Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Mechanic ripping me off on parts?

Is my mechanic ripping me off on parts prices

You found the parts much cheaper online. So what?

If you’re comparing the price of auto parts online to the retail price from your local shop and you think your  “mechanic is ripping you off; well, you’ve got a lot to learn about how a business works.

First Lesson: Shops don’t buy parts online

When a shop needs a part, they pick up the phone and call a local parts supplier. The parts supplier sends the part over quickly so the shop can repair your car and get it out of the repair bay. The local auto parts supplier charges the shop FAR more than you can buy that same part online. This concept is no different than comparing prices at any brick and mortar retail store to a discounter that sells the same item online. You go to Best Buy and find a HDMI cable for $29 and find another HDMI cable online for $5. Is Best Buy ripping you off? No. They’ve got to pay rent for retail space, pay for clerks, warehouse people, allow for loss due to shoplifting and still make a profit. So comparing retail to online prices is really different than shopping for just about anything these days—online is almost always cheaper than buying the same item from a brick and mortar store. So stop thinking the local business is ripping you off if they charge a higher price. If you don’t like the price, buy the part online and install it yourself.

No shop can afford to tie up a repair bay waiting for an online part to arrive

Can you image how much a shop would have to charge if they had to let your car sit in the repair bay for three days while waiting for the part to arrive? Get real dude or dudette; no shop is going to do that.

Second, you haven’t factored in the shipping charge from the online seller

Yeah, whoops. Brake rotors, struts, starter motors—they’re all heavy. They all have shipping charges. And, if there’s a core charge, you have to figure in the cost of return shipping. Oh, and what if you order the wrong part, who pays to return it. Ah, hello! You do.

Third, Shops MUST make a profit on parts

A high volume shop gets a MAXIMUM of 25% off the manufacturer’s list price on parts. No retail business can survive on a 25% profit margin. None. Zip. Nadda. Can’t be done. So shops often double their cost to make a reasonable profit. Think that’s too high? Think again. See this post to see what markups other retail business charge. You’ll learn that repair profits are right smack dab in the middle of most retail businesses.

No, you can’t bring your own parts to the shop and save money

Thinking about buying auto parts online so you can save on the shop’s markup? If you bring parts to your mechanic, you’re literally asking the shop to make less money.

Why would they do that? Trust me, you’re not that good looking.

Bringing your own parts to a repair shop and offering to pay for just the labor to install is like bringing your own ham and eggs to a restaurant and offering to pay for just the labor to cook them. Try that at any restaurant and let me know how that works for you. If they don’t throw you out the door, they’ll probably laugh you out the door. Same with a shop.

Shops make money on parts and labor

EVERY service business makes money on parts and labor: plumbers, electricians, furnace repair, AC repair, carpenters, masons—they all make a profit on the parts and raw materials as well as their labor. Do you check out the online price of a new toilet and then accuse the plumber of ripping you off?

Get over yourself

If you think a shop takes too big a markup on their parts, find a different shop. But stop crying “foul” because you think they charge less than an online seller. It’s the way every business works. You don’t work for free. Neither do they.

Don’t believe me? Open your own repair shop and let’s see how long you last by selling parts at your cost.

©, 2018 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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