RC Auto Specialists has a very good reputation, so I've gone to them a couple times. As far as I can tell, their work is good, but it comes at a price. They at least -said- that they addressed all of my concerns (although half of them "weren't able to be reproduced," which may be legitimate). I really appreciate that kind of service, I have to say.
I had my front struts replaced and had read pretty consistently that the Monroe Quick-Struts (#172264) provided the most factory-like ride, which was all I was wanting. I expected to spend about $150-$200 for the pair. I can get them cheaper online, but I understood that there would probably be some markup.
I was told by RC that it would actually be a better idea just to buy the Monroe OESpectrum struts (#72264) and keep the springs I had (which he said were higher quality than the ones on the Quick Struts), which was weird to me because I read that it's not a bad idea to replace the springs after 100k miles (and I'm at 104k). But if they're still good, then whatever. So how much was I quoted for just the struts alone? $371 for parts! That's over double what I was hoping, AND it doesn't include new springs or the rest of the parts included in the entire strut assembly package I originally requested. On top of that, it's $75 (25%) higher than the maximum listed as a fair price by RepairPal!
My guess is that their recommendation had a lot to do with how much they knew they would be charging me for the full Quick-Struts, seeing as the struts alone were as much as they were. But that's not really fair to me because I missed out on replacing all of the extra parts.
I was told that labor would be $233, which is THE maximum listed as a fair price by RepairPal. I have no problem with that. Mechanics should get paid what they're worth, and RC really does have a superb reputation.
After I mentioned RepairPal and asked why there was such a difference in price, the estimate was lowered to within RepairPal's range. I think the real problem is that they are getting their parts from AdvanceAuto down the street, a business notorious for high prices, and then hoping to mark the price up themselves for a profit (although the markup was still a good $100+ by my calculations, assuming they are paying the same price that I would). Is that a fair markup? I don't really know.
I'm happy to pay the higher end of the fair price range, but even in doing so, they made me feel like they wouldn't be able to stay in business giving everyone the same "price break" they gave me, and so maybe my business isn't appreciated. Is RepairPal's estimate not actually fair? Or is RC's estimate the one that isn't fair?
Finally, I took my car in and just asked for an estimate, casually mentioning an oil change as part of the work I was intending to have done, but when they called with my estimate, they had already changed the oil and ordered the parts. Talk about making me feel pressured to give them the okay! That felt a little shady, but it could have been a miscommunication. Be sure to really be clear about what exactly you are wanting and not wanting them to do when you're asking for an estimate.