No one’s happy when something goes wrong with their car. For many people, their vehicle is absolutely essential to their day-to-day life. From getting to work or school, taking their kids to various activities, grocery shopping, and more, often people can’t live without their car. Having something go wrong that needs to be repaired is enough to set anyone on edge, but when the quote comes in the hundreds of dollars, it can be downright aggravating. So why does automotive work cost so much? Here’s some insights.
Right up front, the most straightforward cost every automotive mechanic has to account for is part to repair or replace what’s broken. Cars are big, expensive pieces of machinery, and often have specialized parts that only work with a small subset of vehicles. For example, if your starter goes out, they can’t just find any old starter to replace it. They have to find out your vehicle’s exact make, model, and year, and then try to track down exactly the part needed. If they don’t have it on hand, they have to get it from the original manufacturer, and these manufacturers can be notoriously steep in terms of cost, both for the part and for shipping.
Even with the part on hand, the mechanic still has to do the work of repair, which is a very technical process. Mechanics have to learn a complex field that many people depend upon them to do well, and that means expensive training. Not only that, but even doing the work as efficiently as they do is a factor. Even if you had the know-how to do the repairs yourself, it’s unlikely you’ll have all the tools necessary to get it done in a timely fashion. You pay for the convenience of their labor almost as much as the proficiency. And at the end of the day, mechanics need to be able to make a living, too. Your bill goes to help paying theirs.
If you’ve been to an auto shop, you’ve probably seen inside their garage and realized what an impressive place it is. Tools, diagnostic equipment, lifts, and other features all go into making a mechanic’s garage the workspace they need to perform their job. All of that costs money both to acquire and maintain, and part of that cost has to be factored into what they charge their customers.
In addition to all these obvious costs, there’s a host of smaller charges that fall under the term “overhead”. These costs including things like the rent or mortgage they have to pay for their building, grounds keeping services to keep it looking nice, and other factors for the building itself. There are also things like utilities, including power, which you might not be surprised to know that auto shops use a lot of! Then there’s internet, so that you can have Wi-Fi in the store while waiting for your car to get fixed. And there are other things you might not even think about like legal counsel, insurance, laundry services for their work uniforms, as well as amenities for their store like bathroom supplies and refreshments. Auto shops are complicated operations, and that means all these costs need to be accounted for.
It’s an unavoidable fact that most people don’t really know that much about auto maintenance, and especially now more than ever, that knowledge comes at a premium. Getting the training necessary to keep up with modern vehicles is a time consuming and expensive process that these mechanics have to constantly keep up with. And many of them have to do this on their own time. Sometimes, you might feel like you have no choice but to go with what’s quoted, since you aren’t equipped to know otherwise.
But, that’s not the end of the story.
What can you do?
While it’s good to consider all these factors in order to have a better understanding of how auto maintenance functions, that doesn’t mean you have no options for trying to reduce costs. There are things you can do to reduce the cost of auto repair:
- Do it Yourself: Note that not all car repairs can be done on your own. However, it might surprise you how many jobs you can learn to do yourself that can save you money on labor. Things like replacing windshield wipers, headlights, and even tires can all be done at home. There are also a bunch of fluids like oil, engine coolant, and cleaning solutions that can all be done by you.
- Shop Around: Don’t settle for the first quote you receive. If the cost seems a bit steep, it might actually be. Always get quoted from at least three different shops before deciding on any repair, as you might find a better deal. Use websites to compare the prices and services offered by mechanics.
- Do your own Research: Even though it takes time, learning a little bit about how cars actually work can save you money. Maybe the mechanics quotes you a repair that doesn’t actually need to be done. You can also look up the average costs for the job you need done to get a sense if the shop you’re going to is giving you a standard price.
- DIY Shops: This is not something available everywhere, but there’s a recent trend of DIY Shops opening that can save you a lot of money. These are basically fully equipped auto repair shops with skilled staff on hand to help guide you and provide you an environment to do some of the repair work yourself! Since you do part of the work, you save a ton on labor costs. Check your local area to see if a DIY shop is near you.
No one likes to have to get their car fixed, but for many people, this unavoidable. Next time you see that bill, just remember the time and effort your mechanic put into make sure you’re able to get back on the road.