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Auto Repair Charges:
Unlocking the Mystery

Before you arrange to have any work performed, ask how the shop prices its work.

  • Some shops charge a flat rate for labor on auto repairs. This published rate is based on an independent or manufacturer's estimate of the time required to complete repairs. Others charge on the basis of the actual time the technician worked on the repair.
  • If you need expensive or complicated repairs, or if you have questions about recommended work, consider getting a second opinion.
  • Find out if there will be a diagnostic charge if you decide to have the work performed elsewhere. Many repair shops charge for diagnostic time.
  • Shops that do only diagnostic work and do not sell parts or repairs may be able to give you an objective opinion about which repairs are necessary.
  • If you decide to get the work done, ask for a written estimate.
  • What should a written estimate include?

    It should identify the condition to be repaired, the parts needed, and the anticipated labor charge. Make sure you get a signed copy.

    It should state that the shop will contact you for approval before they do any work exceeding a specified amount of time or money. State law may require this.

  • What should I know about the parts to be repaired or replaced?

    Parts are classified as:

    New - These parts generally are made to original manufacturer's specifications, either by the vehicle manufacturer or an independent company. Your state may require repair shops to tell you if non-original equipment will be used in the repair. Prices and quality of these parts vary.

    Remanufactured, rebuilt and reconditioned - These terms generally mean the same thing: parts have been restored to a sound working condition. Many manufacturers offer a warranty covering replacement parts, but not the labor to install them.

    Salvage - These are used parts taken from another vehicle without alteration. Salvage parts may be the only source for certain items, though their reliability is seldom guaranteed.

  • What do I need after the work is done?

    Get a completed repair order describing the work done. It should list each repair, parts supplied, the cost of each part, labor charges, and the vehicle's odometer reading when you brought the vehicle in as well as when the repair order was completed.

    Ask for all replaced parts. State law may require this.

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