This is definitely an article for individuals who are fairly new or wanting to repair their own vehicle. For a good portion of my childhood, being the son of a mechanic I was always exposed to automotive repairs. At first helping, until gathering enough knowledge to complete repairs myself. Eventually, I gained my driver's license and then became a vehicle owner. All the years of driving, I have really only ever completed repairs myself, unless I was either in a pinch or dealership warranty work was needed. For those few exceptions, they don't even account for a handful of times.
Over the years I have done anything from basic maintenance such as an oil change to complicated repairs such as a transmission replacement or repairing a leaking head gasket. Basic maintenance is by far the simplest and the best area to start for individuals with a minimal skill set. It is the most common type of repairs, can be quite similar amongst a majority of vehicles, and doesn't require a large number of tools to get you started. Regular maintenance doesn't typically take as long to complete than compared to failing components and the risk of damage to your vehicle doesn't tend to be as high either. For the most part, repairs can be somewhat intimidating to beginners.
When completing repairs yourself, you not only get the satisfaction of achieving a new accomplishment, but it also comes right down to saving money. Alternating between winter and summer wheels, changing the oil, replacing spark plugs, or repairing a broken light, those can become quite costly in the end. A shop may charge $70 to $100 an hour and the replacement/repair can be based on book hours or actual hours. Book hours is a set standard amongst the automotive mechanic trade which lists the required hours for various repairs. Shops may charge the full rate, even if they repair the vehicle sooner. Other shops may just charge by the hour, therefore you can under or over pay depending on how long it takes to complete the repair. Obviously hourly rate pricing, hours required, how a shop prices a job, types of mechanics (privately owned, mobile mechanics, dealers, etc.) and locations will all affect the final price.
Using a spark plug replacement on a four cylinder car for example. Four spark plugs would be required for a replacement, types of spark plugs will greatly vary in cost (copper, platinum, iridium, dealer equipment, etc), we shall use a rough cost of $8 per spark plug as a value. Therefore four spark plugs at $8 each will work out to a total of $24. If these spark plugs were to be supplied by a repair shop, they may have a mark-up which could be $30 for four spark plugs instead. If the book hours for a repair are two hours, an hourly rate of $85 would work out to a total of $170. $170 in labor, plus the $30 in parts works out to a total replacement cost of $200. If the replacement only took an hour and the shop charged accordingly, then the total cost of the replacement would have been $115 instead.
As a second example, something much more complicated and also much more costly, a timing belt replacement. A proper timing belt replacement should typically include a new timing belt, coolant, water pump, tension pulley and idler pulley. A timing belt kit (including new timing belt, tensioner pulley, and idler pulley) is $160, water pump with a gasket is $60, and coolant is about $30. Leaving the total cost of parts and materials at $250. If the parts were to be marked-up at a local shop, they may charge $300 instead. Book hours for such a job maybe five hours. With the same rate as previously, $85 per hour multiplied by five hours would give a total of $425 for labor. With the parts and labor, that gives us a total of $725. Again, if the repair took less than five hours we could be looking at a reduced price on the total labor charge.
In both scenarios, you can see there is a substantial difference in costs. If you were to do the spark plug replacement yourself, it would be $24 for the parts or if you took it to a repair shop then you could be possibly facing a repair bill of $200. As for the timing belt replacement, to do it yourself could be $250 while a shop repair bill would be $725. For the spark plug replacement there is a $176 savings and for the timing belt replacement, there would be a $475 savings. Between the two repairs, you can easily purchase the tools required to complete the work and in one of the more costly repairs, the tools will have already pay for themselves. Therefore addition work on your vehicle would be a complete money savings. Keep in mind for every repair, tool requirements may vary and sometimes specialty items are needed. Once those tools are purchased, you will no longer need to purchase them again.