$35 to get my headlights adjusted. Really?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

I was quite shocked last week when I took my car in to have the headlights adjusted. I went to an official headlight adjusting station and they quoted me a price of $35.00. In my book, that figures out to about $100.00 an hour for their labor. You see so many cars on the highway at night with their headlights way out of adjustment that I thought I would do the right thing and get mine checked, but at those prices, I guess I'll have to be content doing it myself against the garage door. Does that price sound reasonable to you?

TOM: "Official Headlight Adjusting Station?" Are they franchising these things, Cliff? This sounds like the kind of technology my brother could handle!

RAY: 35 bucks does sound a little steep, Cliff. But it's not ridiculous.

TOM: You must be an old-timer, Cliff. You probably remember when you could get a guy to adjust your headlights for five bucks. But it ain't a five dollar job anymore.

RAY: I'd say it's a 10 to 20 minute job under most circumstances. But a lot of garages have minimum charges. They figure it's not worth the inconvenience of moving cars around, pulling your car in and out of the garage, and filling out a repair slip if they're only going to make 20 bucks. So some of them set a labor minimum, usually a half hour. And that's probably what you got quoted.

TOM: You should have told them to wash the windows, polish the seat belt buckles, and adjust the headlights. And it still would have been $35.

RAY: Here's my suggestion. Next time you take your car in for service somewhere else, ask them to check the adjustment of the headlights while it's there. If you're allowing them to take you for a ride on some more profitable work, like shocks, tires, or a muffler, I'll bet they'll throw in the headlight adjustment for nothing...or at least less than $35.

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