Shops bill for their labor hours using either Standard Repair Times, by establishing their own estimated repair times, or actual technician repair time.

Truck makers, component suppliers and even third party publishers offer SRT guides to help establish acceptable times for specific repairs. Standard repair times for a specific repair can vary based on what method the source used to develop the standard.  In addition, manufactures typically have a separate SRT established for their dealer warranty time reimbursement.  

According to a Technology & Maintenance Council Information Report, variables include:

  • Technician skill level
  • Access to replacement vehicle components and necessary tooling
  • Non-repair tasks required to facilitate the repair
  • Parts ordering
  • Road testing
  • Cleaning
  • Other “overhead” related items

A review of software service protocols should also be included.

SRTs don’t include additional work that may be discovered as a repair progresses. Any additional work would have to be quoted separately and may have its own SRT.

Using the actual labor billed is just that: a dollar amount per hour for the actual time the technician spends completing the repair.  Typically the shop’s hourly labor charge is lower using the actual repair time, but the hours spent completing the repair are more.  Conversely, the SRT method typically has fewer hours billed, but at a higher hourly rate. 

It can be difficult to compare the cost of a repair between a shop that uses SRTs and one that quotes its own hourly rate. It’s important not to get fooled by a low hourly rate without knowing how many hours the repair will take to complete.  

A shop that uses SRTs will be able to tell you the exact cost of a brake job, for example. You will be charged the amount quoted whether the technician completes the repair in less than the time allotted or if the repair takes longer then the SRT allows for — barring any unforeseen repairs needed.  In that case the shop has to “eat” the cost of the additional time. You will only pay based on the SRT quoted at the beginning of the repair.

If you choose to use a service provider that bills actual repair times, it is important to ask some follow-up questions including, how much time they anticipate the repair taking or how much time they typically spend completing the same repair your vehicle needs.

The goal is for you to be able to do an accurate comparison of which option makes the most sense for your repair.

There are pros and cons to both options. In the end, you want to make sure you know what you are paying for before the repair begins.