If you live in America, then you probably drive. And if you drive, then you’ll have to get your vehicle repaired at some point. Hopefully you have car insurance!
But, even if you don’t, you know that every mechanic is going to treat you fairly and bend over backwards to fix your vehicle for the lowest possible price. Right?
Okay, maybe that’s not the way you see it. And you may be right.
Here’s another fact: car repairs in one part of the country may cost more than in other areas. CarMD.com is reporting that the average car repair can vary from $265 (in the District of Columbia) to $420 (in Arizona). Is there a good reason for that? Or are Americans just getting hosed? Let’s examine the report a little more closely.
First, the study focused on the monetary amounts of the average repair (not the actual mechanical problems being repaired), so there’s no apples-to-apples comparison data to scrutinize (like, say, the cost of a brake job in New Orleans compared to New York).
Plus, the study is limited to the repairs which resulted from the “Check Engine” light appearing on a car’s dashboard, and many drivers simply ignore this notification.
When you look at the costliest car repair states (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, and Nevada), you notice that they are all in the southwest U.S. This region generally has higher numbers of miles driven, because people rely less on mass transit. Also, the dry, warm climates in parts of these states can take a toll on vehicle engines and jack up labor costs.
On the other end of the spectrum, six of the ten least costly auto repair states are located in the Midwest. This region is home to many mechanics who earn lower hourly wages than their counterparts on either coast. But why D.C.? CarMD.com notes that a significant number of repairs there were either extremely simple or required little or no out-of-pocket expenses (perhaps because of warranties or auto insurance).
The bottom line? You shouldn’t necessarily assume that you’re getting screwed at the repair shop simply because your brother in the next time zone paid less for the same repair to his car. To ensure that you are getting a fair price, consider obtaining more than one estimate for the specific repair job you need. Or seek out someone you know in your area who has undergone a similar vehicle repair recently.
Everybody has their own opinions about auto mechanics and their scruples (or lack thereof), but varying prices at the repair shop may have more to do with geography and less with unscrupulous business practices.