How to Estimate Your Auto Repair Costs
When your car breaks down or needs to be repaired, the task of determining your auto repair costs can seem daunting. This is especially true when the possibility of going without your normal mode of transportation adds to your stress. While just taking it to the first place your finger points to in the phone book seems like the easiest option, just a few minutes of your time can save you from auto repairs that are too costly.
It's hard to believe, but there are many sites on the web that will give you an estimate online. Generally, you enter information such as the make and model of your car, what needs to be fixed and your zip code. The site will then give you a general estimate range that includes items such as parts and labor. Obviously, this is not going to get you the most accurate estimate, but it does give you the names of auto garages in your area that can give you a more in-depth quote. If nothing else, it is a great springboard from which to start your search.
You stand a much better chance of getting an accurate quote if you take your car in to be assessed. It is often times hard to accurately determine a problem and estimate the cost of the repair over the phone. It is therefore common for shops to give you a low quote to get your business. This can potentially lead you to getting hit with extra work that you didn't expect. Having the shop actually look at the car can give you both a better idea of what is going to be involved in the repair, and consequently, a more accurate estimate.
OEM, Aftermarket, and Used Parts
There are three kinds of parts available for most cars: OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), which are the same parts that the manufacturer installed at the factory; aftermarket parts, which are similar to the original parts, but made by a different company; and used parts, which often times come from cars that have been sent to a salvage yard and been parted out. Depending on your need and budget, there is a part in your price range.
What to Look for in a Repair Invoice
In addition to the cost of labor and parts, there are other miscellaneous items that routinely appear on an invoice that you might want to be aware of beforehand. These things include disposal fees, environmental fees and shop supplies.
If you are having a repair done that isn't based on a flat fee, make sure you know what their labor rate is and how long they think it will take to fix the car. Most shops have a minimum labor rate of one hour, no matter how long it takes to fix the car. After that, labor is usually billed in hour or half hour segments.
If you need to have your air conditioner charged, new brake pads installed or oil changed, most repair shops charge a flat fee for these common services. This flat fee includes parts and labor, but miscellaneous charges and taxes are generally not included. You still want to do your homework here, as prices can vary greatly from shop to shop.