Are most mechanics rip-offs?

NoFunInAus

Kingfisher
I brought my pride and joy in (an old SAAB turbo) and the oil change + filter and general check over (it did need a power steering belt) cost me A$380,- and this is in a small town.

I remember bringing in cars for $120 services, and they would wash them, it wasn't washed.

They also told me if I wanted some other small things fixed I'd be looking for a 4(!) week wait, seem like they're brushing me off.

Am I totally out of touch or is this guy ripping me off?
 

Steiner

Sparrow
Most Mechanics now do charge extremely high labor prices (I've seen small shops charging as much per hour as a dealership). However if you can't do the job yourself or don't have the time I guess I can't really call it a rip off.

A SAAB turbo, especially an older one is a pretty specialty vehicle. My father owned a SAAB 9000 and only took it to SAAB specialists.
Some mechanics also don't like working on specific cars and will give you the run around to get you to go somewhere else.

I'd for sure call $380 for an oil change and power steering pump belt a little high. But depending on the actual breakdown of time and specific oil used it might not be crazy. If they charge $100/hr, then figure 1 labor hour, plus oil change is close to $200. Then if they did any work finding out the belt is what was needed, more time and obviously cost of belt and putting it on. In terms of the 4 week wait, I'd have to assume old SAAB parts aren't growing on trees, and they might be busy, to explain the lead times on work. It is spring after all, everyone is bringing out the summer rides.

I've also never had a mechanic wash my car. Usually it comes back dirtier if anything.

Not sure of your current situation but I would highly suggest investing in some tools and learning how to do the smaller jobs on your own. A guy that can find himself on the RV Forum is surely of good stock, and thus can do an oil change/belt swap with a little youtubin'. You'll save a ton of money that way and it's an invaluable skill. The mechanic will always be able to rip you off if you can't do it yourself, and they can sniff out people who don't do maintenance on their own from a country mile!
 
I'm not familiar with working on a Saab or their pricing for components but we've switched to doing anything non-difficult (aka anything but changing out a transmission or engine) ourselves. It was already hard to find a truthful mechanic who put in the work.

However, a couple years ago we dumped our final mechanic (who was our extended family's mechanic for about 20 years) because the prices were just too much and the quality had declined. We were taking in vehicles multiple times, over and over, to diagnose easy to recognize problems. It was a joke and this was a very reliable mechanic over the decades.

I don't love working on cars but every man should know how to do it. It can also be a good afternoon with a couple beers and a buddy.
 

NoFunInAus

Kingfisher
Not sure of your current situation but I would highly suggest investing in some tools and learning how to do the smaller jobs on your own. A guy that can find himself on the RV Forum is surely of good stock, and thus can do an oil change/belt swap with a little youtubin'. You'll save a ton of money that way and it's an invaluable skill. The mechanic will always be able to rip you off if you can't do it yourself, and they can sniff out people who don't do maintenance on their own from a country mile!

Absolutely dude, I think I gotta buy myself some mechanic books because I can't keep up with these costs. Gladly we're moving in a house with some space to grow so I might be able to lift these things up etc and learn a new trick.
 

MtnMan

Woodpecker
Thats sounds steep to me. On the other hand, working on cars can suck, and requires a lot of expensive tools. I have always done my own work, and build many custom cars. Mechanics are expensive, but, in general they are not ripping people off in my opinion. Car projects can quickly grow in scope and cost hundreds or thousands.

That being said, a few basic band tools, jack and jack stands and some youtube videos go pretty far if you are willing to learn. Its nice to have that level of independence, but I have been a motorhead from birth, so working on cars has always been my thing. Get ready to shed some blood and get dirty.
 
If it is in a small town, it is unlikely that they are SAAB specialists. Even in the major cities there would only be a few SAAB experts.

A$380 isn't extortionate, but also does not represent value.

Considering a basic car wash (exterior wash and interior vacuum) for a small car starts from around A$50, it is very unlikely that you'll get a basic service and courtesy wash for anything under $300.
 

