Of the many warning lights that flash briefly on your instrument panel when you start the car, there’s one that could cost you money if it remains illuminated. That would be the “check engine” light. If you own a car, you know what this sign looks like – it’s a car engine’s profile. The check engine light signals problems in the car, the majority of which are related to the emission system of the vehicle. Knowing the mechanic labor rate will help you protect yourself from being overcharged.
Starting from something as basic as a bad gas cap that would take about $25 to be replaced, to a faulty catalytic converter that usually takes hundreds to repair, a check engine light can signify a lot of problems. Many motorists just ignore these warnings because the vehicle seems to operate just fine, but in the long run, a malfunctioning component will cost them more. It only starts out a small malady before exacerbating into something much worse.
Mechanic labor rate varies across cities, states, and countries. The longer the mechanic works on your vehicle, the more you must pay. On some older model cars, the biggest concern is accessibility.
Not only are many of the parts discontinued, but not everyone is capable of handling said parts. It can be time-consuming and complicated to repair specific pieces. Depending on location, most repair shops charge about $135 an hour for labor whereas dealerships ask for around $160 an hour.
- Factors Increasing Prices
- Flat Rate vs. Per Hour Rate
- Calculating Mechanic Labor Rate
- Repair Bill
- Charge To Inspect Vehicles
- Mechanic Labor in U.S. States
Factors That Increase The Final Prices
For the average person, these repairs and terms don’t make much sense. They simply want to get it over with so they pay their technician whatever price they quote without actually knowing why the price is that way. There are a few things to consider if you want to know what contributes to the final price of repairing a car.
Specialization And Labor
The two most important things one pays for when they hire a mechanic are their expertise and time. Naturally, a more qualified and experienced mechanic charges more than someone who’s just started out. Keep in mind that a mechanic who specializes in a certain field charges more than a mechanic assigned to general duty. You will pay more but having a specialist handle the issue ensures proper diagnosis and a solid fix
The car’s damage or defect plays a major role in determining the final cost. When the problem is severe, more time will be required to fix it. Plus, several parts might need to be replaced to complete the job as well.
Supplies And Parts
Any replacement, whether big or small, costs money. The parts could be new or used – they generally differ in price, accessibility, and quality. This factor covers supplies that technicians use on the job such as cleaning solutions, oil, fluids, and rags.
Mechanic Labor Rate: Flat Rate Vs. Per Hour
An auto repair shop can charge you in two ways. They either ask for a flat rate, or the price goes up by each hour a technician is working on your car. In the latter case, the mechanic is compensated for all the time they spent working on your vehicle. Many repair shops set flat-rate fees for a lot of their services, if not all. Technicians working on a flat rate get a part of the fee.
If an employee is paid by the completion of a task instead of by the hour, it is termed flat rate per day. The objective of this structure is to encourage employees to complete as many jobs as they can within a given time, but it can also lead to poor quality of work when the workers start choosing quantity over quality.
Think about it like this. A repair is estimated to take about an hour but it ends up taking three. The employee is paid at a flat rate, regardless of the two extra hours they were working on it. If they finished the job in 30 minutes, they would still be getting the whole flat rate. So, this incentivizes the mechanic to pick up tons of work.
Flat Rate Calculation
The repair bill is generally determined by a flat rate calculation. Some people are skeptical of repair shops that charge flat rate fees as this is where many parts of the repair are listed line by line and the flat rate is multiplied with the overall time. Don’t worry, though. The American Automobile Association says that a flat mechanic labor rate is implemented to simplify the process, and consumers usually benefit from it.
Groups Of Repair Jobs
Repair jobs can be categorized into three groups: make, model, and year. Interestingly enough, time differs greatly between two vehicles of even the same lineup. The time it takes to finish a repair will depend on how many components have to be removed to reach the broken bit, the average complexity of the job, need of any special equipment, age of the vehicle, and so on. Some car parts are costlier to repair than others.
However, there are times when being charged a flat rate can pose a disadvantage for you. You still have to pay the flat rate despite the time it takes to repair the car is less than the general average flat rate time. Theoretically, you can simply pay for the total time it takes the technician to repair the car – not a minute less or more.
And, most auto repair shops don’t use this technique, for obvious reasons. These shops also have a set separate diagnostic charge that is meant to cover the duration of scans conducted on your car to understand the faults.
On average, the per hour charge for diagnosis of auto repair is between $125. If a shop finishes the repairs, the diagnosis expenses can be deducted or discounted from the total bill. The price of parts needed to repair a car is based on where the components are bought along with their markup price.
When a repair shop does the installation, the full retail price has to be paid. The average markup is about 30%-40% but it varies from one supplier to another. You can save a few coins by shopping for these parts yourself but there is a catch – most of these auto repair shops will not install parts that were not acquired by the store itself.
