Car repair cost

Since I blew my hyraulic clutch in my 97’ Accord I had it hauled to the dealer.
Before I had them fix it I tried to calculate what it might cost to fix.
They said it needed a new clutch master and slave cylinder and it was about a 2.5 hour job.
I looked up “genuine honda parts” on line to find the list price of these parts. Master cylinder $80, slave $50. Yahoo auto also states typical auto repair labor rates to be $25 - $50 /hr.
So, even if I double the price for parts to $260 (dealer 100% markup) and give them $50/hr for 3 hours, I come to $410 max?

So why are they telling me it will run $510? They even told me they just need to replace the cylinders and the clutch is fine.
Is there going to be a lot of other miscellaneous parts when I get a look at this bill?

Yahoo is wrong. AFAIK, standard mechanic’s rates are $60-$90 an hour. It can be more for more specialized brands. I’m also finding list part prices for OEM parts running around $120 for the master, $70 for the slave. It doesn’t seem to me that $510 is excessive, but I’m not a mechanic.

I hesitate to ask, but do you have any amoutn of reasonable mechnical aptitude? A clutch master and slave cylinder replacement is, while messy, not that difficult. A couple of bolts per unit, and the connector on the hydraulic line, is really the only thing that needs to be screwed/unscrewed.

although it is not an Accord forum, there are many Honda certified mechanics that read and post to the CRV forum on

Create a login and post a question with an appropriate title (Like “Advice needed form Honda Mechanics”) and you should get an “inside” answer.

Repair rates of 25-50/hr.? Twenty years ago, maybe. Today that’s laughably low. In a major metropolitan area*, I would expect dealership rates to be in the 75-100 range.

My estimator program shows Honda list prices of about 120 for the master and 70 for the slave. Sometimes the figures I get are low or misprints, but those sound about right to me. Some dealers do sell at higher than the manufacturer’s list price, typically 10% more. The figures you got sound too low.

Even so, the price you quoted sounds about $100 high to me. I’d be inclined to ask for an itemized breakdown of the costs.

*Probably significantly higher in New York City or in California.

If they quoted you high, they may adjust down if necessary. I have an Element and take it to the dealer for care and feeding. They will usually tell me that the sevice I am likely to need will cost X. Then when I actually come back to get the car and pay, they charge me <X. Usually the explaination is something like “Oh we checked your something and it will be fine for another 10,000 miles, so we left the old one there” $500 sounds like a reasonable price to me.

I just payed over $700 to replace the CV joint boots on my VW. The dealer said it was a major job. It took them less then 2 hours. The parts cost about $100, making their rate over $300 per hour. :frowning:

I’m sure what we have here is the typical confusion between “hour” - a unit of time, 60 minutes on a clock - and “hour” - industry shorthand for “flat-rate hour,” which is a unit of work, not of time. Virtually all car repair is billed in flat-rate hours, with the actual time involved being essentially irrelevant.

This bears repeating, as it’s a major source of confusion for people, and a major way that mechanics make money. If the book says that a CV replacement takes four hours of labor, but it only takes an expert and fast mechanic two hours of clock time to do the work, then the mechanic have just made two hours of profit for himself and his employer. The mechanic shouldn’t be penalized because the customer sees that he did it in only two hours because he’s a better mechanic than the guy that just got hired, who would take four hours to do the job.

Fixing cars is just like any other specialized skill: The more you do it, the better, and faster, you get at it. If it’s any consolation, the fact that your VW got fixed in only two hours should make you feel better, because an experienced mechanic, and not Joe Newbie, did the work. :slight_smile:

Now this bears repeating. A guy who just got hired might take 6 hours to do the job. The customer is only on the hook for what the job should take the average mechanic. So if the technician working on the car is of above average skill, or has purchased special tools that make the job go faster he makes additional money for his extra skill and tools.

I forgot to add 14 years ago when I left the shop to start teaching our labor rate was $64/hr. Today in class my techs have driveway rates running from $115-$150 (California SF bay area)
$25/hr? Snerek.


My understanding from mechanics on this board, among others, is that most every competent mechanic can meet or beat–sometimes significantly–the book rate. Those who can’t are washed out fast. Unusually complex diagnostics and installation complications can certainly eat into profit margins were an actual-hours-worked system in play, but over the course of many cars and many years, wouldn’t these variables represent a small fraction of the overall volume?

My impression is that the industry uses these standardized book rates to reduce fraud among the few dishonest shops and to reduce customer outrage when things don’t go like clock work.