Mr.S

Chicken
Absolutely dude, I think I gotta buy myself some mechanic books because I can't keep up with these costs. Gladly we're moving in a house with some space to grow so I might be able to lift these things up etc and learn a new trick.
My recommendation in the learning process is to learn by doing. Start now. No need to buy books or talk to professionals, etc (of course that won’t hurt, you just might not need to). Google and YouTube have made auto repair so easy that any masculine man, and even some women, can do it just by typing in the error code or explaining the problem on the forums.

Tips: find the online forum for your car, the problems and solutions you run into have probably happened to others and been solved by thousands of people online.

The key is to plan completely ahead of time what you will do. Make sure to buy the tools and parts you need, even if it’s expensive- because you’ll use them again.

The price you got for all that stuff seems pretty reasonable to me. Mechanics aren’t living in mansions, they need income too. Especially now- 1/3 of all the money that’s been printed in world history has been printed in the past 9 months. Many countries have pulled an entire year’s GDP out of thin air. Wouldn’t surprise me if there’s some inflation happening.
 
Not knowing much about Saabs, hard to say what a good price is. There are probably Saab forums out there.

Two parts to the honest mechanic question, the first is that in most places there is at least one honest shop and they usually do not do much if any advertising. You have to ask around. It is not so much the mechanic, but the shop, specifically the shop owner. If he pays reasonably and keeps things honest then good mechanics will want to work there.

Second is that some mechanics may be completely competent at swapping out parts and mean very well, but might not be that great at diagnosing problems. Instead they load up the parts cannon and hope for the best. Several years ago (under warranty at least) the dealership replaced a dozen parts on my father's truck but never fixed it, then someone told him to try a guy who was working out of his home garage. He fixed it first try for good. So a mechanic can be honest and hard working, but still rack up costs just because cars can be complicated.

Along those lines, I think a really good mechanic uses more logic and critical thinking skills than, for example, computer programmers and other high-paying white collar professions. So why should they not be paid accordingly if they actually get the job done? For someone just starting out who is technically inclined, maybe a career to think about. Might be able to open your own shop some day and pass the profession and business on to a son and such. Could take the skill most anywhere and not much regulation involved. Also there is potential to work out of your home, or mobile, and deal in cash. Cannot be outsourced. No corporate world wokeness to it--no one cares about cosmic justice and diversity when their car will not start.
 

flamaest

Pigeon
You should always try youtube and specialty forums for details on repairing your car, then use online retailers to get the parts. Also, if you know a friend who is a mechanic in the USA, they can buy the parts from major retailers [Autozone, etc..] for 90%-off for you [dirty little secret].

I had a VW TDI years ago, and I would do all the work myself for regular troubleshooting or maintenance. I would only take it to a specialty shop for the big stuff like timing belts, which are like an 8 hour job even by a pro. Also, please never go to the dealer unless it's warranty work; they will rip you off for sure.
 

PhatEarf

Pigeon
I've ordered car parts off Amazon and received the wrong parts before. However, the cost of getting the correct parts (you usually can't return car parts, I had them longer than 30 days) was still cheaper than taking it to a mechanic. I mostly use RockAuto because their shipping is just as good, and they are more reliable when it comes to getting the right part. Usually a lot more selection, too. Once you start getting your own parts online, you'll never want to go to a mechanic again. I know a guy that does auto repair on the side, and he definitely overcharged people if he felt hassled or didn't want to do the work. Not sure if that happened in your case, but I imagine the costs of these masculine services will be going up as other men become more feminized. I'm guessing the reason costs had to stay low in the past was that men could repair their own cars, so the incentive to overcharge wasn't there like it is today.
 

Nick

Pigeon
We were lucky to live around the corner from our trusted mechanic's shop for close to 30 years. He didn't do major fixes like transmission jobs, radiator replacements, etc. but did all of our oil changes, brake jobs, belts, minor mechanical problems, suspensions tweaks and more. For the bigger things we went to specialty shops for our Volvos and Mercedes, it ended up being about 50/50 shysters vs. honest men.

