6 Oct 2009

Car Maintenance Sucks!

This [unedited] guest post is by a student in my EEP100 class (background post).
Please praise/critique/comment on its economic quality and importance to you.

Peter Le says:

I have always been curious about why car repairs are so expensive. It sucks having to spend so much to maintain your car. People already have to pay for insurance and rising gas costs, so throwing in maintenance costs makes driving any automobile pretty expensive. People who drive have to pay because it will cost more later on if you they put off repairs. I have no idea why parts are so expensive and why they are more costly to put on. It wasn’t until I looked into the different costs and economic aspects that I saw how complex the automobile repair/ maintenance industry actually is. People who have to repair their cars already have the sunk costs of paying for their cars so it is better to keep their cars running that not running. They still need to get around. Some people do not have the time of shopping around to get the best deal on a mechanic. So these mechanics have the potential to nickel and dime these drivers at times when they are most desperate for repairs.

There are many economic costs that running an auto shop has to incur that aren’t ever really thought up about. The total cost of any repair is basically the cost of parts and the cost of labor. While the parts of vehicle vary depending on the part and the model, the cost of labor is usually about $80-$100 for major repairs according to most forums I have been to. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mechanics or automotive service technicians made about $18.05 an hour in 2008 on average. That doesn’t seem like that much out of the $80-$100 but it accounts for all of the fixed costs and start up costs that an auto repair shop has to pay. The rent, the cost of the tools and equipment, the cost of the utilities to run, the cost of insurance for the mechanics add up to a lot. Some auto-repair shops invest in state of the art equipment that is costly. Also, shops face competition from other mechanics in the market. Also, mechanics actually have to get accredited and trained from programs that can be costly as well. This is why they are good at what they do.

The costs of car parts are so expensive because auto shops want to make a profit, or because some parts have to be ordered specially for the really old or foreign cars. People can learn to fix their own cars but face an opportunity cost of what else they could do with their time. Also, they would need have all the right tools and know exactly what is wrong with their car which would be another cost they would face. Not everyone can be a mechanic.

Bottom-line: Everyone who drives has to pay a lot for a mechanic. Either learn how to fix your own car or deal with it.


  1. Ride a bike! Repairs are easy and/or cheap!

  2. Taking good care of a car will make a big difference. I am amazed at the people who do not check brakes, oil, air filters; all of this is very cheap and with the exception of brake *repairs* can be done at home. Beyond that, you just have to deal with the cost as part of ownership. Parts themselves are expensive for the reasons you describe. In addition, many repairs require special, expensive tools that it would never make sense for an individual to purchase. Some enthusiast groups for sports cars or motorcycles purchase such tools for members to share, however.

  3. A more interesting question might have been: Why do people expect cars to be inexpensive to operate, indefinitely? Of course if you put it that way, the question seems absurd; but isn't that what this essay assumes?

    Bottom line: One way to tell if your question is absurd is to reverse it.

  4. It is a very nice and good post. Keep up the good work.


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