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Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Bellingham, WA
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Shop rates can vary, and so can how they apply it.
There are 2 ways time can be applied - book time and actual time.
Book time usually consists of a "decent" mechanic using hand tools to perform a job. This means for each car and specific work to be done/repaired, there is a time associated with how long it will take.
Actual time to complete consists of tracking how much time (and there's always padding/guessing) in terms of labor hours it took to complete the job.
Usually book time is WAY over actual time, but that isn't the case. Most shops/dealerships do use book time. When I worked at a shop we used book time.... especially when there were a lot of brake jobs, it wasn't uncommon for the shop to log 100 hours of work between 2 or 3 mechanics (we were open from 8am to 6pm).
I can tell you, a 94/95 V8 Camaro plug, wires, cap, and rotor book time is something like 8 hours and you're LUCKY if you get it done in that timeframe.
On the flip side, most mechanics will shy away from MR2's as they have a reputation for being difficult to work on due to tight working spaces. Fact of the matter is, pulling an engine in, for instance, a first gen MR2 is probably easier than 80% of the cars on the road.
My point is that sometimes seemingly easy or difficult work may not always be as easy/difficult as one would expect.
I never let anyone work on my cars. I would never pay anyone to work on my cars, but that's me. If I had to recommend a shop to someone - I would find one with a good/great reputation and charges by actual time, not book time.
The other secret is in the cost of parts. You can walk into Napa/Autozone/Oreillys (etc) and get spark plugs for say $20. The shop/dealership will charge you $30 for the parts. Their excuse is that in the event that the part fails, they have to buy them at their cost without reimbursement to uphold a warranty with their customers. In some ways that may be accurate, but not necessarily. Shops receive the same warranties that any other customer work (so if you buy a lifetime warranty waterpump, if a shop bought it and installed it, the parts store will actually get a replacement water pump to the shop for free). Yes, at that point the shop will most likely eat the labor cost. However, the little secret is that the shop isn't paying the same rate you are for the parts. In fact, many are paying easily 1/2 of what you pay when you walk into the parts store. (If you didn't know this.... notice that most parts stores, except napa, will have a separate desk/computer hidden a bit out of sight - that's for the commercial/vendor employees to use, and will usually have a separate phone numbers that shops will call to directly).
1) 1993 3X Locked FZJ80 Land Cruiser 2) 1988 beater AE95 Corolla Wagon/Carib 3) Frame-off "Rusto-Mod" FJ40/350/350