Most of the time, these shops have specific brands to secure parts from. Surely the affordable alternator from China would cost them $50 less than the pricey and preferred OEM alternator, but it can’t be expected to last as long.
On average, aftermarket components are less expensive than OEM components. However, as standards tend to differ, it is best to look into branded aftermarket parts. The aftermarket parts seller could also be the OEM parts seller in some cases with the parts being almost identical.
Calculating Mechanic Labor Rate For Auto Repair
Most independent auto repair shops ask around $125 an hour while dealerships usually charge about $160 per hour. If a repair shop is doing a great job and is providing excellent service, we suggest you be happy with whatever rate they ask for (given it’s within reasonable terms, of course) and bring your car to them anytime it needs servicing.
We have already mentioned how the hourly rate can be driven up by a few factors. The bill could include expensive bits and customers are left wondering why the bill is so high and whether they are being ripped off. There is a simple solution to that – you have to know how to calculate labor cost.
The labor rate formula will have you adding the hourly wage, the hourly tax cost, and the hourly cost of any expenses or fringe benefits. This can also be expressed as LR (labor rate) = W (wage) + T (taxes) + B (benefits).
It’s difficult to say for sure how much you would need to repair your car. Small repairs including a single panel like a fender or bumper can cost around $500 to $1,500. Medium repair on several panels such as grill, lights, fender or bumper, and more would cost you around $1,500 to $4,000. Lastly, more complicated repairs such as fixing a car that is difficult to drive would set you back anywhere between $4,000 to $6,000.
If you are still concerned about being overcharged for the repairs including the mechanic labor rate per hour, have a look at the repair estimates of the invoice of the repair to know what you are being charged for. There is an abundance of tips online telling you how you can save yourself from being overcharged but only a few go into the depths of genuine auto repair prices.
Breaking Down A Car Repair Bill
Rather than being too worried about paying too much or getting ripped-off on car repairs, it would be best if you focused on whether the charges are justified and legitimate. After all, a car repair estimate could be too complicated for the average motorist to understand. Let’s break down each one to help you understand when you are being charged appropriately.
To start, we will familiarize you with the 6 basic components to an estimate of a car repair. You can look up these car repair estimates plus mechanic labor rate templates online. It includes the vehicle and customer details, auto parts, mechanic labor time, flat fees, miscellaneous charges, and summary of prices.
Customer And Vehicle Details
A car repair estimate mostly uses a conventional top-down style format. The top part includes the personal information of the customer along with the specifics of their car such as the model, make, year, mileage, and so on. It can also mention the car’s problem and the owner’s request.
Next up is auto parts. These will be listed with a brief description, amount, and the cost. As mentioned before, there are various kinds of auto parts – aftermarket parts, OEM, and second-hand components. Made for or by a manufacturer, the OEM parts are generally installed by a dealer. There are plenty of locals that will install OEM parts as well.
On the other hand, aftermarket parts are non-OEM parts of various qualities. The quality depends on where they were made, who made them, and their price. Then we have the used parts. Mechanics buy these from salvage yards and these are generally extracted from junk vehicles.
Make sure to ask the auto repair shop about the kind of parts being installed so you can calculate whether you are being charged too much for it. If they are using OEM parts, you should not be charged more than the MSRP or Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. Again, there are some customers who pay more than the set market price without being aware.
The same goes for premium aftermarket parts. You don’t have to pay on top of the MSRP. Prices vary vastly for used car parts. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So anything that is too cheap is undoubtedly questionable. But that doesn’t mean you have to pay mindlessly for expensive parts. Try to find a sweet middle ground.
Mechanic Labor Time
The labor time is the amount of hours it takes to fix the vehicle based on standard industry guidelines. In case the auto repair labor rate per hour is not mentioned on the car repair invoice, you must ask the charge from the shop. It’s rather easy for the auto repair shops to manipulate the rates by misusing the labor matrix.
We are not saying take a small course in car parts but it doesn’t hurt to have some knowledge to avoid being overcharged. The labor, usually, is billed in tenths on the car repair invoice. Which means 1.0 stands for 1 hour while 2.5 would stand for, you guessed it, 2 hours and 30 minutes. Multiply the mechanic labor rate by the billed number of hours of the shop (if you are going by a per-hour rate).
Miscellaneous charges could include price for the shop supplies such as the rags, chemicals, or disposal of hazardous waste. These charges must be computed based on the amount of labor hours, not the total count of miscellaneous items utilized.
A few services do not get divided into parts like labor and taxes – those are flat fees. Understanding flat fees is a bit tricky as you aren’t really aware of the fair price for it. Fortunately, flat fees are usually competitively priced.
Summary Of Prices
The summary of the charges will be mentioned at the bottom right section of the estimate. Double check it for calculation errors – make sure the charges listed all add up correctly.
Do They Charge Mechanic Labor Rate To Inspect Vehicles?
