Why Is Car Repair So Expensive?

Jill Trotta
August 1, 2017

"Wow! That's expensive."

This is one of the most common phrases people use when talking about auto repair. It is an undisputed fact that repairing automobiles is an expensive endeavor; however, that doesn't necessarily mean that the cost isn't fair or that you're being overcharged. The days of fixing your vehicle yourself or having your best friend's mother in-law's second cousin's brother perform your repairs are quickly disappearing. But why? Why is it so expensive and why should I even hire a professional?

Vehicles have definitely changed since their early ancestors.

Modern vehicles are complicated. Many repairs require a skilled technician to properly diagnose and repair your vehicle. The average technician in the RepairPal Certified network attends at least 20-40 hours of training per year. Technicians today should really be called Car Doctors. They continuously invest in thousands of hours of training tens of thousands of dollars in tools.

These highly skilled, highly experienced Car Doctors are expensive to employ but they are invaluable to both the shop and to you as a consumer. They will be able to correctly diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time.

car repair

So, why does getting it right the first time even matter?

Imagine your car starts making that all-too-familiar noise in the first step to its potential demise. You're a good car owner and take it into a shop immediately to figure out what's wrong. You're also a smart consumer and you don't want to get screwed over, so you begin to shop around on price. You go for the cheapest option available and you also notice the shop isn't RepairPal Certified. They make the noise go away for a couple hundred bucks, but don't get too excited - the noise returns in 30 days, and louder than ever. The shop isn't Certified and you had no idea to check in on a warranty on the work. You're out a couple hundred bucks, time, and probably a couple years off your life in sheer anger and frustration. This is all too familiar and that "expensive technician" will be the cheapest option in the long run for your safety and the health of your vehicle.

You know what else has changed since the early 1900s? Technology.

Investment in the tools and equipment is another reason why getting your vehicle repaired is expensive. With the appearance of the "check engine light" in the 1980s, the need for these special scanners has become the norm. These shop-quality scan tools range in cost, but usually, run a few thousand dollars. Properly diagnosing today's vehicle requires an experienced technician with the right equipment. Lots of parts stores will "pull a code" for you but it takes the right tools and equipment in the hands of an experienced professional to correctly diagnose your vehicle. Even simple tasks such as resetting oil change lights can require special tools on some vehicles. A well equipped full-service auto repair shop will have invested in hundreds of thousands of dollars in tools and equipment.


There's no monopoly with parts suppliers, but it definitely doesn't make them cheap.

Installing quality parts and offering a good warranty on your repairs is something essential to your satisfaction as a consumer. The auto repair market is flooded with parts from all ends of the earth, some of these parts are very tempting because they offer a very low price point. A quality auto repair facility will not skimp on the quality of parts they install in your vehicle. Because of this, they will offer a good warranty on the complete repair. RepairPal Certified shops offer a minimum warranty of 12 month or 12,000 miles, over 50% offer warranty or 24,000 miles or 24 months or better. Having quality parts installed on your vehicle may seem expensive up front, but with the cost of tow trucks, rental cars, and missed work... you get the picture.

Shop local, support your community.

Most auto shops today are small businesses and we all know the costs to run a small business are huge! The majority of RepairPal Certified shops are a small business run by a single owner. These shops have made these huge investments to be able to provide you, the consumer, with the best possible experience when getting your car repaired. These shops will offer shuttle services, coffee, nice waiting areas, and wifi at their location, but most of all they offer peace-of-mind.

Auto repair is expensive but peace-of-mind is priceless. We all depend heavily on our cars, we need them to be safe and reliable for us and our family. Skimping on auto repair, looking for the "cheapest" price, or having someone inexperienced repair your vehicle may seem like a good option in the moment but in the end, it's an invitation to be overcharged, put at risk, or inconvenience when the repair goes wrong.

How Do I Not Get (Or Feel) Ripped-Off On Car Repair?

Building a relationship can go a long way when it comes to feeling good about car repair. Take time to get educated on what's going on, that way when the technician mentions that they might need to replace the water pump while they go in for the timing belt, you already know that it's a good idea that will save you some serious labor cash in the long run.

So how to do you get educated? You can use our estimator to find out how much you should be paying and get a detailed description of what they'll be doing under the hood. We also host hundreds of encyclopedia pages, articles, and videos that dive deep into descriptions that you can understand. It's about time someone made car repair feel like less of a rip-off and more like a smart investment!

About the Author:

Jill Trotta (the infamous RepairPal Jill) is the director of RepairPal's skilled Automotive group. She is an ASE Certified industry veteran with over 25 years of experience. Jill started as a technician and has worked her way through the ranks. She has held positions as technician, service advisor, service manager, parts director, shop owner, and is currently the helping lead our automotive group.

Jill has a wide range of experience and a deep love of the industry. She closely identifies with the day-to-day workings of an automotive repair facility and prides herself on her ability to problem solve and create change. In her current position, she is in charge of establishing and enforcing the criteria for the RepairPal Certification program. Jill has evaluated over 4000 independent auto shops for this program. Her knowledge of the process and training that shops are using is vast as well as her knowledge of auto repair pricing.

RepairPal is working to mend the lack of trust consumers have in the car repair industry by providing them with in-depth knowledge and resources that connect them with dependable and reliable car repair shops near them.

Our goal is to establish an auto repair process that is less stressful and much more trustworthy for everyone involved. Our website hosts a car repair Estimator that gets rid of that "ripped-off" feeling. We also provide matches to local Certified shops that are guaranteed to do repairs with quality parts, a fair price, and a trained, awesome staff.

Have a question about RepairPal? Send us an email at

Jill Trotta

About the Author

I am an member of the Automotive Professional group at I have been in the field for over 22 years. I am an ASE Certified Technician and Service Consultant. My passion is European cars, especially BMW, but I have extensive experience with American and Japanese vehicles as well. I have a passion for learning and teaching. I love answering questions and finding answers and solutions.

1 User Comment

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By , August 17, 2017
Flat rate has brought many unskilled "parts installers" into field of auto repair, not many "technicians" treat the vehicle as a patient. Close to half of the business in shops is actually vehicles that have recently been "repaired" whether it be by a business or a DIY'er. Plus it's not their car,~ they have a ride home.