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Old 12-30-2008, 10:20 AM   #1 (permalink)
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After seeing what "regular" people pay for repairs, glad I can fix my own car

I was reminded recently how freaking expensive cars are if you don't know how to diagnose & repair them yourself...

A friend of the family called me a couple of days ago because her car (2001 Pontiac Sunfire / Chevy Cavalier clone) wouldn't start. Would I come over with some jumper cables, she asked, "I think my battery is dead."

I got there and she mentioned that her lights had gone dim driving the car home the evening before, so right away I figure she's got a bad alternator AND a worn out 6-year old battery that probably needs replacing too. Plugging the ScanGauge in her car confirms the system voltage is already below 12.6 and falling while the car idles, after jumping it.

Figuring I'll save her the towing costs, I put a charger on the battery and say I'll be back later to follow her to her independent repair shop.

Turns out the towing would have been the least of her concerns!

She showed me the repair bill today. The total was just over $600 (Canadian pesos) for name brand parts: alternator ($250, lifetime warranty) and battery ($140, 3 years). $140 for labour, and taxes on top of everything.

I know there's nothing remarkable about this story. But I've been maintaining and repairing my own vehicles long enough that I was shocked at being reminded what it must cost the average person to own a car.

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Old 12-30-2008, 10:39 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I sure hope the alternator is made of pure gold at that price.
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Old 12-30-2008, 11:38 AM   #3 (permalink)
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NO not made of gold.
Economics 101
Retail Markup;
Alt cost - $125
Sell at - ..$250
Batt cost...$70
Sell at - ..$140
The garage marks the parts up so they can recover their operating expenses.
Admin, Electric, etc all the stuff thet you can't just call the customer and ask him to pay for.

And Yes,
I am glad I can fix my own stuff also.
In cases like that I will usually tell my freind, relative, or whoever,
Bring me parts and I will fix it for you.
I do a lot of work for free in my driveway and I charge when I get a referal.
"My freind said to call you " kind of thing.
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Old 12-30-2008, 11:47 AM   #4 (permalink)
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The beauty of the "lifetime warranty" alternator is that it only covers parts, not labor. (Typically the labor is covered for 3-12 months.) So even if they replace the alternator for "free", it'll cost her $140 again in labor.
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Old 12-30-2008, 12:27 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Yeah, same with lifetime brake pads, exhaust, etc. The parts don't cost all that much, but labor is always a nice chunk of the bill.
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Old 12-30-2008, 01:21 PM   #6 (permalink)
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In retrospect, if I'd known how much it was going to cost, I may have offered to do the work (though it's not really the time of year to be doing driveway car repairs, weather wise).

As for the prices, I think Schultz is on it - retail mark up. Even if she'd sourced the parts herself from an auto parts store, she could have saved a chunk of change.

The other beauty of that lifetime alternator warranty is the odds of it dying before the customer gets rid of the car (and the non-transferrable warranty) are tiny to begin with.
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Old 12-30-2008, 03:23 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I Just got back from,
"There's a funny noise under my hood, Roger said to call you"
The lady needed an idler pulley for the alt belt.
Funny part is, she just had the belt replaced and they could/should have sold her a pulley then.

Short trip to the store,
Buy pulley for $19
back to Minivan,
Install pulley and re-adjust belt tension, (yes it is an old van)
Voila!!
I asked for $75
2 hours of my time plus part,
She gave me $100.
Said that was half what the belt and oil change cost her.
And now the noise, she originally went in for, is gone.

Informed consumers should be wary of lifetime parts,
They (the shop) are banking on the fact that you will be rid of the car before you need another one.
When I owned my shop I would cover lifetime parts if the new owner was willing to pay for labor.
A shop can always talk their primary supplier into replacing a part under warranty. "Customer Satisfaction" dontcha know
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Old 12-30-2008, 03:42 PM   #8 (permalink)
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WOW! $140 For a Batt, $250 for an Alt. I'm also glad I can do my own repairs. Go to walmart for the batt $50, Car parts store for alt $100 (or less) + 2Hours work(mostly looking for my lost tools) =Done.
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Old 12-30-2008, 04:10 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I bet the alternator could have been fixed with a $15 pair of brushes, or a complete rebuild for less then $100.
took the work truck to the parts store the other day to get a new battery the old battery was still under warenty but almost 3 years old, they put it on their load tester and gave me a new battery that would have otherwise cost $160.
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Old 12-30-2008, 08:45 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by metroschultz View Post
NO not made of gold.
Economics 101
Retail Markup;
Alt cost - $125
Sell at - ..$250
Batt cost...$70
Sell at - ..$140
The garage marks the parts up so they can recover their operating expenses.
Admin, Electric, etc all the stuff thet you can't just call the customer and ask him to pay for.
Or just because they don't want to do anything unless they're making obscene cash on it. For example I wanted a seal kit for my diesel IP. I call up a big diesel shop ~60 miles away and they say they won't sell me the kit but will reseal it for ~$600. I call a local diesel shop and ask if they have it. The owner tells me to call the shop I called originally, so I tell him I already did, then he says he'll call 'em to get a price. He calls me back and says it would be ~$60.

I was shocked because I know this is a ~$5/kit in terms of manufacturing. I figure Bosch makes a few bucks selling 'em to distributors and they make a few more bucks selling 'em to anyone, but $60!!?? I'm guessing the larger diesel shop wanted ~$20-30 for the privilege of selling/mailing the kit to the local shop, and the local shop wanted another ~$20-30 for the privilege of selling it to my ass after I drive down there to buy it, w/ the possibility of a extra $5-10 markup from the distributor. Anyway, long story short, I poke around and find out about a big diesel shop in OK that sold me two seal kits and two main seals (separate item) for $20 less shipped to my door in two days, and they still probably made a good ~$10 bucks for maybe 15 minutes of very low impact work. $40/hour is still pricey for poking around selling people parts, but it ain't obscene.

The local crooks can keep their inflated margins and $100-200+/hour crap labor rates thank ya very much!

P.S. I get my batteries from the j-yards for ~$10-20 and they're at most a year old. I figure it's worth paying 1/5th the cost for 9/10ths of the battery. And they even offer a thirty day exchange policy if it's bum. On half price days I can get three big truck batteries that are ~6 months old for the same price as the smallest new battery wal-mart offers.


Last edited by roflwaffle; 12-30-2008 at 08:51 PM..
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