Auto Repair Costs: Typical? Lemon? Ripoff?

My car is currently in the shop getting about $1000 worth of repair done. The mechanic asked if I wanted to replace the water pump and timing belt while they were down there with the wrench, which sent me digging through files to see if it had been done. (It had, 4 years/20,000 miles ago.)

While I was at it, I added up all repair and maintenance costs since I bought the car six years ago. Including the charge for the current work being done, it comes to about seven thousand dollars. It’s a 1998 Chrysler Sebring convertible that had 80 thousand miles on it when I bought it (paid $8K to a private seller) in August 2002. Current mileage is 130,000.

So is this typical? It’s the first “nice” care I’ve owned. I knew when I bought it that it would not be a cheap car to work on, although some things were WAY more than I expected (I’ve never replaced the headlights, even though they’re pretty fogged from water intrusion, because of the ridiculous price, which I don’t remember offhand). The costs noted above are strictly mechanical-related repair and maintenance and do not include body work. Is there a formula for projected routine M&R? Or do I have some secret mechanics’ “Here’s a live one” symbol secreted on the car somewhere?

I don’t know your car specifically, but for mine (Civic), the timing belt only needed to be done every 100K miles. 20K seems quick to have that done again.

I’d give them the benefit of the doubt on the water pump and timing belt. The mechanic probably had no idea that you’d replaced those parts 20,000 miles ago, and as **gigi **said, they probably have a 100,000 mile life expectancy. In this case, they thought they’d offer you the favor of saving a bunch of labor since the parts were already exposed, and were well overdue for replacement before failing, if they had been the car’s original parts.

The trick is knowing what’s bill-padding, and what’s genuinely good advice. A lot of cars are built now with key parts cunningly hidden by other parts. A really common scenario is timing belts and water pumps. If you need to replace the timing belt, for example, you’ve already done 90% of the labor needed to get at the pump. Likewise, if the main task is to replace the water pump, the timing belt is in the way and needs to come out. Do you put the old belt back in, or do you replace it, taking advantage of the “free” labor?

I’ve owned a 2000 Chrysler Sebring Convertible for about two years, from 69,000 to (if my memory serves me right) about 115,000 when it was totaled in an accident.

Things that failed seemingly on their own: Front CV joint/bearings started clicking (IIRC, about $800 parts and labor for new bearings, CV axle and some other things)

Things failed due to unexplained mechanical damage: The nipple on the fuel pump where the line connects developed a crack because the hose was not run correctly and the weight of the fuel line was on the plastic part not designed to hold it. Nobody knows how it happened. (IIRC, $350 parts and labor for a new fuel pump)

Things that failed due to going over an unforseen speed bump at 30MPH: Cracked the transmission pan (new pan and gasket, about $400 parts and labor)
Everything else was just oil changes, tires and brake pads. I was planning to replace the timing belt but the car was totaled and I never got around to it.

Make sure you’re not going to a Chrysler dealership. My driver side visor was missing when I got the car, so I went to the local dealership and they quoted me $300 parts and labor to replace the visor. That was $200 parts and $100 labor. I corrected myself saying that I wanted the regular visor, without the garage door opener option. They informed that this WAS for the regular visor. The garage door opener option was more. I walked out of there, got a used visor for about $25 on eBay, and screwed it in myself in about 10 minutes.

What exactly is being done for $1000? Does that include the timing belt and water pump? (I don’t see where you said whether or not you told them to proceed with those items.) 20,000 miles is way under their normal life expectancy, so knowing their age I would not have advised replacing them.

Not necessarily relevant, but I find it interesting that you put 30,000 miles on it in the first two years you had it, and 20,000 miles on it in the following four years.

Seven grand is noticeably higher than average for the time/mileage interval in question, but then again it’s a Sebring convertible. Not the most reliable vehicle made. You’re lucky if the engine hasn’t needed replacing. Change the oil religiously and ahead of schedule.