According to an Insurance Information Institute, the average vehicle repair bill is upwards of $900. With so much money on the line, you want to make sure that you understand the estimate written by the auto repair shop before you authorize them to complete the work. Here’s a look at what you should be aware of when reading the estimate.
Look at the Customer Vehicle Information
This is usually found toward the top of the page and contains your name, address, current mileage, license plate and Vehicle Identification Number (also called a VIN.) While many times you provide the repair shop with the information, you should always make sure it is correct. For example, if the mileage is incorrect, the shop may miss recommended services such as oil changes, tire rotation and fluid level checks.
Read the Suggested Parts for the Job
Generally, there are three types of parts. Original Equipment Manufacturer (also called OEM), after-market and used. Manufacturer parts are usually the most expensive, followed by after-market and then used. Dealerships usually only use OEM parts which is one of the reasons their repairs tend to be more expensive. Additionally, you should watch out for using used parts for a couple of reasons. One, the part has been used and has worn. Second, those parts usually do not come with a warranty. Using after-market parts from a reputable retailer saves you money while usually still providing a warranty.
Read the Suggested Labor for the Job
This is usually broken down by the number of hours it will take to complete the job. For example, if having your brake pads replaced, you’ll notice the cost for the brake pads under “Parts” and maybe one to three hours under the “Labor” portion of the estimate. The variance is due to the complexity of different brake systems and whether the vehicle needs more brake work such as fixing the rotors. Shops should clearly post their hourly rates for all customers, so you know you’re getting a fair price in comparison with other customers. Hourly rates range from about $80 to $100.
Determine if the Job is Imperative or Optional
On the estimate for your car repair, the auto shop will detail if they feel you definitely need the repair or if it is merely optional. For example, if your tires are almost tread-bare, they might state that you need new tires. However, if your windshield wipers have not been changed in a year, they might suggest you replace them, but if they are not giving you problems, then it is not something that it is imperative. This is where it is important to trust your mechanic, as a solid mechanic will be square with you as to what you absolutely need versus what is optional.
The final piece of the estimate is the additional charges levied by federal and state statutes. For example, if you have an oil change, the state might charge a disposal fee. Additionally, you’ll have to pay sales tax on parts and labor. These charges are added after the “Sub-total” to create the “Total” for the estimate. You must sign the estimate for the shop to perform the work. You are allowed to waive any and all services if you do not feel you need them. Finally, if the repair shop discovers some other repair needed, they must contact you to discuss new charges to your estimate before proceeding.
- Check the customer vehicle information section to make sure it is correct.
- Read the suggested parts needed for the repair.
- Read the suggested labor for the repair.
- Determine whether each suggested repair is imperative or optional.
- Look at the taxes and associated fees that complete the estimate.