Before I dive into answering this question, I want to give you some perspective. Have you ever looked at your bill from the doctor’s office for a simple checkup? Your insurance picks up the bill, aside from the co-pay, so you likely don’t care what the bottom line cost is, but it’s a small fortune to the average person. Well your mechanic’s job is very similar when it comes to checking up, diagnosing, and/or repairing your vehicle. In fact, depending on who you talk to, a mechanics job could be more difficult. You pay for your doctor’s knowledge and experience. Similarly, you want someone who knows what they are doing under the hood of your car. A misstep can be more than just an inconvenience. It could cost you your life or someone else’s.
Whether you take your vehicle to a dealer or an independent repair shop, they all have over head. Shuttle service, waiting areas with coffee, television, cable, and free wifi to make your wait time more productive and comfortable all cost the shop owners money. Also, the more reputable the shop, the prices could be higher than their competitor. The phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ can’t be more true than with repair shops. These shops gain their reputation by employing technicians and service advisors that are experienced. These types of employees tend to cost more to keep them on the payroll and serving you the way you expect to be served. Just like every other business in the world, every cost is wrapped into the price of the product/service. Trust me, the grocery store has factored in the plastic bags that you carry your things out with into the cost of goods sold on the shelf. Nothing is free.
Even warranty work has a cost. Though a shop will likely get credit back for a faulty or defective part should you have a failure shortly after your vehicle was repaired, the labor is often absorbed by the shop owner or the technician. On top of that, the time the technician is redoing the job isn’t just labor dollars to pay the tech but also time away from doing work that is profitable. Lastly, that bay in the shop is not producing any revenue while it is being held up with a warranty job.
Even all the free checks that your shop performs for you have a cost. Consider the time that is involved to test drive your car, setting the lift, or removing the tires. Not to mention the time required to find the problem. To further the analogy of technician to physician, think about diagnosing vehicles versus diagnosing humans. Humans have 2 models, male and female, and there haven’t been any design changes or upgrades, ever. There are over 150 different makes of vehicles, each with about 10-15 different models, and every model year having different/newer features. Humans respond when you ask ‘does it hurt when I do this?’. Automobiles don’t respond quite the same. With all the advancements in technology, automotive technicians are required to constantly learn, buy new tools and equipment, and pay to update diagnostic computer software just to stay relevant in the field.
Despite all costs associated with running an automotive repair shop, most of them still offer these free inspections for your vehicle’s brakes, suspension, and simple noises. Some even offer free alignment checks, air conditioning checks, and check engine light scans. So, next time you take your car in for repairs, and they tell you it is going to take a little while or you think the cost for the repair is outrageous, think about your last doctors visit.