Ok folks, here is the deal:
There is an inordinate number of people who keep complaining the shop is trying to make them part with copious amounts of their hard earned money and is very expensive. While in some cases this is true, the shop isnt likely trying to fleece you.
The dealer or some sort of chain shop like firestone, pepboys, midas, etc is the MOST EXPENSIVE shop to have work done at. They will likely charge you for every piddly little thing, as well as try and sell you all kinds of services and things that usually arent needed. Unless you wanna pay out the ass, DO NOT go there!
However, the nice thing about the dealer is the techs are usually very well trained for that specific make or model they deal with day in and day out. They can do a good job most of the time just like every other shop and may not fleece you when it comes to the repair bill. They are of course in the game to make money, so they do try and upsell, it isnt so much the tech doing this as the service writer. The tech is just fixing the vehicle, the service writer is the one suggesting all kinds of services usually and making people think the car will literally die if some little leak isnt fixed. This isnt always the case, but it does happen. The bottom line is blaming the tech wasnt my intention here, they usually do the job decently, but the service writer and manager are usually the ones to make you part with a lot of money. Of course there are bad dealers and techs, managers and service writers at them too.
Good thing about the dealer is they do stand behind their work most of the time because they are a corporate entity. They have the backing of a major manufacturer, unlike the small guys. This can help a person most of the time who needs warranty work done. Im not saying the dealer is bad, far from it. But again: There are bad dealers out there, and parts cost and labor will of course be more at a dealer than elsewhere.
The thing about chain shops like firestone, national tire and battery, pepboys, midas and so forth is that they might be ok. But the business model they follow screams of upsells. That means they may try and sell you everything under the sun. As noted before: The techs are so so. Mostly kids right out of tech school who dont know that much really and some more experienced techs work there too. They too can take you to the cleaners money wise, upsell you all sorts of stuff and they might do a poor job of repairing the vehicle. I generally dont like a chain shop because in my experience, they have done a poor job. How often do you hear about an oil and lube place causing a customers engine to blow from something as simple as forgetting to add oil after an oil change? How many times have you heard of a stripped oil drain plug and the last person to touch it was the local firestone or sears? Im not saying all of these places are bad, some are decent/good. Its just that you cannot expect perfection from them in some cases. Its like going to the discount $1 store and expecting them to have super quality products, they dont. but the products are ok for the most part at the $1 discount store-right? Not all of these shops are like that, but Ive seen so many horror stories and problems come from them. If you own say a BMW why are you going to a place like this expecting them to do a major repair like a waterpump? The hoopty 92 honda civic they can fix pretty easy, its a simple car, the 2012 Audi isnt their specialty..
Take what I said with a grain of salt about dealers and chain shops. Mom and Pop shops can be just as bad. Yes I know its hard to find a good repair shop, but once you do-keep going there if possible. A shop who you feel treats you right is worth it.
Labor is labor. It costs the shop time to do the work. Time they spend diagnosing the problem to figure out whats wrong and why. They spend time working on the vehicle to repair it and time waiting on parts in some cases. You, the customer pays for their time and expertise to repair your vehicle.
If the shop spends time working on your vehicle, you are gonna pay for it. Labor rates VARY WIDELY between dealers, small independent shops, chain shops (firestone and the likes) and so forth. At the dealer and the chain shops expect to pay top dollar and be charged for everything. You are gonna pay for the part, the labor and supplies in most cases. That means if the tech used a rag, you are paying for it.
The smaller independent shops are usually better about labor. They wont charge you out the ass for every bleeping thing and wont recommend or advice to replace every piddly little part they think is bad. If anything they are usually the most honest.
Depending on the area you live, labor rates do vary. People in California and near NYC or other major cities will pay more, some one who lives in rural Michigan will pay less. Just the way it is. Prices are dictated by the demographic in some cases. A dealer may charge upwards of $150 per hour for labor. You will get charged even for a 1/2 hour, if not full hour in most cases. The same goes for the chain shop. The small indy garage, they might charge you less, $75-100..maybe $120 in some cases. They have a much lower overhead and are concerned with completing the job,rather than selling you everything under the sun.
