Verifying the Correct Auto Repair Estimate

When you have car problems that require professional intervention the first step is for the repair facility to diagnose the issue at hand. The second thing that should happen is the owner receives a detailed estimate of needed repairs. Although many states provide guidelines and rules for the shop to follow when it comes to this document, it will ultimately fall on the shoulders of the customer to verify they’ve been presented with an accurate and correct auto repair estimate. This article will focus on some common mistakes made when preparing one.

Incorrect Vehicle Information

When shops prepare an estimate, the final total is reached by adding parts costs to labor expenses. Auto mechanics are paid on a flat rate basis in many facilities. In short, this means he is paid by the repair instead of hourly. The amount of labor charge should be obtained in a standardized guide. The repair center uses the year, make and model to find out how long it should take.

Often specific models will have several engine and transmission options available impacting the amount of labor charged for the repairs. Vehicle owners should ask to see the guide and verify that no mistakes were made by accident. As an example, if you are replacing the water pump on a 1990 Ranger pickup the small truck could have a four-cylinder or a six cylinder engine. The difference in the labor time can be substantial and multiplied by the shops hourly rate.

Some service centers quickly look up the operation to be performed and just go with the highest number they see in front of them. Automobiles often include features or options that increase the difficulty of the repair. These are known as additions in the labor guide. Using the same vehicle as an example, some of these trucks have a stone guard which a metal plate is shielding the engine when the vehicle is used off-road. If this has to be removed to gain access there will be an additional charge.

Estimate for Auto Parts

The repair center has the right to make money on the parts used in repairing the vehicle. In fact, an industry standard for quite some time has been the cost of parts plus 30 percent markup. This profit margin covers the business expenses of obtaining or storing these components. Shops have the right to make money because if there was zero profit there would be no need for a business.

With that said, owners should verify that this profit margin remains a reasonable or customary amount. Several things can affect the cost of parts. The brand used and the difficulty of obtaining it can up the overall cost. Using the same example of the water pump on the Ford Ranger pickup truck, this is a fairly common part easily obtained. When the shop calls their supplier to get a price they’re usually offered a few options. These choices should be reviewed with the customer.

This is one area where if the shop uses the cost plus 30 percent formula, the more expensive the component the higher their profit margin. This can steer the decision-making into choosing replacement parts that are beneficial to the repair center and not the owner of the automobile. When customers are presented with an auto repair estimate they should ask how the parts portion was determined. They can also verify prices by calling local parts houses to see what these materials would cost over-the-counter.

Miscellaneous Shop Fees

The last thing to consider in an auto repair estimate would be any miscellaneous charges tagged onto the parts and labor expenses. These are often considered waste disposal charges or fees for the usage of chemicals, rags or sealant the service center has on hand and will use on your car. Businesses will have different ways of calculating these miscellaneous fees. Some will use a flat rate or a percentage of the total repair which can be substantial and unfair. Automotive service consumers should question waste disposal charge or shop supplies that seem excessive.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when a retail automotive center sits down to figure out an estimate. Customers should be vigilant and verify the labor charges are for their vehicle with the correct options selected. If additions are added for installed accessories, make sure they exist.

Since labor rates can be expensive these small additions can add up to big savings if removed. When it comes to the parts side of the equation, consumers should be involved in the decision-making on whether new or re-manufactured components are used. Brand selection is important as well. If the car is being replaced soon, it doesn’t make sense to use an expensive name brand part.