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Auto repair costs are on pretty much every car owner’s mind. Although most drivers want to ensure their cars are getting quality service and running to the best of their capacity, most visits to auto repair shops end in a simple question: “So how much is this going to cost me?” But if you’re not familiar with the repairs being performed — which for most drivers covers just about anything beyond a speedy oil change — how can you know if the auto repair prices you’ve been quoted are fair?

  1. Ask About the Breakdown of Parts and Labor

    At each auto shop you visit, be sure that the total auto repair prices are broken down into at least two components: parts and labor. You can do some research to ensure that the price you’re being quoted for parts is the same or lower than what you’d get if you bought the part yourself (sometimes a shop will get a better price on parts than you could, since they buy some things in bulk). Some dealerships will add on a few largely bogus fees such as “shop supplies” — make sure you ask extremely specifically about these charges, as otherwise you might end up paying $20 for a few shop towels.

  2. Think About the True Cost of Qualified Labor

    Auto technicians are generally divided into A, B or C-level techs, with the higher grades having more extensive education. Of course, more qualified technicians can expect to be paid more for their hourly labor. Furthermore, understand that the labor estimate you see isn’t necessarily the amount your individual technician is getting paid per hour. Shops have overhead, including rent or a mortgage, expensive equipment, ongoing training and many other things. If these costs aren’t included directly in your bill, they may have been rolled into a more general “labor” estimate.

  3. Check Online Estimators — Carefully

    Quite a few online venues offer auto repair estimates that can help you figure out a basic or average price for the kind of repair you’re facing. There are two things you need to keep in mind: first, that you may or may not have the knowledge to fill out the fields accurately (which could skew the results in either direction); and second, that auto repair prices vary quite a bit depending on region, so national averages are essentially useless. So while some online estimates can be helpful, especially if they take your zip code into account, you need to take these results with a grain of salt.

Do you have any other recommendations on assessing auto repair quotes? Join the discussion in the comments.

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