The two major components that determine a fair automobile labor cost are the cost of labor per hour, which drivers can estimate using RepairPal, and the estimated time the job takes, which is available on AutoMD. Drivers looking for the best deal should consult several mechanics, especially for expensive work.
While online tools are useful for estimating repair costs, it's important to call mechanics and ask how much they charge per hour. Hourly labor costs can vary significantly even in fairly small areas because mechanics have to balance maximizing their profits with attracting sufficient business. A mechanic who runs a smaller shop in a new area might charge lower prices in an effort to build a sustainable base of customers.
The relatively high cost of mechanical work means that the labor cost of particular jobs might exceed the cost of the part itself. Replacing a blown head gasket, for example, requires only a flat sheet of metal. However, mechanics have to disassemble and reassemble much of the engine, so the labor fee is typically higher than the price of the parts. Because of this, drivers might want to speak with multiple mechanics; a mechanic who charges more per hour might have more experience with certain vehicles and be able to complete the job faster.