitled to the fruits of his increased productivity.
If you believe that increased productivity shouldn't be rewarded,
by all means, enjoy having to wait 3-4 weeks for a service
If you re-read the original post, it WAS quoted as a "job."
The labor book said the job takes 2.5 hours per side.
Ummm... that $75 would be the -shop- labor rate.
IOWs, you are being charged $75 per labor hour for the shops
facilities and services. That $75 is spread amongst the
mechanic, the service writer, the billing clerk, the janitor, the
receptionist, the lot jockey, it goes towards state, federal and
local taxes, workmans comp premiums, shop insurance, heat,
lights, water, shop supplies, the mortgage, etc., etc.,
By the end, the mechanic is lucky to get $20 an hour, and at $20
an hour, he'd damn well better be at least 150% productive.
As for how this subject originated, the OP dropped their PT
Cruiser off Wednesday afternoon, the shop did (supposed) five
hours of work which they began (supposed) on Thursday. The shop
called at 11:10am on Thursday to advise the customer that the car
was finished. The OP finds this perplexing and suspects that
they were ripped off or gouged.
Has it occurred to anyone that this shop starts work at 7am?
That was not part of the original argument so is a moot point.
But the mechanic also does not pay the high annual fees for licensing within
Or for permits to do a brake job.
No, you are referring to specialists (and at the rates you quote here VERY
specialized fields like neuro surgeon, heart surgeon, etc)
the quote listed 2.5 hours labor as PART of the job, if it was not included
the charge should be adjusted.
And what actually ends up in the mechanics pocket was not the question (or
Do you think when you pay a PC Tech, programmer, plumber, electrician,
doctor, lawyer or any other professional an hourly rate it ALL goes to their
pocket? Certainly doesn't...every business has overhead.
Which original argument?
Nothing I've seen here could be considered "original."
Like hell they don't.
Gee, the last time (1986) I paid a plumber to put in sewer lines
for a basement laundry, *I* had to pay for the building permits
before he would begin any work on the job.
This year, I'm having a new porch built on the front of my house,
guess who's paying for the building permit again?
Your point is?
Uhh, no. That is what my general physician gets. $100 for a
five minute visit. My cardiologist and my orthopedic surgeon
make closer to $4000 per hour. My heart surgeon made closer to
$6000 per hour and that was back in 1997.
of course, non of the above numbers include the costs for the
facilities, i.e., the roof they did it under.
We pay football players and baseball players more money because
they're faster. Seems to me that paying a competent mechanic
because he's faster is a whole lot better deal.
Really? So why did you post;
"By the way, $75 is about average for top notch mechanics in my
Do you think that when a shop quotes a labor operation that it's
to be taken literally that your vehicle will be under their roof
and someone will have their hands in contact with it for exactly
the time listed in the labor time guide?
Where was it that you took it? Chrysler dealer? Tire store? Other?
How many miles on this car of yours?
I'm a little suspicious of a claim that LCA bushings would be worn out.
Strikes me there aren't many PTs with enough miles on them yet to need LCA
bushings. Wonder if LCA bushings are the "You need a new idler arm" of the
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