In your case it sounds like your Saab (the company has been defunct since 2014) needs some custom ordered parts that just aren't readily available anymore. If you're into doing your own fixes as other commenters have suggested you can go that route, but unless you have lots of time and an inclination towards it, I would just pay for the fixes. ~$300 USD for an oil change and tune-up sounds high though and I would suggest finding another shop. Forget about the courtesy car washes, things like that are cultural and as the West continues to go off the rails you'll be glad that they don't leave dirty rags inside.
 
Go youtube it. Changing the oil and filter and doing a general inspection of the car is something most anyone who can assemble IKEA furniture can accomplish.

Mechanics in general aren't a ripoff. Most modern cars require specialty equipment under OBD2 (in the US) to diagnose the proprietary systems. Some jobs require heavy equipment and specialty tools that are not cost effective to purchase for the do-it-yourselfer. The other thing is that the art of diagnosis is primarily what you're paying the mechanic for. They've likely seen 10 of the problems you've seen one of. That experience helps. You're also paying for speed. They can get the car done, for the most part, in a couple days if they have to wait on a part. You may not have the luxury to keep a car down for that long.

At the minimum, get a copy of a pdf version of the Factory Service Manual for you car, utilize youtube for education, and decide if you want to, or can take on a job yourself. Invest in a decent set of tools that are reliable, particularly ratchets.

SAAB's are a "cult car", meaning they have a dedicated following of ardent brand supporters. Find a SAAB forum online, join it, don't make an ass out of yourself, and ask good questions. Explain you're new and they'll treat you okay, we've all been there. Act like a know it all, you'll piss people off.

I have a couple of cars. I do 90% of the work myself, and the stuff I don't do requires proprietary equipment (like transmission work), or a lift to accomplish.
 

JackieG

Chicken
I brought my pride and joy in (an old SAAB turbo) and the oil change + filter and general check over (it did need a power steering belt) cost me A$380,- and this is in a small town.

I remember bringing in cars for $120 services, and they would wash them, it wasn't washed.

They also told me if I wanted some other small things fixed I'd be looking for a 4(!) week wait, seem like they're brushing me off.

Am I totally out of touch or is this guy ripping me off?
First time to a new garage is always precarious. Especially with a Saab. Hopefully your a little wiser next go around.
 
I have to be blunt about the price OP. Belts of any kind should run 50 to 80 dollars. An oil change with conventional oil should run up to 100 dollars at maximum with labor. Maybe 15 bucks for the filter. If the charge with tax was much more than 250, I'd be asking a lot of questions. As for DIY work on cars, it's really just not about can you do it. Of course you can do it, but how many hours do you have to put in to learn the trade and how many of those hours came from income generating activities? At that point, why not just become a mechanic. If you have a vision in life or a goal you're working towards, you really need to have a singular vision and put the blinders on. Everything else outside of your goal is just noise, which unfortunately means delegating to a specialist, but choose carefully and it should be alright.
 

deano

Chicken
As for DIY work on cars, it's really just not about can you do it. Of course you can do it, but how many hours do you have to put in to learn the trade and how many of those hours came from income generating activities? At that point, why not just become a mechanic. If you have a vision in life or a goal you're working towards, you really need to have a singular vision and put the blinders on. Everything else outside of your goal is just noise, which unfortunately means delegating to a specialist, but choose carefully and it should be alright.
The car job will take you __n__ hours alone. You are currently making __d__ dollars per hour.
How long will the job take? That includes the time spent learning the process and shopping for the parts.
How much money could you make in all that time?
How much will the mechanic charge?
Compare these two numbers. Let's say the job would take you eight hours and you could instead make $400 in that time doing something you really enjoy. Even if the mechanic charges $600, then maybe go with the mechanic, unless you really enjoy working on your car.
 
I brought my pride and joy in (an old SAAB turbo) and the oil change + filter and general check over (it did need a power steering belt) cost me A$380,- and this is in a small town.

I remember bringing in cars for $120 services, and they would wash them, it wasn't washed.

They also told me if I wanted some other small things fixed I'd be looking for a 4(!) week wait, seem like they're brushing me off.

