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

To: <>, <>
Subject: Re: Labor Rates-Long (Was:Re: brake and clutch pedal bushings)
From: "Lawrie Alexander" <>
Date: Sat, 1 May 1999 19:11:16 -0700

There used to be a book published with flat rate charges for repairs on BMC
and BL vehicles. I have a copy and occasionally refer to it - usually when I
feel in need of a chuckle. A job which might have taken four hours when the
cars were new seldom can be done that quickly now. The passing years have
led to bolts rusting, OEM parts being replaced with aftermarket ones that
aren't exactly right, accident damage being improperly repaired that makes
accessing other parts much more difficult, etc.

Most shops that do the kind of work we do charge strictly Time and
Materials. We give estimates based on how long we anticipate the job should
take and what parts are typically needed, but the eventual invoice usually
reflects the time actually spent and the actual parts used. Although, having
said that, any one of my customers might comment favorably on the fact that
very few of my invoices ever show more than five hours in a day's work - not
because we didn't work longer than five hours but because we feel bad about
charging (for example) nine hours to remove the cylinder head from a TR7.
This actually happened this week - the studs had corroded into the alloy
head so badly we had to resort to a Sawzall to cut through the studs,
between the head and the block, in order to get the head off. Sure, it
wasn't our problem, but it's hard to explain to a customer that we
professionals took more than twice the estimated time to do a job, when - as
you say - we are the ones with the experience and we're supposed to know all
the short cuts.

As to overcharging, I can't speak for other businesses but I do know that,
after all these years of being in the trade, I can still look the guy in the
mirror straight in the eye when I shave and not have any doubts that I'm
dealing with an honest man.

-----Original Message-----
From: <>
To: <>
Date: Saturday, May 01, 1999 6:41 PM
Subject: Labor Rates-Long (Was:Re: brake and clutch pedal bushings)

>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
>>Los Angeles area was at $72 an hour a few years ago!). Maybe we're not
>>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
>>more than $50 an hour. Hopefully, we'll be able to keep it around that
>>for a while.
>>British Sportscar Center

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