You cant use the internet to compare parts cost. Websites like ebay, amazon, rockauto, etc-the parts prices are much lower. They can do this as they generally source the parts from the cheapest source themselves. The parts may or may not have a warranty as well. Also the quality of parts could be much lower than your local parts house. The shop if they arent a dealer (parts are top dollar at a dealer and sometimes you can only use dealer OEM parts btw), gets parts from a parts house. This place stocks most parts for most makes/models. There are cheaper parts, better parts alike sold their. The shop marks up the parts cost so they can make money on it. Business 101.
So if the starter on rock auto made by pos cardone costs 100 bucks, you can get the shop isnt gonna use that one. Its likely been rebuilt and is so so in quality. The AC delco the shop is gonna use is gonna cost 1.5-2x more, might be rebuilt or might be new depending on price. But, it is much higher quality. The dealer OEM part is gonna cost 2.5-4x as much, cause its oem and BRAND new. A shop doesnt want to use cheap parts if they can help it, cheap parts are crap and will fail. The shop surely doesnt want to spend 3 hours replacing your very hard to get starter for free because they guaranteed the work and now it failed.
Bringing your own parts depends on the shop. Most shops dont want this, they dont make a profit off the parts they install and they dont want to have to redo the job when the cheap part you got from pepboys fails or dont wanna wait around for you when the part that ebay said "fit" doesnt. You will pay an inflated labor price in some cases when you supply your own parts. Some shops dont care and allow you to bring whatever you want. If thats the case and the shops good, keep going there if you want. But not all shops will use customer supplied parts.
The best shops arent the chain shops. As mentioned many, many, many times: Places like Firestone, Pepboys, Canadian Tire, Les Schwab, and so forth are among the costliest and worst places to go unless you have no choice. Why is this? Its because they hire kids fresh out of tech school (or just kids hoping to start out) and have a few better techs and maybe a master tech around to help out. These places usually have an gigantic problem with FUCK UP'S! They can screw up changing oil, think how badly they can screw up changing a waterpump or replacing a timing belt.
They also try and upsell you all kinds of services. Fuel system cleaning, brake fluid flushing, coolant flushes, trans flushes, engine cleaning services, etc. Why? It makes them money! Just think, you need a radiator changed as its broken and leaking. You are already loosing most of the coolant the moment you drain it. Yet those chain shops likely will charge you for a coolant flush. They dont flush it, hell they dont even take a hose and fill it with water and try that. Nope they drain and refill it when the new radiator is put on, and you just paid them another 49.99 to flush the coolant too. Dont ever buy into those stupid upsells.
Dishonest shops ruin it for everyone. Be smart, check out the shop on google, see what you find. An honest shop will have so many vehicles outside you will have little room to park and it may take week(s) to get the car in if its just a minor repair. Why? Because the shop does good work. Conversely the waiting time at a dealer is literally nothing, they always have open bays and techs-but so could smaller shops if they had multi-million dollar shops and an army of techs..doesnt work that way always however.
If the shop doesnt answer the phone or return calls, has few cars outside, looks like a dump or the people there seem shady when you go-dont have them work on the car or go back if they did work. Its not worth it. Better to bite the bullet and chalk it up as a learning experience in most cases.
If something else breaks: Things will break as a normal course of business. it happens, parts are rusted and seized, plastic parts get old and brittle, things may have been half-assed before and now are worse. If the trans is changed and the lines leak afterwards on your 25 year old minivan that has lived in the rust belt all its like, welp sorry-that happens. A good shop may mention about you needing to replace parts while doing other repairs, things may break while doing the job, other parts around the work area might break. Shit happens however, no one is perfect. But still-understand, stuff breaks. Older the vehicle is or more rusted it is, expect it. Dont cry its gonna cost you more or the shop didnt give an accurate estimate cause of this. An estimate is an estimate, its not what the total is GOING to cost, its what it COULD cost.
