Top 5 Overcharged Repair Jobs

By Zach Bowman, DriverSide Contributing Editor  
For the most part, mechanics are willing to work with you to get your vehicle back on the road as quickly as possible. It’s no secret they’re doing their job to make money, but don’t think everything they charge you for is a rip-off. That doesn’t mean some services don’t cost more than they probably should. What are they? DriverSide has worked up a list of the top five overcharged repair jobs in no particular order. Have a look.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the seeming complexity and importance of your vehicle’s brakes. The truth is most systems are made to be very simple to work on, and the parts are expected to be replaced at regular intervals. That means the work shouldn’t be expensive at all. For most vehicles, parts for a typical brake job shouldn’t cost more than $100. A good shop will be able to do the work in two hours, one for the front of the vehicle and one for the rear. That’s a generous estimate, but the job varies from car to car. Most shops list their labor price per the hour. If your bill adds up to more than two hours worth of labor, be sure to ask the shop what the problem was. As a ballpark - and remember the price does vary depending on a number of factors - a brake job shouldn’t cost more than $300 for most vehicles.
Windshield Wipers
In states that require an annual or bi-annual inspection, this one is a favorite. Who honestly remembers when the last time they changed their windshield wipers? Dropping new parts on a vehicle is painfully simple, and usually requires no more than a screwdriver. Again, it varies from vehicle to vehicle, but usually parts shouldn’t cost more than $40 at the most for both sides. Since it takes just a few minutes to drop the new parts on, if your bill totals more than $60, you’ve probably got a problem. Most auto parts stores will usually install your wipers free of charge, too. That means there’s no reason to spend any more money than necessary.
Batteries are inherently expensive. For most vehicles, expect to pay $100 or more for the battery itself. The good news is that they take very little time to replace, so the cost of labor should be next to nonexistent. Just like your windshield wipers, many auto parts stores will be glad to install your battery for you if you purchase one from their stores, saving you money. What most people don’t know is that scrap metal recyclers usually pay around $10 for old batteries, putting more money in your pocket. If your shop is charging you a disposal fee, odds are you’re getting overcharged.
Headlight Bulbs
Here’s another part that’s deceptively easy to replace and relatively inexpensive for most vehicles. Expect to pay around $20 for headlight bulbs, and labor shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. Some shops may try to sell you on inexpensive replacements, but they don’t offer much in the way of improved visibility. Don’t fall for the up selling, and be wary if your bill comes out above $50. If it does, raise some questions.
It all depends on the vehicle, but most modern cars and trucks have one single belt that runs all of the vehicle’s accessories. Those that don’t may have two. Belts are generally easy to replace and usually cost around $30 per belt. If your bill comes out to over $100 for the service, you have a real problem. Don’t confuse your vehicle’s accessory belts with your timing belt, though. Those are much more labor intensive.

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