The labor rate for auto repair shops in the United States varies widely. Some factors that affect the labor rate include location, type of repair shop, and whether the repair shop is independent or part of a dealership.
Sometimes the labor rate per hour may seem too high, while at other times, a good deal might seem too good to be true.
In this article you will learn everything you need to know about the labor rate and if you are getting ripped off or not.
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Factors That Determine The Labor Rate
The hourly rate varies throughout the country, so much that the difference may be over $50 per hour. In most cases, the higher the average wage, the higher the labor cost at the car repair shop.
Of course, not only is the average state wage the only component that determines the labor rate for a car repair. Some factors that determine the labor rate are:
- Repair shop location (urban vs. rural)
- Type of shop (independent vs. dealership)
- Make and model of the vehicle
These are the main factors how a labor rate is determined, but even though the same car, location, and type of shop is in question, the rate may still differ greatly due to a shop valuing their expertise more or possess some type of special certification.
Repair Shop Location
The cost of the labor cost is greatly affected by the location of the repair shop. This applies both to which state the repair shop is located in, but also in what local area (downtown or in the outskirts).
For example, in most cases, a repair shop that is in the outskirts of the city will generally have a lower average labor rate than a repair shop located downtown in the same city.
This is because the repair shop must cover their expenses, which include the rent or mortgage of the repair shop. Also, this means that if the repair shop owns the facility, the labor cost may be lower.
Independent Or Dealership
Another factor that plays a big role in the labor cost is if the repair shop is an authorized one. These tend to be more expensive, but they also have a few advantages.
If you service your car at an authorized dealership, the price usually tends to be very similar, regardless of where the shop is located. Unfortunately, these shops tend to be more expensive.
Many people would be deterrent from servicing their car at an authorized dealer due to the price, however, it does have a few benefits.
The greatest advantage is that your car is taken care of by people who know your car inside and out. They are experts regarding your vehicle and if anything unexpected pops up, they will be able to fix it.
This is also the reason why cars with a registered service history from an authorized dealership, usually are sold for a larger sum as it gives the impression that the care has been taken care of well.
Of course, this does not mean that a car that has been serviced in an independent shop received worse service than a car that was serviced at a dealership.
Even though an authorized shop more likely has the better expertise and all the tools available, it is very possible that the premium cost is too high.
If you are buying a new car or trading one in, you should try to get a deal for servicing your new car for a discounted rate. Usually, dealerships tend to agree with this as it does not cost them a lot to service a car, yet they charge a premium.
There are also independent shops that specialize in a special car brand or car type. These may also be more on the premium side. You should always consider if the repair shop has experience working with your car model and/or make.
Car Make And Model
The car make and model dictate the labor cost per hour in most cases if the car is serviced at an authorized dealership.
For example, a more premium brand, such as Mercedes-Benz will cost more to repair than a Honda, even if the repair is the same. In this case, you are just paying an extra premium cost.
Your car make and model might affect the labor cost as well (not necessarily the hourly rate). This is because some car models have easier access to some parts, or it uses specific parts that are easier to replace.
For example, some cars use wheel bearings that are serviceable, while others do not. If they are serviceable, it means that the wheel bearing can be separated from the wheel hub assembly and replaced.
If it is not serviceable, the whole wheel hub assembly must be replaced as the wheel bearing cannot be separated. In this case, the work is less labor-intensive, but the part is more expensive.
How Is The Labor Rate Determined?
Most repair shops in the United States charge the client based on a flat fee estimate. The flat fee is taken from a database with flat-rate tables.
These flat-rate tables are usually specified by the manufacturer or by an aftermarket publisher, such as Chilton or Motors.
In these tables, the estimated time is given based on the car model and year. Shops then take the rate stated in this table and multiply it by their own hourly rate.
It is worth mentioning that the shop might charge you for a project according to the flat rate table, even though the work was completed in less than the time estimated by the same flat rate table.
This means that more experienced mechanics could complete a project in two hours, and charge three hours as per the flat rate table. Very lucrative, but legal.
As previously touched upon, the hourly rate does not all go to the mechanic servicing your car.
Therefore, the specific shop’s rent, mortgage, tools, location, experience, certifications. and more play a great role in determining the rate per hour.
On average, the labor rate per hour is between $75 and $130, where the dealerships tend to be on the higher interval.
Am I Getting Ripped Off?
You now know how and why the labor rate per hour differ, but you may wonder where you should take your car for servicing and repairs.
The answer is not very simple. In most cases, an authorized shop will provide you with the best service possible, but the price might not be justified.
Many shops, including retail shops that offer car services such as Walmart, offer cheap specific deals for your car.
Always be cautious for cheap deals as they might be quite expensive in the long run. For example, shops may offer an oil change for a good price but will try to upsell, saying that you need a new air filter, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and so on.
Also, they will tell you to come back after 3000 miles, which is a number that is not close to most of the oil change intervals. But for them, it becomes a new opportunity to sell more parts and services.
If you think that it sounds suspicious that something must be done to your car, you can always check for a second opinion.
Make sure to read about the parts that are supposed to be replaced and ask any questions to your mechanic if you have any. To stay on par with the work done on your car, make sure to check out our articles on car repair and costs.
The hourly labor rate per hour varies depending on multiple factors, including shop type, location, and expertise.
While it may seem that the hourly rate is expensive, the repair shop must take into account many expenses that come with running a repair shop. This includes rent, mortgage, wage, tools, and more.
One of the biggest factors that determine the labor cost is if the shop is independent or part of a dealership.
Dealership rates are higher, but you get mechanics that work on your car model almost every day. This does not mean that independent shops are bad or worse than dealerships, however, finding a good independent shop might be tough.
The labor costs between dealerships of the same car brand usually fluctuate much less than independent shops which can differ more than $50 per hour.
Independent shops tend to charge more if their location is more central, they possess multiple certifications and/or they specialize in one niche of car repairs and services.
Many people tend to service their car where they can find a great offer, such as at a Walmart Auto Care Center. While this does not mean it is bad, you should be careful to not get dragged into an unnecessary cost which they may suggest.
This may include a cheap oil change that then turn into a change of air filter, brake fluid, and more, even though it is not needed.
Car shops use a flat rate table to determine the cost for the job and then apply their hourly rate. The flat rate is suggested by the car manufacturers or an aftermarket publisher.
If you believe that an estimate of a repair is too high, you can check with other shops in your area, or check local forums to see if any shops offer a cheaper price.
The price may be an indication of the service you are getting, but that is not the whole truth. Shops that offer lower prices may do the job as well as the more premium shops.
If it turns out that you must do an extensive repair, or that you own an unusual car that some mechanics are not used to, it is generally better to take your car to an authorized repair shop.
The average labor rate per hour is $75 to $130. You can expect that the dealership rate is higher than in an independent repair shop.