Is my dealer justified in charging for the labor costs of rags and lubricants?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1990

Dear Tom and Ray:

Being a frugal person (a.k.a. cheapskate), I am infuriated with the local Honda dealer who charges an additional 10% per hour of the "labor" rate for "materials" such as rags and lubricants. Am I the only one who thinks this is an incredible rip-off?

RAY: It is ridiculous to assume that a mechanic is going to use $3 to $4 worth of rags and lubricants every hour. So yes, it is a rip-off.

TOM: More than that, however, it's stupid of them to TELL you they're ripping you off. If they need to increase their profit margin, they ought to just raise their labor rate and shut-up. They obviously thought that either you'd be more amenable to paying $40 for labor and $4 for rags than $44 an hour for labor, or that you wouldn't bother reading the fine print on your bill. I guess they were wrong on both accounts.

RAY: But what are you going to do? If you want to go to this dealer, you're going to pay it one way or the other. Just be glad they haven't come up with even more creative surcharges, like a 15% marine exploration charge (for the mechanic's fishing boat payment), or a 25% handicap improvement fee (for his membership at the country club). $4 an hour for rags could start to sound pretty good.

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