Mechanics use national standards stated in automotive labor guides to determine how many hours a repair should take when attempted by an entry level mechanic. Those hours are multiplied by the mechanic or shop's hourly labor rate, and the sum is added to the cost of the parts needed to make the repair to produce the final bill.
Although an automotive labor guide helps mechanics provide an estimate of costs, if other problems are revealed during the repair process, the estimate may change drastically.
Software such as the Real-Time Labor Guide, found on the Labor Guide website, contains the national standards for every repair. It supplies labor times for all vehicles, domestic or foreign, dating back to 1968. It allows mechanics to provide detailed estimates that cover the high, average and low costs of the repair in question, allowing the customer to prepare for the worst case scenario. The estimate feature is flexible enough to incorporate factors such as technician availability, the need for special parts and the vehicle's overall condition into the proposed cost. The software customizes all estimates with the user's auto shop logo and contact information, and it allows mechanics to input their own package job prices, shop cost and labor rates.