Am I totally out of touch or is this guy ripping me off?
Yea kinda high but it is an old Saab. Classic euro cars come with those headaches.
modern cars are like appliances now.

I feel bad for mechanics though. This (((electric car)))) nonsense will be the death of mechanic shops, muffler shops, mom and pop auto tire stores, etc.

These things aren’t made to get worked on. 10 years tops and they get (((recycled)))
 

FrancisK

Woodpecker
Gold Member
I know cars are a scam but i like cars, oh well.

I’ve sold cars and not purchased cars just because I couldn’t find an honest and/or competent mechanic to work on them. It’s beyond frustrating...
 

SlickyBoy

Hummingbird
The car job will take you __n__ hours alone. You are currently making __d__ dollars per hour.
How long will the job take? That includes the time spent learning the process and shopping for the parts.
How much money could you make in all that time?
How much will the mechanic charge?
Compare these two numbers. Let's say the job would take you eight hours and you could instead make $400 in that time doing something you really enjoy. Even if the mechanic charges $600, then maybe go with the mechanic, unless you really enjoy working on your car.
This important consideration is what I've heard called the Rosie the Riveter syndrome. People sometimes assume they could save a bundle of money if they did everything themselves. For those who over the course of their lives never see the value of their time increase, maybe this is true. But even then everyone should be asking "How many times am I likely to do task X in my life?" Rebuilding a transmission is something I'm not likely to do more than once, and if I learned to do it myself I might save a few bucks - if I did the job correctly the first time, which is less than certain if it's my first transmission. Hence, given the complexity, tools required and likelihood of success, I don't rebuild my own transmissions (but I have done a fluid change on some cars - even then, not often).

For other jobs though, yes I've saved a ton of money by doing things myself. This is from both in preventive maintenance avoiding future repairs as well as steering away from overpriced bills for jobs that really aren't too difficult. I don't have a lift or extensive power tools, and for the longest time I limited myself to whatever I could fit into a tool box to make moving easier. But even then I was probably being a bit stubborn. A few years ago I broke down and finally got a Dewalt electric impact wrench and wish I did that a lot sooner - removing tires is a breeze, as are a few other tasks I'd probably have tapped out and gone to a mechanic to fix.

If you live in an urban area it'll be harder to do a lot of DIY, but for those with a garage, youtube and a free weekend or two, it's worth at least investigating whether or not you can handle the small jobs, or at least know what the hell they're talking about before they treat you like a bugman taking his Prius in for a tune up.

I once visited a mechanic for an oil leak. He said it was coming from two places - the valve cover gasket and the rear main seal. I didn't have the money to do the rear main seal so I asked if he could just replace the valve cover gasket. He told me he can't do that because they're sold as a set - an utter line of bull so lame that only a numale would believe. I politely declined, thanked him and walked out. Another more honest and competent mechanic correctly identified where the leak was coming from and fixed it, for a lot less. Was the first mechanic lying? Well, he didn't seem to have problems with the small lies, so I suspect the big ones were not far off.

Point is, at least have some knowledge and don't be afraid to get a second opinion.
 

Steiner

Sparrow
On the topic of utilizing your time making money VS working on your own car, I'm going to leave my favorite quote:
(Disclaimer: If you only have 1 car as a daily driver, totally understand needing to rely on the mechanic. We've all been there. But, you should aim, as a man, for a slightly higher degree of independence - especially with the way the world is going)

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”​

- Robert A. Heinlein

You can't always look through the lens of "how much is my time worth" when learning something. The skills, experiences, and things you learn about yourself as a man are priceless - and you might uncover a hidden passion/talent! Learn to do a small job the mechanic may have charged you a ton for, if not to do it all the time, but to better understand what is being done.

It reminds me of the parable of talents Matthew 25:14-30.

24 “Then he that had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew thee, that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed.

25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth. Lo, there thou hast what is thine.’

26 His lord answered and said unto him, ‘Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed.

27 Thou ought therefore to have placed my money with the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with interest.

28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him that hath ten talents.

29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath.
 
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