My guess is the real hourly rate a competent garage charges can run $150 - $250 per hour per mechanic, subject to much variability and many footnotes. I also think they stick to the book rates for fear that if actual earned hourly rates were displayed in the front office, there would be an uproar from your garden-variety college-educated office worker who can only see the fact that he’s nailing down just $15 to $25 per hour. :wink:

This isn’t as cut and dried as you may think. Nowadays with fully networked cars that have maybe 24 different computers talking on a high speed data network, it can take hours and hours for even the most highly trained technician to chase down a problem.
If you want to discuss what an effective labor rate really is for a shop you have to look at productivity and efficiency. Productivity is a technician is scheduled for 8 hours. How much of that time is spent actually working on a car? Technicians not only punch in and out at work (8 hours per day) but they also punch on and off of jobs. Efficiency is of the time spent working on a car (verified via time punches) versus how many labor hours were generated.
So let’s look at some numbers. Technician A is on the time clock for 8 hours. He is punched on and working on cars for 6 hours. He produces 8 hours work during this time. He is only 75% productive and 133% efficient. Compare that to a guy that is 90% productive and is 120% efficient. Which technician makes more money for the dealer?
As far as beating the time goes, our factory manuals are set so that a really good guy can do about 120% efficiency. If we do a warranty audit one of the measures that is used to detect fraud looking at efficiency. If a technician is hyper efficient (say 200%) we know that he is cutting corners or flat lying. Of course any one technician can be super efficient on one job, all of these numbers are looking at a reasonable slice of time such as a week or a month.
As far as your comment that mechanics on this board have told you that “My understanding from mechanics on this board, among others, is that most every competent mechanic can meet or beat–sometimes significantly–the book rate” I’m not sure just where you got that. I’ve never said it, and I don’t think Gary T has said it. We are probably the two most vocal automotive technical people on this board.
Anyway I can name many technicians that specialize in troubleshooting problem cars who never even approach 100% efficiency. These guys are the absolute top of their trade, guys that can fix pretty much anything but a rainy day. It is just that cars have gotten so complex that they are damn tough to repair.
Just to make sure I wasn’t talking out my ass here, I just spoke with a shop foreman at one of my dealers. His shop has 8 guys and runs at about 120% efficiency. The problem is that his personal efficiency is not included in that 120% number. At times his personal efficiency runs down to maybe 10% as he is assisting other technicians and fixing problem cars. So eight guys working a 40 hour week is 320 hours. At 120% they generated 384 labor hours. But since there is a 9th guy that is being paid, there was actually 360 hours of technician’s time, and still only 384 hours flagged. The shop overall is 106% efficient.
Now don’t forget my point from the last post. If a job takes a technician longer than the allotted time, the customer does not have to pay extra. If the shop were straight hourly, the dumbest, slowest guy there would cost the customer way more money that the fastest sharpest guy there. Hell for that matter, a guy could punch on a job and go to Starbucks on the customer’s dime. There is zero incentive for a technician to bust his ass.
A real life example. My daughter’s car needed a new heater fan motor a month or so back. I have done hundreds of these motors when I was a technician. This was one of the jobs I was hyper efficient on. The job paid 3 hours and I used to knock them out in under 90 minutes like clockwork. It has been about 14 years since I have done one, so I guessed that this job was going to take me maybe 2 hours. I wish. Every possible thing that could go wrong did. I wound up spending 6 hours changing that motor. Now if I had been working on your car, that additional time that I spent would not have cost you anything under a flat rate estimating system. If on the other hand, I charged you hourly you would have come back to a bill that was twice as high as you had been told.

Getting back to your other points, the main reason for book rates is so that estimates can be accurately written. Here in California a written estimate must be given to a customer before any work is started. Just how do you write an estimate if you don’t know what the labor charge is going to be?
Would an office drone object if they saw what we charge? They already do object, and they can see what our rates are (If you are a smog station in California you must post your labor rates for smog repairs on an approved sign). But let’s see to be an office drone I need a clean shirt and a $0.99 pen. On the other hand I have slightly over $80,000 dollars in hand tools in my box. Yes you read that right. $80,000 freakin dollars. Hell, a new tool box can run upwards to $15,000 all by itself. Could I have gotten by with less? Sure if I did not mind being less efficient. It is a case of I can do the job at 100% efficiency without this tool, or if I buy this tool I will be 150% efficient. So do I buy the tool? Probably if I can expect to do the job more than a couple of times.

Actually you have this backward. If you charge for the hours worked, you will always be 100% efficient. So if a job goes upside down and sideway you are still 100% efficient. In a flat rate book system, your efficiency would go in the toilet when a job goes sideways. Complex diagnostic problem are unfortuntaly becoming a larger and larger part of the work load. The problem is not that the cars are less reliable, the problem is that they are more reliable.
When I started in the business the average car got an oil change every 2,500 miles. Not that interval is 7,500 miles for the cars I teach on. This number will probably go up soon. Timing belts used to last 45,000 miles now they last between 120,000 and 150,000 miles. Fuel filters used to be replaced every 30,000 miles. We have one model car where the fuel filter is expected to last the lifetime of the car.
So as cars need less and less routine servicing (the stuff that is really profitable), the problem children start to represent a larger and larger portion of the mix.
And hey if that college graduate worker wants to make some money, we are always looking for good people. Be forewarned that the job is physically demanding, mentally demanding, takes many years to learn to do at a top level, and can be greasy to boot. You can expect to spend upward to three years and $40,000 dollars to learn the craft, and then your real training starts in the shop. It may take you 5-10 years to reach a top tier in earnings. But when you do, you can expect to make a pretty decent wage. I have a few technicians that make in excess of 125,000 per year. But I would expect that they would be at or near the top of their field, no matter what their field was, they are just that sharp.