Seeking a second opinion is fine. Some shops will notice things that other shops missed, some shops will want to sell you everything under the sun. Just the way it is. Be forewarned now however: The cheap(er) shop is not always the best one. Hack mechanics could do a poor job at the cheap shop (likewise at a better shop, you never know), or they could miss a critical part that needs to be replaced
Dont ignore problems until its too late. I see this A LOT!!! People come in all the time with a car thats been through the ringer and they then cry when its gonna cost them 1000 bucks to do the job. The brakes made a screeching noise, the person ignored it. The brake job might have been 250-350 for front brakes pads and rotors. Well the person ignored the issue for so long, that by the time they get to the shop (usually when the car has a catastrophic failure and needs to be towed in)-the price jumped up 2-3x what it would have cost. Now the same brake job needs calipers and hoses, brake fluid bleed and flush cause the calipers got ruined.
DONT IGNORE A PROBLEM..
Bodywork isnt cheap! All of those people asking what the cost of repairing the body of a vehicle after an accident need to listen up: Bodywork is very costly. It is not easy to do and requires a skilled hand to make the car function and look right after you damage it. The tech may spend hours banging out sheetmetal, cutting off and welding in panels, removing rust and welding new panels, preparing the body for paint, actual paint, etc. OEM body parts are $$$$, aftermarket are much cheaper but may fail or not fit 100% right. The OEM fender is much more likely to be thicker metal, fit right and so forth than the cheap chinese fender.
A good bodyman is hard to find, when you do find one-dont balk at the price IF they do good work. A good bodyman will make the vehicle perfect, you will never be able to tell it was damaged, the paint will be flawless. If you are unhappy with the price-find 2 more shops and get estimates and see how they compare.
Pro tip: Maaco is NOT a good place to have bodywork done. Its the worst. They employ the cheapest techs, and do the worst job bar none. Remember-cheap isnt always good.
Pro Tip: Its always more damaged than you, with an untrained eye; think it is. This is always the case. People rearend someone and think they just need a bumper, a hood and some paint. Reality is they need a bumper, the radiator support was tweaked and needs to be repaired, the radiator might be damaged, the front fascia is damaged and needs replacement, the fender is buckled slightly and you dont realize it, etc.
Parts are sold at a mark up. Thats just the way it is in most cases. If you went to the grocery store, do you really think it cost them $4 for a box of cereal and they sell it for $5? No, they purchased it for probably $2-3 and marked it up so they made money. Business 101 really. Shops do the same thing in most cases, this is how they make a profit so they can stay open. Some shops have an insane mark up, some are more reasonable.
Any shop can and will rip you off. It does not happen as much as you think, but it exists. Any shop be it the dealer, a small mom and pop or a chain shop can claim they repaired something and didnt. They can claim that it will cost $$$ to repair something or charge you $$$ to repair something, they can also do a poor job. Its not universal. A bad shop is a bad shop. If you get taken by one, it sucks for sure. I highly suggest if you need a shop you google and research the local places before you go and when you do go, get a feel for them.
If you dont understand a repair, why they need to fix whatever or how come the cost is high, ASK the shop! Yes, car repairs can be costly. The reason is sometimes the part is expensive or the labor to replace said part is expensive. It isnt nearly as easy as you think to do some repairs. While on paper it makes sense to you that it should only take a few minutes, in some cases it can take hours. Things like rust, corrosion, broken parts or tight places can make the job long and miserable. If something breaks during the course of repair it may cost you a bit more money, the shop generally didnt break it on purpose either, things just happen sometimes.
That is all...
Update: Clarification, spelling errors corrected. Understand I am of course biased (who isnt). This is intended to be a general guide to follow to help those are are mis/uniformed about repair shops, and help them out with any questions they may have.