Accurate Answers

Parts and Labor

Parts and Labor. Okay we are done with the discussion. It is just that simple. Why do people call all around town to get the lowest price for a given repair? Why do some tune-ups cost 49.95 and some 110.00? Why do some smog shops say "pass or don't pay"? Is the dealership really worth 30% more expensive labor rates? Maybe there is a little more to it than just parts and labor.

No it IS just that simple, but you have to understand some basic principals of business. First, you always get what you pay for. Second, if it sound like a deal that is too good to be true, it probably is. Third, people are not created equal, try to equate the price you pay with the qualifications of people that perform the services you require. Do not get me wrong. It does not take a master mechanic to do an oil change, but wouldn't it be nice if one was available to look at your vehicle while it was up in the air? You bet ja! Heck yea! Darn right!

So why is there such a wide spread between the labor rates of shops that supposedly do the same services? Why is there such a difference between jobs that should include the same services? For instance, 30k services can vary in price by as much as 40%. Does that mean you are getting 40% more or paying 40% too much? The answer to these questions is that you have to consider who is working on your car. You have to take into account how big the structure of the business is. How many people are involved with your service. Is there a nice lounge with color TV? Is a free loner car available? Free Pick-up and Delivery? Accept major credit cards or provide financing? Can you think of any other things that have little to do with auto repair but increase cost?

The mechanics working at the repair facility determine the biggest expense to business. The more experience the higher the pay. The more expertise in technical diagnosis the higher the pay. The higher productivity the higher the pay. All of these things should be of some concern. Be aware of the reasons you see such desparancies not that they are wrong. Good people are at a premium. Trouble-shooters are very valuable to you and to their employer.You are going to pay the bills, one way or the other. Get as much service as you can afford.

In the parts department you will find less problems unless you try to compare the parts cost with the installed parts cost. If you buy a part at a parts store you are going to pay less, period. You will probably end up installing it yourself or having it installed with no time guarantee. When you have a part purchased and installed by a repair facility you will pay more but most repairs have at least a 90day, 3000 mile warrantee parts and labor. The warrantee will vary a little, just remember to get whatever warrantee is offered in writing. If the facility offers no warrantee....well duh-h-h-...take a walk, keep on looking.

Quality is also something of concern when purchasing parts for your automobile. In this category you will find a huge difference from store to store. Japan and other foreign countries have flooded the parts industry with low cost alternatives. Remember the golden rule? You pay for what you get. Parts are made outside the USA by most of the aftermarket. Generic brands exist in all areas of parts from shock absorbers to ignition parts. So quality control varies with the expense of the part. Maybe the cheaper part will last just as long as the more expensive. Maybe not. In general, it is cheap insurance to demand the best quality when the labor expense is high. For instance, if a particular repair costs 300.00, and 250.00 of that repair is labor, it would be foolish to use cheap parts. Most repair facilities will use the better brand part for their best interest and yours. Since a basic warrantee period is 90 days, you can bet that the facility wants to cover their investment and not do the job a second or third time.

If you want a comparison between parts, look at the part that comes from the manufacturer or dealer.The material used and structure should be identical. This comparison is made for you by your repair facility when they install it in your car. It is part of the good value of auto repair that you may not think important, but can prove to be in-valuable. The experienced repair dealer knows the difference and will recommend the higher quality part. Remember with high quality comes a higher price, but hopefully more value.

If the price of auto repair seems too low, could it be being done by lower paid less experienced people with inferior auto parts? If the price of auto repair seems too high could you be paying for bells and whistles and dealership parts plus a high mark-up? Use your judgement, I can only give you the tools to make the choices that will affect your situation. Do you think that limo service is really free?

Rebuilt auto parts also have severe problems with quality and price. In my experience I have replaced four altenators that were right out of the box bad. I have found starters that are double the price at one store versus another. In rebuilt parts you must flip the coin and live with the outcome. The good news is that most parts stores are good about exchanging these poorly re-furbished parts. The bad news is it may be the third or fourth one that finally works right. There is no recommendation I can make except to recommend patience when dealing with a rebuilt part installed by a repair shop. The shop will make it good within the warrantee period, no matter how many tries. The warrantee is parts AND labor. This is the premium that is built into professional work.

Human beings are making your auto parts. Human beings are installing your auto parts. Human beings are performing frustrating jobs for you, other human beings. Realize that fixing a motor vehicle is more than just parts and labor. Realize that you need to work through parts problems, work delays, wrong parts, and all the other facets of Murphy's Law to get your car repaired. Parts problems do not happen very often, don't get upset, get satisfied. Be patient and know that the frustrations you have are shared by a professional that cares about service. We all know that the best stories are the horror stories of auto repair. No one wants his or her name associated with these situations that happen to the best intended professional.


JM