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Old 05-11-2012, 12:02 AM
 
Location: Tucson/Nogales
20,274 posts, read 23,808,805 times
Reputation: 28041

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I recently had some work done on my car, and I was told it would take 4 hours for this and 3 hours for something else. Since I drop my car off, I'm not there to clock them as to whether or not they actually worked those hours or not, or if it's a part of some prescribed formula used by all mechanics.

Has anyone ever stuck around and clocked them as to whether or not they actually worked those hours?

I find it interesting that all the hours are rounded off to the nearest hour, no mechanic has ever given me a time frame of 1 hour and 45 minutes or 50 minutes. Given the high rates they charge today, shouldn't we be more vigilant of them?

I only make $13.38 an hour, and believe me, I'm under vigilance every minute I work there! And at $80, $90, $100 an hour, shouldn't we be?
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Old 05-11-2012, 12:26 AM
 
245 posts, read 493,411 times
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The way I look at it, I'm not their employer. I don't care how long they work because I'm paying for a job completed.

As long as they quote me a fair price and use parts we agreed to, I'm okay with it.
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Old 05-11-2012, 12:32 AM
 
3,326 posts, read 8,107,807 times
Reputation: 2001
I work in the industry.
It has little if anything to do with the actual amount of time it takes to do a job. It's more about level of difficulty. Sometimes it takes less time, other times more, yet you'll still get billed the same either way.
I don't always like that we describe things in hours because it misleads the public.

By the way, mechanics only see $10-$20 per hour of that $80-$100 per hour you're charged. The rest is divided between managers, owners, shop equipment, shop supplies, shop maintenance, and probably payments on the building itself and then there might be a little left over for profit.
For the level of skill it takes to do the job, auto technicians are some of the most underpaid workers out there.
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Old 05-11-2012, 01:11 AM
 
Location: Chicago
38,704 posts, read 93,425,988 times
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There is an industry standard labor time for most repairs, published by Chilton and Motor Information Systems. These standards are often customized for specific makes and models. This is what shops refer to when they quote you a labor rate. Experienced mechanics will take less time and the shop will pocket the difference (some of which will be used to pay the mechanic more for his experience), or the mechanic will pocket the difference if he owns the shop. Less experienced mechanics may exceed the quoted labor time and the shop will have to eat the difference (some of which is recouped by paying an inexperienced mechanic less). As the saying goes in the business, "you pay me for what I know, not what I do."
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Old 05-11-2012, 03:12 AM
 
Location: Tucson/Nogales
20,274 posts, read 23,808,805 times
Reputation: 28041
Very informative feedback. Looking back on my other repair bills, my curiosity peaked today, as to why the hours are all rounded, never do I see 3 hours 45 minutes or one hour and 25 minutes.

I've long understood, as my brother is a self-employed, shop-owned mechanic, the low pay the techs receive, and I've always tipped the mechanic $20 for any job, but today, this $1k+ repair bill went way over my budget! Didn't even have $5 for a tip today!

I've noticed a slew of independent mechanics operating out their homes, via Craigslist, there's one 4 blocks from my house, and one of these days I'm going over there to investigate, introduce myself, best give him a trial project to see how well he does, and he charges $60 an hour. And if he does a professional job, I'll more than double that $20 tip!

Even for a quick lube job at Jiffy Lube, I always show some compassion for the underpayed tech who does the oil change and tip him at least $10.
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Old 05-11-2012, 04:08 AM
 
Location: Chicago
38,704 posts, read 93,425,988 times
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I've used shade-tree mechanics before when I needed to keep a beater zip-tied and duct-taped together as cheaply as possible just enough to stay on the road. Most of the time it worked out OK, but every once in a while I had to pay a "real" shop to fix the botch-job done by the home mechanic, in essence paying for a repair twice.

If you're considering the shade-tree mechanic route, ask him for references.
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Old 05-11-2012, 07:17 AM
 
Location: Keosauqua, Iowa
9,270 posts, read 18,249,573 times
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There are a lot of extremely qualified mechanics who don't have the business skills to open their own shop so they wind up leaving the $10 an hour world of auto repair to make better money as a maintenance mechanic for a construction company, railroad, etc. A lot of these guys work on cars on the side, typically they're very good and the price is right.

The downside is that, being out of the auto repair game, most of them don't keep up with all of the changes in technology. So I would ask up front if they have ever done the repair you need, especially if you have a newer car.

Regarding the labor you are charged for, as others have said, most shops bill according to the flat rate provided in the service manual. They're rounded off because they are estimates. Better shops also pay their mechanics according to the flat rate so that they have some incentive to work hard and not screw around; if they can do 12 hours of work in 8 hours that's extra money in their pockets.
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Old 05-11-2012, 07:17 AM
Status: "Enjoying the winter" (set 25 days ago)
 
Location: East of Seattle since 1992, originally from SF Bay Area
34,062 posts, read 61,944,958 times
Reputation: 37993
While 95% of mechanics do this, there are still a few honest independents that will charge based on actual time and will end up charging less than the original estimate if it takes less time than in the book.
If you are lucky enough to find one, stay with him and send your friends to ensure that he stays in business. Mine recently moved from a high-rent city shop to a home where he built a shop on his acreage, and actually lowered his prices due to the lower overhead. I probably went to 8 different places over the years before finding this one and have now been going to him for 15 years including 3 transmission rebuilds on different cars. Actually, I'm taking one car in to him tomorrow for a problem.
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Old 05-11-2012, 07:32 AM
 
Location: San Antonio, TX USA
5,217 posts, read 11,059,384 times
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Yep there is an industry standard for billable hours. My shops go by "book labor". If the book says a job takes 5 hours, thats what they charge you for. My mechanic recently passed away. He was a good man, no mark up on parts, heck most of the time I would bring my own parts, only charged a few hours for labor no matter what the job was. The only down side was it took him much longer then a regular shop to get the repair done.
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Old 05-11-2012, 07:44 AM
 
3,414 posts, read 7,664,926 times
Reputation: 4219
I used to sell the software that calculates the hours for mechanics. There are essentially only two companies that provide this information and for the most part give similar times for repairs. From talking to mechanics and shop owners here is what I do with my car. If the repair is a simple thing like a brake job then go to a shade tree mechanic. Anything more involved go to a real shop, cars are really complicated now. Cars have essentially turned into big computers and a good mechanic now needs to know about fixing computers as well as doing mechanical work.

With a lot of car dealerships closing or cutting staff your best bet for finding a mechanic is to look for a dealer/factory trained tech that opened his own shop.
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