No, not all shops will charge for diagnosis. It is free in some shops but the charge is later added with the repair bills. Most mechanics get paid based on how productive they are being, not by the hour. The diagnostic charge gives the shop money to pay the mechanic for having a look at the car. Otherwise the shop would have to consume the charges or not pay the mechanic at all.
Typical shops charge 30 minutes to an hour labor to diagnose. This is how much of the set hourly wage the worker will receive. They get paid the same if they take two hours or five minutes to find the problem. Although this seems simple and you might be wondering why you are paying for something so basic, keep in mind that without a charge, you are asking the mechanic to provide service for free.
If you ask someone to work for free, chances are, you will get what you pay for.
Mechanic Labor Rate In U.S. States
According to a survey conducted by AAA in 2017, auto repair rates range between $47-$215 an hour within their set network of repair shops. The range is definitely large, but it’s based on environmental and general factors including:
- Area cost of living – The local cost of living which affects the local wage as well as the benefit costs
- Type of shop – Dealership vs. independent
- Vehicles serviced – Common cars on the road vs. premium, luxury vehicle
- Business costs – Involves utilities, mortgage/rent, tools, equipment, and taxes
- Technical training – Certifications or skills need to work on vehicles
Some states have passed rules and guidelines to control how these auto repair shops operate and price, so this will also factor into the price of conducting business. Shops located in towns or states with lower costs of living, low crime rate, and less red tape will charge their customers less in comparison to larger areas with more complexities.
Depending on where you reside, the price of repairing an engine will differ. Another ranking done by CarMD.com suggests that the residents of Vermont are charged the lowest repair costs – averaging at $342, while if you live in California, the average repair cost for you is $414.
We will be noting 10 least- and most-expensive states for auto repairs below, based on the analysis of CarMD.com. The research was done on more than 15.9 million vehicles of all kinds – cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans requiring repair in 2019.
Many factors play an important role in deciding the average repair costs of a state. Drivers can decrease the chances of unexpected and pricey car repairs by keeping up with regular maintenance of their vehicles, investigating warning lights the moment they pop up, and having repairs done by a trusted dealership or independent repair shop.
Fortunately, amidst the ongoing pandemic, many dealerships and local garages started offering “touchless” servicing including pick-up and delivery. So, you have absolutely no excuse to delay the examination of your vehicle if the check engine light stays on.
CarMD.com says that the most common CEL (check engine light related) errors include problem with the oxygen sensor ($250), catalytic converter replacement (national average: $1,376), faulty spark plugs and ignition coil ($387), poor mass airflow sensor ($346), and broken fuel cap ($25).
What Did Mechanic Labor Rate Look Like In 2019?
In 2019, the average total labor costs dropped by more than 5%, with Mississippi being recorded as the highest while Vermont registered as the lowest. Meanwhile, the price of parts increased by about 6%, with California having the highest part cost and Michigan having the lowest.
In 2019, auto mechanics earned an average salary of $42,090. The best paid made about $56,140 annually but that was only the top 25%. The lowest-paid 25% made $31,250.
Median Salaries By States
ZipRecruiter reports that the highest median mechanic salaries by American states are:
- Rhode Island
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- New York
The median salary of an auto mechanic is Hawaii is $22.32 per hour, totaling to $46,422 a year. That is an impressive 12.9% more than the national median. In contrast, the lowest median mechanic labor rates by states are:
- North Carolina
- New Mexico
Auto mechanics earn an annual salary of $32,077 in Alaska, the hourly rate being $15.42.
When costs are concerned, the state that offers the cheapest car repair is Ohio – the average cost is $354 to get a CEL inspection and repair. The same repairs cost $414 in Washington D.C.
Highest Auto Repair Costs
Based on average auto repair costs (in 2019), these are the 10 most expensive and least expensive states in the U.S.:
Top 10 Most Expensive U.S. States Based on Average Auto Repair Cost
- California: $414
- District of Columbia: $410
- Georgia: $410
- New Jersey: $403
- Virginia: $403
- Hawaii: $403
- North Carolina: $403
- Colorado: $401
- Connecticut: $401
- Utah: $399
Top 10 Least Expensive U.S. States Based on Average Auto Repair Cost
- Vermont: $342
- Ohio: $349
- Wisconsin: $349
- Michigan: $351
- Iowa: $357
- Maine: $357
- North Dakota: $357
- Indiana: $357
- Nebraska: $364
- New Hampshire: $366
Mechanic Labor Rate – Final Thoughts
Knowing the right rates for auto repair helps you accomplish two tasks at once – understand how much you are paying for mechanic labor rate and whether you are being charged rightfully or not. One must ask the right questions to the auto repair shop to get a breakdown of the repair costs to ensure fair pricing.
These tools have been tried and tested by our team, they are ideal for fixing your car at home.