When your car breaks down or begins to act strangely, then your friendly local auto mechanic is usually your first call. Unfortunately, many drivers find the automotive repair experience to be stressful. If you don't consider yourself to be a gearhead, then you may find the unfamiliar terminology and potentially complicated invoices to be intimidating.

Fortunately, it doesn't take much to demystify the process. Most mechanics use similar techniques to establish pricing, and understanding a bit about them can often ease the anxiety that comes with car repairs. Below you will find three common factors that determine how any given repair shop typically prices their work.

1. Book Estimates

You may sometimes hear automotive technicians refer to the "book" time for a project. Most mechanics use standardized guides to determine the amount of labor required to complete a job. Experienced mechanics will typically have a good intuition of how much work is needed to repair or replace a part, but the book time still serves as a useful guide.

When a shop provides you with an estimate for work on your car, it can be helpful to ask whether they are making use of a time guide or their own assessment. This question can be especially useful if you are comparing prices since it can help you to understand why your quote from one shop may be drastically higher than from another.

2. Part Preferences

In the automotive world, parts typically fall into one of three categories: factory (or "genuine"), original equipment manufacturer (OEM), and aftermarket. You can usually expect OEM parts to be identical to the factory equivalents but without the vehicle manufacturer's branding. On the other hand, aftermarket parts can vary in quality. In general, factory parts cost more than other options.

Dealership repair departments will always use genuine parts, but most independent mechanics will only use them if no other options are available. Many mechanics prefer OEM parts as an ideal option for factory quality at a lower cost, but some may have a preference for aftermarket parts. Asking your mechanic about their choices can help you to understand your repair bill better.

3. Labor Cost Variations

"You get what you pay for!" is an easy adage to repeat, but it doesn't always tell you the whole story. Labor rates can vary dramatically between mechanics, so it's usually more helpful to ask about qualifications. The Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications are the gold standard for the industry, so you should expect quality shops to employ ASE-certified mechanics.

In addition to certification in the core ASE disciplines, many shops may employ one or more ASE Masters certified mechanics. The better trained and qualified a shop's mechanics, the more you should expect to pay for their labor.

Having a solid understanding of how mechanics price their services can help you to make informed price comparisons. With a little knowledge, you can easily choose a mechanic to perform quality work at a fair price.

To learn more, contact a local automotive mechanic today.