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Labor Rates-Long (Was:Re: brake and clutch pedal bushings)

Subject: Labor Rates-Long (Was:Re: brake and clutch pedal bushings)
Date: Sun, 2 May 1999 01:40:04 GMT
Lawrie, or others in the know,

Is there a "book time" for British Leyland repairs? If you do an honest
hour's work, exclusively on one customer's car, even at $100 an hour,
especially with your experience making things go quicker, you are being far
more fair than some garages I know of (and one car dealer I worked for).

Their practice was to have four or five cars in the shop with two or three
mechanics working. Customers who hadn't protected themselves by written
agreement beforehand were charged for the total time that their car was in
the bay (as long as the customer wasn't there). If five cars are in for
five hours, that's twenty-five hours labor at $50/hr, even if there were
only two guys working, making the real total labor time ten hours maximum
for all five vehicles. Why do you think so many places tell you "it's much
easier if you just drop it off and pick it up later"? There are a lot of
reasons for that claim, some of them honest and some of them not. Not to
mention all of the parts scams that can be run. (If someone doesn't even
know where the ECM is, and only needs a coil, why not charge them for the
labor and parts on both the coil and ECM?).

The one time I took my spitfire to a pro mechanic, it was at a shop with
many $50,000+ vehicles sitting outside. This was about 10 years ago. Their
labor rate was $70 an hour (probably equal to $100 an hour now), much
higher than most other places at the time. I figured I was in for a
soaking, but didn't have much choice, as I was a thousand miles from home,
didn't know how to fix it, and the couple of service stations I'd tried
weren't willing to work on the car. Now, maybe it was just because I looked
flat broke (almost was, in fact), or perhaps because I was polite, admitted
I was in trouble, and didn't *INSIST* on anything, but the mechanic there
worked for a solid hour, perhaps a bit longer, unhurriedly but steadily,
extracted a broken off bolt from the cylinder head and cut and installed a
new gasket for the water pump housing, and replaced my distributor cap,
which he noticed was faulty, with one from his scrounge box. I don't think
I was even charged for the cap, just for the labor, at an even $70 plus
tax. How much would your corner gas station, with lower per hour rates,
charge you for the same job? A lot more, I'm betting, if they were willing
or able to do it at all (I could do this job now, but didn't know the left
handed drill trick, or have a close quarters drill, back then. Neither did
I know that hardware was graded; my use of an ungraded replacement bolt in
an earlier attempt at a roadside fix had led to the broken bolt. Learned
all that on that day).

Anyway, I hate to be long winded (who am I kidding, I'm the longest winded
guy I know), and to share my past ignorance (when my present ignorance is
more than sufficient), but I thought I'd point out that labor rates aren't
always what they seem, and that the guy who charges high rates might be
charging a fair price for professional work well done, and be a far better
choice than the guy with the sign that claims "lowest rates in town!"

YMMV, FWIW, and all that other stuff,

78 B

>Thanks for the compliment. We keep the shop clean so that it's always
>somewhere nice to go in the morning!
>Most dealerships out here charge in the range of $60 to $70 an hour. Most
>specialty garages charge that or more. (One well-known MG specialist in the
>Los Angeles area was at $72 an hour a few years ago!). Maybe we're not good
>businessmen - we're certainly not particularly well off! - but Steve and I
>decided that customers' bills just get too big too quickly if we charge any
>more than $50 an hour. Hopefully, we'll be able to keep it around that level
>for a while.
>British Sportscar Center

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