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I brought my car into a new mechanic today for brake issues, and they discovered that my rear brake calipers had completely seized up. They gave me an itemized quote for parts (~$700) and labor (~$300).

With my previous mechanic, I shopped around for parts on my own and brought them to him to install. He would charge me his usual $80/hr rate for labor.

These new guys also charge $80/hr, but they want to charge me an additional $15/hr if I bring in my own parts. They argue that if I get the wrong parts, or the parts I get are defective, that it will create more of a hassle for them - thus validating the extra charge. I'd argue that I should have control over the parts they use, and where I buy them.

Is this a typical policy? Is there another arrangement I might be able to offer them?

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    Do you take your own steak and eggs to a restaurant? Yes it is typical, parts profit pays some of the shop overhead. – Moab Aug 28 '16 at 19:45
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    Then, just charge me a higher hourly rate on labor. The labor is, after all, what I actually want to buy from the shop. – alexw Aug 29 '16 at 15:23
  • Isn't that what they're doing? Charging a higher rate, $95 vs. $80 per hour. – dlu Nov 30 '16 at 4:26
  • My point is, why play games with marking up the parts at all? Just charge everyone $95/hour for labor, and parts at cost. – alexw Dec 2 '16 at 15:59
  • They must have quoted gold-plated calipers. $700 for two calipers and associated parts is ridiculous. And, @alexw, a shop that operated with your scheme would be out of business in less than a week. Personally, I think they are entitled to mark the parts up to some degree, but more than 2X? The labor markup (unless they are offering something tangible like a warranty) is a sign you should take your business elsewhere, IMO. – Tim Nevins May 2 at 20:31
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This is not normal behavior of a typical mechanic. Most mechanics/shops will still continue to charge their normal hourly rate no matter if you bring in the parts or if they get you the parts. The only difference is, they will not warrant the parts you bring in.

You may want to look at the fine print of why they are charging the extra $15/hr. If the reason is to warrant the items you bring in, then the charge may be equitable. I don't see any other reason for the extra charge.

Zach is right in that they will make money from you any way they can. Most shops, whether a chain or local, do not supply their own parts. They farm out and around to get the cheapest parts available. Some will have deals made with a certain parts supplier to get their parts at a discount. This is a business-to-business transaction which works well for both of them. Some shops will not mark up their parts, but others do. For instance, I had a female friend whose van was not running right. She took it to a shop and had them look at it. They quoted her a price of ~$900/parts & ~$1000/labor to do the repair. I did some research to figure out what was going on (which they totally missed the diagnosis, btw) and figured out I could purchase the needed parts for ~$300. I double checked their price quotes on parts for what I could find them for. Every last part was two to three times more. I asked them why the difference. They said they marked up the prices to warrant the parts. I asked them why if the parts houses already provide warranties on all the parts. They had no answer for me.

Bottom line: if a shop won't let you find your own parts, find a different shop (or learn how to do the work yourself ;-).

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    Yup, first thing I did when I got home was look into replacing the caliper myself. Once I can get the bolts loose, of course (but that's another question). – alexw Jun 12 '15 at 0:16
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    The place they buy the parts gives them a warranty for the part itself but not for the time they'll need to spend replacing a part that fails. I can see why this insurance premium is embedded in the cost of the part and not the cost of the labor. – Dean MacGregor Jun 12 '15 at 4:23
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    After some research, it looks like they were significantly overcharging me for the parts as well. On the plus side, I'm looking forward to doing my own brakes for the first time! – alexw Jun 13 '15 at 16:08
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Mechanics make money off of the parts they buy for you.

Look for a small shop with 1-4 mechanics. They like business even if it's not the most profitable. They are about building a relationship with their customer. If you're cool and your mechanic is cool, they'll install just about anything that's legal for their regular rate. Keep going back to that guy for all your repairs. They'll tell it to you straight and won't be pushing unecessary services on you.

If this is a chain, they probably have a policy to extract as much money from you as possible and you bringing in your own parts makes them less money. There's no deal to be made here.

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Being a small shop owner, when customers bring in their own parts we lose money on the job. A lot of shops give the honest ones a bad name. The major chains always charge an arm and a leg, but when customers bring their own parts it hurts the little guy. 99% of shops charge extra on parts brought in. Many people don't realize how much it costs to keep a shop running not to mention what a back breaking job it is. They think "Oh, you make money on the labor!" -- that just isn't enough. If you don't know the inner workings of a garage, it is hard to understand the process.

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Most shops will charge their normal hourly rate. But its not uncommon to see mechanics try to charge you something extra (whether a flat fee or a higher hourly rate) based on you bringing your own parts.
When you hear people or mechanics say "we will not warranty it", it's not completely true. I heard from a more legitimate mechanic that it is by law that all mechanic work is under warranty. The difference might be that they don't warranty the parts themselves but the work is still under warranty. Mechanics who know this may still try to play it off like there is no warranty, and if you don't come to them for warranty work when it breaks, better for them right?

It actually IS a bigger hassle for them because the mechanics do not know the quality of the parts you are using and if something breaks, they may have to cover it. It is a potential liability and many different stores (not just mechanics) choose not to deal with these types of cases for a reason.

Even with what I said above, I personally would not pay extra for bringing my own parts.
Find a shop that will allow you to supply your own parts.

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    Well, I did it myself (actually, with my girlfriend's help) and they're working great! I haven't died in a fiery crash yet or anything. – alexw Jul 1 '15 at 1:56
  • @alexw thats even better. if you have the capability & know-how, its always better to ensure your own quality of work and parts. – Zero Jul 1 '15 at 8:42
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    If I recall right the legal notion is known as an implied warranty – jxramos Nov 30 '16 at 0:29
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You don't bring a steak to steak house. There are liability laws in California which would kill the small shop that is doing it by the book. After you pay your overhead and technicians and workman comp insurance, and this permit and that permit you have about $ 22.00 remaining. That is why you charge a fair markup for the part...

  • You are the only answer that understands what it takes to stay in business and pay overhead. – Moab Aug 28 '16 at 19:48
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    Rather defeats the purpose of providing the customer with an itemized quotation with a figure for labor to remove and replace a specific component though. – Steve Matthews Oct 6 '16 at 15:54
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Just a note on the flip side of this search ... I will, from now on, just go through the mechanic for parts & such. Last year I purchased brand new front axles for my car & had them installed. One year later they started that clicking noise we all know is from a busted joint. So, Advance Auto Parts did a defective replacement for me on the parts since that is where I initially purchased them and happy me left the mechanics with new axles just to start hearing that noise not 2 miles down the road with some very bizarre shaking and vibrating going on!!! Immediately brought it back and, according to the mechanic, one of the brand new axles is bad. NOW I'm paying for a taxi to shuttle back parts to Advance Auto and demanding a full refund! PLUS to make matters worse, I still need new axles and have to pay for repair work TWICE!!! Lesson learned!!! Just do it through a trusted mechanic who guarantees all work & parts the first time around!!!! You will save yourself some much needed time, money and aggravation!!

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Joe is absolutely correct. I know every time some one talks me into letting them supply their own parts it costs me time and money. If you want quality work and quality parts from a shop do your research. Look at reviews, ask about warranties, a good shop is priceless, and remember you car is a big investment. You don't question the man fixing your laptop. Or the $100/hour lawn mower repair man for a repair on a $300 lawn mower. I strongly disagree with shops using cheap parts and giving only 90 days warranties. You should look for 12 month parts and labor and life time on parts.

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