Unlocking Car Repair Charges

It's ALWAYS best to inquiry about prices before you arrange to have any work performed. Some auto repair shops charge a flat rate for just labor (plus parts) on the repairs. This going rate is usually based on an independent or manufacturer's estimate of the time required to complete the car repairs.

Others may charge on the basis of the actual time the mechanic worked on the vehicle repairs. If your vehicle requires expensive or even complicated repairs, or if you have questions about recommended work, it's always a good idea to consider getting a second opinion. You also need to find out if there will be a diagnostic charge if you decide to have the work performed elsewhere. Auto 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.

Repair shops charge for diagnostic time

If you decide to get the work done ALWAYS ask for a written estimate. What should a written estimate include?

It MUST clearly identify the condition to be repaired, the parts needed, and the anticipated labor charges. Again, always make sure that you get a signed copy.

The quotation should state that the auto shop will contact you for approval before they do actually do any work (exceeding a specified amount) which includes time and labor. Also, this may be a legal requirement of State law. What should I know about my vehicle parts to be repaired or replaced?

Parts are classified as:


These parts generally are made to original manufacturer's specifications, either by the vehicle manufacturer or an independent company. Your state may require auto repair shops to tell you if non-original equipment will be used in the repair. Remember that 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.


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 You Need After The Work Is Done

Ask for a completed repair order describing ALL the work done on your vehicle. 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. Also ask for all replaced parts. Again state law may require this. You can find other helpful advice on what causes a car engine to backfire.