When you come into our shop, we give you an itemized invoice when you pay for your repair. It lists labor rate and labor hours, parts, and maybe a few other things you may not be sure what exactly they are. We try to make our invoices easy to read, unlike doctor bills, but still, some things may need a bit of explaining, or you might want to know what all goes into our “labor rate” or what a “sublet” is. Let us help you out with reading and understanding your invoice, and what you actually get.
Typically, our invoices have two major sections to our invoice, parts and labor. These are pretty self-explanatory, but we want to quickly explain how we determine the charges and make sure you understand what you are getting. If you ever have specific questions, please always feel free to ask us.
This is the easiest section to understand. These are the charges for the parts we actually installed on your vehicle. When we buy parts for your vehicle, we shop our network of vendors to find you the absolute best quality part available, and get the best price on it. Sometimes a part may cost a little more than you saw at the local parts store, and that often is because we sourced it from a dealer, or from a specialty vendor to get a premium quality part. Because we buy parts for over 3,000 cars per year, we get bulk discount pricing, so in some cases, you might even get a lower price than if you went and bought it yourself.
On the parts section of the invoice is where we will also list some of the odds and ends we used in the process, such as fluid we replaced, or sealant and hardware we keep on hand. Some repairs require us to use disposable “tools” like alignment pins that are one-time use, and even though these may not stay permanently attached, they are listed in the parts section as well.
The labor section of our invoice lists the charges for the time a technician spent repairing your vehicle. This is usually broken out into an hourly rate and the number of hours spent on the job. In most cases, our techs spend more time than we actually bill for, especially when you factor in the time it takes them to diagnose, research, setup, organize, and make parts lists. Add in the time our office staff spends tracking down the parts you need and documenting everything, as well as our test drives, and on average, we put twice as many man hours into every car as what gets charged on the invoice.
You might ask why our labor rate is more than what a technician makes as an hourly rate, which is a fair questions. What is “behind the scenes,” so to speak, is that the labor rate goes to cover everything it costs for our shop to operate for that amount of time. The electric bill, insurance, tool costs, supplies like paper towels and cleaners, office staff, drivers, and purchasing the latest repair and technical information are just a few of the things we don’t bill for, but we have to pay in order to take care of your car. So while you may not see it on the invoice, we are putting in a lot more than meets the eye.
Sublets and Other Charges
This is where some of our customers may scratch their heads and ask what this means. Simply put, these are charges that don’t really fit the definition of the other areas on the invoice. One of the most common you may see is something called a “Sublet.” A “Sublet” charge is the cost involved in having a third-party provide a service that we aren’t equipped to handle. For example, if we do suspension work on your vehicle, we often will send the vehicle to an alignment specialist with sophisticated computer alignment equipment to adjust and dial everything in. Another common sublet is for computer programming that can only be done by dealer computer equipment. Some transmissions require that the dealer reprogram the computer to recognize the new parts, and that can only be done by dealership equipment. Other sublets may include things we help take care of for you, like tires, detailing, or bodywork. For all of these services, we have local providers who give us discounted rates for our customers. If you let us send it out, we can get it done for you at a lower price than if you took it yourself, because we send them hundreds of cars per year.
We have another section that lists warranties and fees. We typically enter your warranty information in this screen to help us track warranties, and as a place to explain the terms of the warranties you are covered by. Usually you will see this as a no-charge item, but in some cases we offer upgrades to our standard warranty that may have a nominal cost. We may also list charges for things like rental cars, towing, or adding fuel to the vehicle for a test drive. These are just the miscellaneous costs we run into or services we take off your plate to help you out. As always, we would be happy to explain them if you don’t understand.
Why Don’t I See Shop Supplies or Disposal Fees?
Many shops will add a line for “shop supplies” or “disposal fees” to cover the costs of things like rubber gloves, cleaning solvents, grease, clips, towels, oil recycling, and all the other little things a technician may use to repair your car, but are almost impossible to count and itemize. To us, those are just the costs of doing business, the same as paying the light bill, and so we just factor that in to our labor costs. We think charging you for shop supplies is like a restaurant charging you for napkins. It’s kind of silly.
Certain items and services have mandatory “environmental disposal fees” imposed by the state. These typically apply to things like tires or certain other things that can pose an environmental hazard if mishandled, and the state uses these funds to help clean up accidental spills or improperly handled disposals. We don’t typically perform any services in-house that require us to charge those fees, so you won’t see them on our invoice. If we install a part on your car with a fee, or we sublet your car for tires, the state fees are just included in the item total on your invoice. Because we don’t charge directly, we don’t list it separately.