No one likes to spend money on their car, I hate it as much as you.  However, it’s a fact of life that all cars will at least need gas and oil changes in order that they continue to serve you on a daily basis.  BMWs require more than the average car, but less than others.  Needless to say, luxury cars usually produce luxury maintenance bills, as they are of a higher performance and have more electronic gagets that can break or fail for no apparant reason.  When customers bring their BMW to my shop in San Diego, I feel as though my number one job is to make them understand what they are buying and why.  To me, that’s just as important as fixing their BMW properly.

So, lets just say you brought your BMW to get it serviced and it was recommended that you have an Inspection II performed and your control arm bushings needed repair.  The service advisor tells you that the total cost will amount to about $1000.  Do you know what you are getting?  Did you understand what he or she told you?  Did you just say ok?  Stop.  I see a lot of past bills provided by customers, and in many cases I’m a bit shocked as to what they were charged for, and even more shocked about what things were not done to the car that should have been.  In addition, these bills are extremely difficult to read and are chock-full of words and sentances that just seem to fill the page and nickle and dime the poor bastard up to a $1000 with not much being done.  Call it illegal, call it un-ethical, but that poor bastard was the one that approved it all.  No wonder mechanics have a bad name, they’ve earned it.

BMW Inspection II

Before we get into your $1000 BMW service or repair bill, I think it’s important that I point out that running a shop is expensive.  At my shop in San Diego we carry a lot of BMW parts in inventory, and BMW parts are expensive.  We’ve got the property to pay for, the tools to pay for, oils, fluids, computers, employees, worker’s comp, insurance, etc. etc.  This stuff is expensive, and it is all necessary in order that we exist, and yes, you’ll help pay for it.  It’s a fact of life.

One question I get asked frequently is “What is your labor rate?”  This is probably the worst factor to determine where to bring your BMW.  What you should ask is “How much does a brake job cost?” for example.  Why is this important?  Let’s do a comparison.  You can go to ‘Brakes ‘R Us’ where the labor rate is $95/hr. for the brake job where they will use standard (code for cheapest available) pads and rotors, and slap it all together and send you on your way for about $1100 in the end for all four wheels.  Then there is us, where the labor rate is more.  We use High quality rotors such as Brembo, and higher performance pads such as Mintex, which we’ve tested on hundreds of cars and found better performance and very low dust accumulation on wheels.  We’ll clean and lubricate every brake component, and send you on your way.  Price is about $975 for the same job.  Why?

BMW Repair Bill

Unfotunately I don’t have all the answers as to why certain shops charge what they charge or operate how they do.  What you need to do as a customer is understand what you are paying for — make the service facility do that, if they can’t, go elsewhere.  Look at your bill!  Check to see what was done, and look to see what they charged you for.  Were you charged 0.25 hours for them to check your brake light bulbs?  If so, you just got charged almost $20 by the guys that charge $95/hr. to have one guy step on the brake pedal while another guy says “yep, they all work.”   Look for parts on your bill, many bills have a ton of 0.25, 0.15, 0.35 labor items that all add up while the actual parts list that went into the car is rather short.  We have a pretty clear bill to understand as far as BMW Service is concerned.  Parts are in one column and labor in another, both easy to understand and clear to read.

With any car, not just BMWs, the most important thing you can find is a service center that you trust and can rely upon.  It’s worth its weight in gold.  Ask around, talk to other owners, and make sure that you feel comfortable when you’re in for repair.  Like I said, everyone hates spending money on their car, but if you get the most bang for your buck, and feel comfortable with the services that you are getting, it makes that $1000 bill a bit easier to swallow.

Happy Motoring!

Chris Keefer

Independent Motorcars

5836 Autoport Mall

San Diego CA 92121