Car Repair: Is a Flat Rate Fair?
Many car repair shops advertise a flat rate when they talk about their service fees. To the uninitiated, this may not mean anything at all. Some people will tell you that such an offering is nothing to brag about. In fact, these people insist that a flat rate is a way for a shop to take advantage of you. Do yourself a favor and don't listen to these people when it comes to car repair advice. However, flat rate billing is not without its problems, as we'll see in the following article.
If you are not familiar with the concept of flat rate car repair, the basics are simple. Instead of charging the customer for exactly the number of labor hours it takes to fix their vehicle, the shop goes to a standard book, which states the number of hours the labor in question should take. For instance, if it says in the book that replacing the carburetor should take four hours, the customer will be charged for four hours of labor. Where is the controversy? If a shop has a speedy mechanic who has a knack for this specific replacement, it might take only three hours. Keep in mind that this is all hypothetical and not meant to be an estimate of how long it should actually take to replace a carburetor.
Critics of flat rate billing say the customer is being ripped off when the mechanic finishes the job in less time than what the shop charged for the job. On the other hand, proponents argue that the flat rate is meant to be an average time, and a shop should not have their fee penalized for having efficient workers. Under this system, the customer knows going in just how much the car repair will cost him and will not be subject to any surprises when it comes time to pay the bill, which is a particular bonus for the consumer.
There are unscrupulous car repair shops out there-of that there can be no doubt. However, their tricks are much more deceitful and behind the back than merely charging a flat rate fee for repairs. If you go into a shop and they want to charge a flat rate, you have the option of going online and researching how long a particular job should take, then you can compare it to what the shop says. In this situation, you have all the information you need to make a good decision, which is more than can be said for many situations you can get in with dishonest mechanics.