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Why is Auto Repair Expensive?


Red Rock Auto and Cycle is proud to introduce our newest team member, a 30 year plus European automotive technician. Mark Fordham. So for you European car drivers like Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi, stop in or call (928) 282-4988 and get your vehicle serviced soon.


  • People ask me all the time how the price of an auto repair is determined,

    Usually phrased something like, "Why does my car repair cost so much?" This is a question worth asking, especially if you've been given a repair quote that runs into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

  • There are three main criteria used in pricing any given auto repair.

    The first is the labor rate, or what the shop charges for the time and expertise (such as a master technician) that goes into repairing your vehicle. The second is for the parts themselves, and whatever other shop support materials are used in the process of the repair.(like cleaners, solvents, sealants, towels, uniforms, etc.) The third area to consider are the fixed costs or overhead that the repair shop has to cover, but that doesn't get reflected on your bill. (rent, utilities, garage keepers insurance, etc.)


  • When you see a line item for "labor" on your repair estimate or bill, there are two factors that go into it.

    The first is the shop's "per-hour labor rate." The second is "book time."

  • A shop's labor rate is the hourly rate it charges for work.

    The term "book time" refers to the average amount of time it takes to perform a particular automotive repair or maintenance job. This is a number that's set based on how long it takes a factory mechanic (or "technician," as is the common industry parlance) to do the job, but with a modifier applied in order to establish a more realistic time that a less trained technician might take. It's the automotive tech's responsibility to complete the job within that "book time" window, though sometimes repairs take longer or can be performed quicker.

  • Shop labor rates vary with the geographic area of the country and are competitive within a particular area.

    Labor rates typically run $80-$150 per hour nationwide.

  • A shop that specializes in a particular area usually charges higher labor rates for their service than a general service shop.


  • Yes, auto repair shops mark up the price of parts.

    These guys have to make a profit to stay in business, so typically they will tack on about 30 percent. Keep in mind that this markup also means that reputable shops, like ours, can provide a warranty for their repairs.

  • The type of parts used for auto repair directly affects the bottom-line price.

    Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts tend to be the highest priced, followed by aftermarket parts. There are typically two to three tiers of aftermarket parts. Different tiers are defined by quality. I use the top of the line aftermarket parts to raise the chance of a longer lasting, effective auto repair.

  • Finally, used parts also vary in price depending on the mileage and/or demand of the part.

    A used part can render an effective repair, depending on its condition. We generally don't install used parts unless it is discussed with the customer first. Usually parts like a complete rear differential or a manual transmission are the only type of used parts we will install and only at the customers request.

  • "Shop support" or "Shop supplies" can be defined as any products or services used to complete the repair.

    During the course of any auto repair certain stuff gets used, supplies like brake cleaning solution, shop rags, and replacement fluids. There are other ancillary services that you might encounter, such as recycling and disposal fees for old tires, oil and other fluids. Costs of this nature are often passed onto the consumer. It is not only illegal to dump oil and other harmful fluids and chemicals, it is very bad for our planet. We recycle everything we can in order to do our part in preserving the earth and it costs money to have our used oil and antifreeze picked up for recycle.


  • What's not often passed onto the consumer are the costs of running a shop, which in this modern age, can be pricey.

    Regardless of size, a shop has expenses that have to be paid by the work generated. There are the obvious ones, like the rent, electricity, heat and other utilities.

  • But there are also substantial costs for equipment and technology.

    In order to work on today's cars a shop must have state-of-the-art scanners, diagnostic software, and lab scopes to analyze vehicular data streams in an effort to extract critical information for accurate vehicle repair. This type of equipment is outrageous and has to continually be updated which also costs a small fortune. Without such info, techs cannot deliver accurate repairs. Other equipment such as vehicle lifts, floor jacks, lubrication equipment and the likes are necessary to operate a shop efficiently and effectively.

  • Good trained service personnel costs money, period.

    Usually techs are classified as "A", "B", or "C" techs, and the more high-grade techs in a shop, the more it costs to pay them. In order to attract a high-grade technician these days, shops have to pay a good hourly rate or weekly salary. In addition, health insurance and other benefits, like vacation time often go into the package to attract the class "A" technician.

  • These technicians have to go to school on a regular basis to keep up with new automotive technology.

    Without this training, techs cannot repair vehicles in the "book time" allotted for a particular service operation. (Not to mention the occasional "headache" job that comes along that every tech in town has had his/her hands on without success.) We pay for this training in order to repair your vehicle correctly, in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost.

  • Many shops carry their own parts inventory.

    Given the number of different years, makes, and models of vehicles on the road, this inventory must be broad. Sitting on this inventory is not cheap.

  • As you can see, there's a lot more that goes into auto repair pricing than parts and labor.