What's a normal hourly rate at a (non-dealer) car repair shop?

The A/C & heater fan on my car (2005 Mazda3, 80k miles) has gone wonky. It has been noisy on the low settings (1 & 2) for over a year, then a few weeks ago switching it on (any speed) would, once in a while, not do anything. Tuesday it started to cause my radio (on FM) to get static when it was on; then, later that day, it quit. On Wednesday it started working again, but the static is still there. Since it’s wintry this week and I need a defogger and heater, I took it in on Thursday to a repair shop.

They ruled out everything but a problem with the blower motor (as I expected). The problem is that they claim that the motor is located so far behind the dashboard on my model, it will take 4 hours of labor just to get to the thing!

They also charge $92/hour, so we are looking at nearly $400 without parts.

Does that sound reasonable, or would I be better off going to a dealer who might or might not have a higher hourly rate, but who would have more familiarity with the car model?

I’m in the Cincinnati area, if that helps.

FWIW my dad just had his fan fixed this week. Required a fan and a harness, and they had to go in behind the dash (2002 Taurus). It cost under $200, I think they charged $40 for labor.

My husband works as a mechanic at a chain that rhymes with Schlep Toys. They charge the customer $89/hr. He sees between $7-$10 of that. You might get a better rate at an independent hole-in-the-wall kind of place, and the mechanic might get a better wage. Might.

in my area dealers are usually $95-$105/hr, indies can be between $80-100 depending on size.

There is a reasonable chance that the labor component of the dealer’s price would be less, as the dealer may be obliged to use “warranty time” (i.e., charge fewer hours). However, the parts component may be higher at the dealer as they would almost certainly only use a new factory blower, whereas an independent shop will often get a much more attractively priced rebuilt one from the aftermarket. The only way you’ll really know is to get a price quote from a dealer.

Both the garages I go to charge $40-50/hour labor too.