Why Is Car Repair So Expensive?


Wow, why so much?

This is not an uncommon question when discussing auto repair. If you’ll give me a few minutes of your time I will explain some of the reasons that car repair has become so expensive. Let’s address these items first;  

  • Is that a fair charge?

  • Am I being overcharged?

Modern vehicles are considerably more advanced and complicated than the cars of just 10-15 years ago. Today’s technicians will often spend between 20-50 hours a year in training, often times on their time, not the shops time, and tens of thousands of dollars on their tools. It is not uncommon to see a technician invest upwards of $50 thousand on a set of tools. Consider them as car doctors! And with a shortage in well qualified technicians we need to take good care of them, both for the shop and the consumer.



What does this mean for you? The right tool for the job will greatly reduce the time needed to perform that specific operation, insure it is done properly and without damage. In short, “Time is money”.

Look at knowledge as a tool also. If you have the proper training and procedures for diagnosing and repairing a vehicle, the amount of time spent on that repair will be shorter (less expensive) and the likelihood of a misdiagnosis greatly reduced.

A quick note on scan tools. They come in several brands and range in cost from $2500 to the $12,000 dollar range. Most good shops will have several, including factory scan tools. These are different than the $99 code reader common at many parts stores. When combined with a well-educated and experienced technician accuracy increases and time decreases making for a more accurate and reasonable costing repair.

Another factor in cost is access to information. Proper information is required for an effective repair. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article about the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_Vehicle_Owners%27_Right_to_Repair_Act To be as short and simple as possible, without it we would all be at the mercy of the manufacture to repair our vehicles. Or we would be working by the reverse engineering method to find the information needed for repairs. In any case the manufactures are required to release the same information to independent repair facilities as they do to their dealerships. They are however allowed to choose how much to charge for this information.

All of these issues add to the cost of repairs, but now to the question “Am I being overcharged?” Not necessarily, read on.

We have all been taught to shop around and find the best price, right? Is this also the best way to proceed for auto repair? Let me offer two scenarios and you choose.

#1) You are driving around town and your car’s check engine light comes on, the car starts to run rough. After calling around town to find the shop with the cheapest shop rate and finding one with a competent sounding service advisor that even offers a free diagnosis and they can get you right in.

You decide to take your car to them. You soon get a call back; Great news they found the problem in just a few minutes and the repair is only going to cost 100 dollars. Super, right? Maybe.

You pick the car up and at first it seems to be doing fine, for a few days. Then the check engine light goes on again, the car runs really rough and the engine is making a not so good noise now. You take it back to the shop and are told that this is a new problem and not under any warranty.

After a quick look they decide that the problem this time is more severe and will require tear down and inspection to find what went wrong. You are eventually told that there is “another” problem in the same system as was repaired earlier that has now resulted in expensive engine damage causing more down time and more expense.

#2) Check engine light comes on. This time you choose a shop with a more “expensive” shop rate. They are sorry but are very busy and are scheduling out about one week. You go ahead with an appointment for next week.

When you speak with the service advisor he explains that yes there will be a diagnostic charge as the experienced technician with a professional level scan tool will be investing time to make an in depth diagnosis into the cause of the check engine light.

A few hours later you get a call back explaining that the code was for variable camshaft timing circuit and that the sensor had failed, he goes on to explain that the failure was caused by damaged wiring to the sensor and the cost of diagnosis and repair will be 300 dollars. You approve and the car is ready the next day. He also explains that his shops repairs are covered by a 2yr/24k mile warranty should any problems arise.

You drive off, the check engine light stays off and the car runs great!

Which repair was really the most expensive?


So “How do I avoid being ripped off?” you ask. There are several things you can do to find a competent repair facility.

  • How long have they been in business?

  • Are they certified – ASE or others?

  •  Look to reviews – How many and what is there overall ranking?

  • Go to the shop and meet them in person, get a “feel” for the shop.

  • What is their warranty policy, Is it nationwide or local only?

  • Once you choose a facility, build a relationship with them, They will likely be more responsive to you when you need them.

These are just a few of the reasons that auto repairs are so expensive. Here is another link to an article on repair expense that I found interesting reading. https://newrepublic.com/article/122820/infuriating-reason-car-repairs-are-so-expensive

I hope this helps to understand some of the challenges faced by shops and consumers in today’s market.

Here at London’s Automotive, Inc. we work at building relationships and supporting our customers before, during and after the sale. Give us a call or stop by and say hello. https://londonsauto.com/specials/

Written by London's Automotive