Rachael called me on Tuesday night from the Hill Country Galleria, which happens to be 10-15 miles away. She said the car was not working. This was the same car, a 97 Eagle Vision, that we tried to trade in as a clunker. Being a little frustrated or worried about what to do with the car, I was a little short with Rachael when I went to the Galleria (Sorry Rachael). Not knowing exactly what was wrong with the car, I had the car towed to a Dodge dealership.
The next day the service department called and said the fuel pump went out. The total cost to fix it was $800 ($400 for the part, $400 for labor) What!!! Why so much? I declined. I would fix it myself. After about 10 minutes of research, I found that the part at the part store was less than $200 and the total time to replace the fuel pump was 20 minutes to an hour. Of course, it took me a bit longer.
Regardless of how long it took me, I asked the question; why must mechanics charge so much for parts and labor? I was quoted $400 for labor for a job that takes less than an hour? A part is charged to the customer for 2x the market price when they probably get the part at discount. Some may say there are overhead charges, etc, and I don't mind paying a little extra, but $600 extra? I definitely would have considered having them do the job if it was $400 and even perhaps $500, but $800?
Nowadays, with the Internet, the customer has the advantage to research pricing and to determine if a job could be easily done without having to pay exhorbant prices at the mechanic. I have taken advantage of the Dodge Forum, where I have received free advice from many experts and it has saved me more than $1000. It has allowed me to have some knowledge about the true cost of the job to determine if I am getting ripped off.
So I ask you...Do you have the same distrust of mechanics? Are the price markups by mechanics warranted or do they sometimes take advantage of customers with little knowledge or customers that have no choice? Do you guys shop around to determine the exact cost for labor and parts? I would love to hear your thoughts.
ADDENDUM (10/5/2009): Eagle Vision appeared to break down again for Rachael on Saturday. This time it was only two miles from our house. I thought it was the fuel pump again, so I took out the fuel pump that I recently installed, sliced my finger bad (not part of the instructions), and took the fuel pump back to O'Reilly's to exchange for a new one. While installing the new pump I looked inside the gas tank and noticed that the tank was bone dry. Rachael ran out of gas. The fuel pump has a float on it which is an indicator of how much gas there is. I had the fuel pump turned the wrong way and the gas gauge was always indicating that it had a half a tank. Funny!