Car newbie here!

I have my Citroen C3 Picasso in the shop to do a routine service. The mechanic just called me to say that I should get my front disc brakes and pads replaced, as they're nearly gone.

He quoted £295 with VAT included for all of this (just front), but a quick look online seems to show that the disc brakes cost around £15 each and the pads around £22.

He was also saying that I need to get the windscreen wipers replaced, which were £58. Online they also sell for £10 or so.

Wouldn't it be much better to get these online and just get them fitted in the mechanic, for a fraction of the cost? Or am I missing something important?

Thank you!

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    Welcome to the site. This question is essentially unanswerable as originally written. What is missing is a specific mechanical problem that you are trying to solve. Please consult the new about page for guidance on good questions and answers: mechanics.stackexchange.com/about Your thoughts about the cost of labor vs. your own efforts are welcome on the chat page. chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/340/… – Bob Cross Aug 14 '13 at 11:45
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    Clearly not "unanswerable", as I got 4 answers. The question is more on the market nowadays. It's commonplace to buy a stereo online, but not in a shop. My question was: is that logic ok when applied to more important car components, such as brakes? – Andre Aug 14 '13 at 14:52
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    Andre - unanswerable has a specific meaning on stack Exchange: your question will have many answers, all of which could be right or wrong depending on various factors you haven't listed in your question. – Rory Alsop Aug 14 '13 at 22:25

Most of the cost he's quoting you is in the labour for fitting them - you're looking at an hour a side at minimum, probably more. How long did he say it'd take? You're looking at the best part of £70 for the parts by the time you've included delivery (brake discs are heavy!), so assuming 3 hours he's charging you £75 an hour for labour, which is about usual...

I'd certainly do the wipers yourself though - pay a little more for Bosch ones, they'll take 30 seconds each to fit...

  • They just quoted £300 for front disc brakes + pads. £140 for just the pads. Seems excessive when compared to online prices. If I bought the pads for £25, had them fitted for £70, that's still £50 cheaper just for the pads. Online is changing how a lot of people do shopping, I just wanted to know how that applied to car parts. – Andre Aug 14 '13 at 10:47
  • For some parts, the difference in price is a matter of quality and expectation of failure. You can get cheap parts with a "lifetime warranty" online or at brick and mortar shops for much less than a mechanic's price partly because the manufacturer thinks you're less likely to actually use the warranty if you have to do the labor again yourself (more likely to just scrap the car?), and conversely, mechanics want higher-quality parts because they're putting a warranty on the work and don't want to have to re-do it because the part was bad. For this reason, ... – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Aug 14 '13 at 15:21
  • ...many professionals do not want to work with parts you provide, or will refuse to put a labor warranty on it if you're providing the parts. However, for brakes I don't think this explanation makes sense. Brake failure is a major liability issue and even the cheaper parts are not going to have flaws that would require replacement under warranty. So in this case, it may very well just be a case of the shop padding their profits... – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Aug 14 '13 at 15:23
  • Good to know, thank you very much for your insight! – Andre Aug 14 '13 at 15:29
  • Just as update, I had a chat with the mechanic yesterday when picking up my car, and he said if I can find it cheaper online, he'd be happy to fit them for me! He even gave me brand names for the best parts, so I don't buy something crappy. Thanks once again – Andre Aug 15 '13 at 11:08

If you're not inclined to do brakes yourself, I would just say let the shop handle it from start to finish.

However, I strongly encourage you to just go buy some wipers and install them yourself. Paying someone to install wipers is like paying someone to clip on a button. You don't even need tools!


There is a lot to consider when replacing the brakes on a vehicle. The first thing I would get from the mechanic is the brand and grade of pads and rotors that he is going to replace these with. I would also request the thickness of the rotors, and compare them with the manufacturer's minimum thickness and see if they can be "turned" (a process of essentially "shaving" the metal down until it is a smooth service again) instead of replacing them, provided the rotors are enough above the minimum thickness to accommodate the process. Another thing to consider is friction material. Most manufacturers will recommend a certain friction material and it is, IMHO, always a good idea to stick with their recommendations. In my experience, most newer vehicle manufacturers recommend a ceramic pad, as opposed to the cheaper "semi-metallic" pads. The other thing that you will have to keep in mind is the labor rate of the mechanic, which, at least here in the States, tends to be much higher than the cost of the parts. Another thing to consider is the warranty attached to the items. Being that pads and rotors are a "wear" part, there are a lot of places that will not warranty on wear. However there are a few brands/stores/mechanics that will warranty the part when it is worn out, saving you from paying the money again. Just as a reference/comparison, I recently replaced the front pads and rotors on my Pontiac Grand Prix myself, and "Top of the line" Wagner Thermoquiet Pads (ceramic) and Bosch rotors cost me right at $200, just in parts. However, these were purchased at a local parts house and not online where prices are a lot cheaper.

When it comes to wipers, there are many "schools of thought" that I have come across. A lot of people think, that since they are going to replace them roughly once a year, in the location I live this is about normal, that cheaper is better. Personally, I prefer a good brand that is going to hold up better, if taken care of properly, and require less maintenance.

From my personal experience, there are some automotive shops that will not perform the work with customer supplied parts, or if they do, they will not have any type of warranty or guarantee with them. I would also find out the shops policy on this as well.

  • That's very interesting, thanks. The same mechanic just fitted a wing mirror I bought online, so they should do the same for brake pads, I think! I have not heard of wear warranty for parts in the UK, so it might not be a thing here! – Andre Aug 13 '13 at 16:56

Would you bring a steak to a restaurant and ask them to cook it? When you compare on line prices against what the shop charges did you consider your time as a cost added to the item? If you spent 1/2 hour doing price, quality and delivery time research at $70 an hour the mechanics is charging, you spent $35. The shop has to get the parts from a supplier. The shop either pays someone to get the parts which is an added cost. Some suppliers will deliver the parts, this cost is again added into the charged price of the part. If the shop is large enough some has to receive the parts verify they are correct, assign them to the job, and track the billing. You are also paying some of the shops overhead with this added cost.

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    You seem to be very passionate about this, but ultimately you don't answer my question. We're not talking about $10 difference in price, or even $50. We're talking about a $200 difference for the brake pads alone! Some overhead... – Andre Aug 14 '13 at 10:45

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