How to make a good car repair estimate is one more skill that’s useful to know in the drivers and car owner’s world.
When the car breaks down, everybody would like a sneak preview on how much the car repair is going to cost.
What you’ll read in this article will, I hope, help you get that preview and have better knowledge of what awaits you ahead for a car repair.
Formula for a good car repair estimate
Diagnostics price (optional) + spare parts price + price of labor + warranty price (optional)= car repair estimate.
The diagnostics and warranty are optional as they should be included in the price if a dealer or mechanic will do the repair.
If you’re going to DIY the job and have the diagnostics and repair tools, the only expense will be for the spare parts. Of course, no warranty here.
What are the main factors for making a good car repair estimate?
- Making a quality diagnostic of the malfunction
- Price of spare parts
- Price of labor
- Choice of workshop or mechanic
- Guarantee’s for the work done
Making a quality diagnostic of the malfunction
Once the malfunction or breakdown appears, the first thing to do is a quality diagnostic.
This is first and most important in making a good car repair estimate.
Two ways of doing this: visit a mechanic or do it on your own.
Visiting a mechanic, garage, dealer
This is easier but a bit trickier.
Let’s face it: how many mechanics will diagnose the malfunction and then let you out? Few.
And if they do, they will probably charge you, which is not to blame since they’ll have to justify the working hours, using the workshop and tools etc.
Some diagnostics, in order to do it properly, take a long time and need some serious work.
Once it’s done, the mechanic and workshop, will naturally expect from you to do the repair at their company.
This is sort of a mouse-trap.
My recommendation for this part: do this on a friendly basis (friend mechanic or your regular mechanic who will do this for free (or for a small amount of money).
The point is to save your freedom of choice and gain the knowledge you need.
Making a diagnostic on your own
Depending on the type of malfunction (mechanical, electrical, electronic, etc), first take a peak under the hood (bonnet).
Check out any irregularities that you might notice (for instance leaks, squeaks, strange noises, check the fuse box etc).
Do all of those simple procedures that are both safe and can give a quality insight.
One of the best things would be to have an: OBD reader, multi meter, tester etc. These tools are your eyes for finding out the fault.
Especially the OBD readers since all cars today are dependent on it for a diagnostic.
For instance, finding out the fault code of the malfunction or finding from where that weird noise is coming from can give you a good head start.
After all, similar methods are used by professional mechanics.
If you can, buy the diagnostic tools. It’s not that expensive and is a good onetime investment that will probably pay off at the first malfunction that happens.
Also, owning an OBD reader means that you can reset the faults (like the check engine light).
Whatever you decide, just do it right. Making a bad diagnostic can lead you on a wild goose chase that almost always ends up in losing money, time and nerves.
Without quality diagnostics there is no good car repair estimate.
2.Spare parts price and what you’ll need for the repair
Once the diagnostics part is over and you’ve found out what the problem is the next step is the price of parts and what you’ll have to buy.
Things you should know about this topic:
car parts come in two classes: originals and so-called replacement parts.
Originals are what the manufacturer recommended and are mounted in production. These usually have a higher price and quality standards.
Replacement parts come in three ranges:
- Low range-you’ll notice by the low price tag: mostly crap and unsafe to put on the car
- Mid range-in most cases, for the money paid, give a decent amount of quality and safety
- High range-next to original parts; these are recommended by the manufacturer. Also a recommendation if it’s OK with your budget.
Don’t be lazy, take a good look around the internet and car parts shops.
Believe me, there can be big variations for the same parts in the same quality.
Have also in mind that brand names don’t always mean quality nor do less known names mean that you’re buying garbage.
See what fits you best, just don’t compromise on driving safety.
Remember that all car parts have an important role (especially engine, breaks, undercarriage) and saving on these means putting yourself and your passengers in danger.
If you’re running on a budget or drive a used car, the mid range will do best.
Price of labor
So, know that you have the spare parts, it’s time to find out what the actual work will cost.
If you’re going to DIY the job, then of course the price is zero (maybe a beer and a burger).
However, if you’ve decided to visit a mechanic you’ll have to do some research.
Best done over the phone or in person; also over the internet if the dealer or workshop has that kind of service.
This part is where the good diagnostics comes in very handy.
Instead of asking them about a strange noise or glitch you might have, you can ask directly for a price for that specific repair.
When you don’t know what the malfunction is, you’re open to the “mouse-trap” situation again. If you know what I mean.
Anyway, after collecting the data, make a decision that will fit you and your budget best.
Choice of workshop or mechanic
Have in mind, that when making a good car repair estimate, the factor of WHERE you go plays a major role.
Licensed dealers tend to charge a higher amount for the same job done.
This probably has it’s good reasons but for most jobs a “regular “mechanic will do the same job with the same quality for a less sum of money.
Again, as with car parts, don’t compromise money over safety.
If you have a good and trustworthy mechanic, all the better.
If you don’t and you’re facing shady and unprofessional solutions, rather go to a licensed dealer.
At least you’ll have a warranty and know what’s been done.
Warranties for the work done
Speaking of warranties.
A warranty is essentially a voucher for the work done and gives you insurance for a prolonged period of time.
Although every dealer or mechanic is pretty much obligated to give a free warranty (for safety and legal reasons), there are situations when it’s additionally charged.
When it is, this should mean big benefits like extended warranty period, high quality work and parts etc.
This is why a warranty is a big factor in a good car repair estimate.
“Stronger” warranties usually mean more money spent thus changing your estimate.
Wandering a bit of topic,all that I can say is that a good and valid warranty is priceless, especially for more complicated and expensive repairs (like engine rebuilds or replacement of the dual mass flywheel).
Have this in mind:whoever does the car repair and gives a warranty will have to stand behind it for a prolonged period of time or otherwise suffer the consequences.
Trust me, no one wants to fool around with their image or reputation. At least no one serious.
This on its own should mean better quality of repair meaning more time without breakdowns meaning money saved.
So just weigh it out: if the warranty is more expensive will it pay out through a prolonged period without breakdowns or problems?
When you make that phone call or visit, ask about all of these. Will you get a warranty, under what circumstances, for what period of time and is there an additional cost?
This is where, perhaps licensed dealers have an advantage over smaller garages.
Also know that many car parts stores don’t give warranties if they’re not installed by dealers or mechanics that they recommend or approve.
If you DIY the repair, you can probably forget about the warranty on anything, altogether.