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 If you own a car, you’re not immune from sticker shock. We’ve all been there. You take your car in to investigate a sound and walk out spending more than $500.

 The way auto shops set repair costs is a combination of several factors. A common way to decide what service costs is combining the cost for parts, estimated hours it will take to fix, multiplied by the hourly labor fee.

 This flat rate is one way auto shops can provide you with an estimate range for what you’ll pay. Some use a computer program that builds the estimate for them, including labor, parts, environmental fees and taxes.

 AAA-approved repair facilities charged between $47 and $215 per hour as of January 2017. According to the insurance company, several factors influence the hourly flat labor rate shops charge.

 Factors include whether the vehicle is domestic, foreign or exotic, whether it’s in a rural or urban location, technician certifications or skill levels.

 Auto-Lab of Fenton is an approved AAA repair facility, and they charge about $99 per hour for labor, according to co-owner Barb Bishop. They adjust the rate based on several factors including the difficulty of the repair and the required skill of the technician. She said, for example, brake work requires less skill than tracing a wiring issue.

 “You can call around for estimates on a particular repair but again, too many shops quote super cheap just to get you in the door and ultimately charge much more,” Bishop said. “We’re more interested in developing a long term relationship.” 

 The other large part of an estimate is the parts, which shops can get for less than a consumer would at a parts store. Bishop said they buy parts from warehouses for wholesale prices for volume discounts.

 Regarding quotes, she said customers can also ask more follow-up questions, such as “why is this repair required?” They can ask for a scale 1 to 10, on how much life is left in their brake pads, for example, or what would happen if a repair is postponed.

 Bishop said if you believe you’re not getting good honest answers or being pressured into making a decision, get a second opinion. 

 Bishop said they like to take the time to explain why a repair is suggested.

Getting an online/mobile estimate

 If you have an idea of what’s wrong with your vehicle, you can use the NAPA (National Automotive Parts Association) online repair calculator to get a ballpark repair cost idea.

 Supply your vehicle make, model, year and home zip code and it will provide an estimate range for parts and labor. A 1998 Jeep Wrangler will cost between $1,150 and $1,250 to have the clutch replaced in Flint. Most of that job is the $829 in parts.

 It will cost you between $513 and $545 to have the fuel pump replaced in a 2007 Dodge Caravan in Fenton.

 You can check with your smartphone on the spot by searching for “NAPA Auto Repair Estimator.” Another option is the “RepairPal” estimator also online.

 These are just estimates and you won’t know for sure until you speak with a technician.

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