Who's Worse: Computer Repair Shops or Used Car Dealers?

by Preston Gralla

It's the enternal question: Who's less trustworthy -- computer repair shops or used car dealers? If my experience in the last week with a local repair shop is any indication, computer repair shops lose, hands down.


Tim O'Brien
2006-06-19 14:52:12
I'd trust a Used Car Salesman more than a PC repair shop. For starters, it's easy to check the book value of a used vehicle. If a used car salesman is trying to get $25k for a '99 Toyota Camry, it's easy for the consumer to get educated. Sure, the sales guy might try to make something up, and you'll end up taking a hit when you end up buying the protective undercarriage coating, but user car salesmen have to deal with a buying public that is familiar with automobiles in general. Plus, we're already skeptical and they know that.

On the other hand, people are rarely skeptical of PC repair technicians, for most consumers they occupy a high seat of authority, and the prices they set are arbitrary. There is no, second pricing authority to check with, and the terminology is changing so often that it is difficult even for an informed consumer to know the difference between different options.

A computer is the perfect consumer vehicle - *everything* is an upgrade.

2006-06-19 17:11:24
So, how long, exactly, did it take your son to do all that work? So far, I'm only seeing an out-of-pocket cost of $80. I'd be curious to know how much it would have been if you took your son's time and multiplied it by the usual shop rate (say, $65/hr).
M. David Peterson
2006-06-19 21:45:04
Do we have to make a choice? ;)
2006-06-20 05:23:44
mind i know it seems like that guy is excessive. backing up the drive maybe 20-45 minutes. fix the rest maybe an hour. i would say 150-250 dollars not so bad.. its getting to the point where it is cheaper to buy new machine.
2006-06-20 13:30:36
This is exactly why I have recently started my own business to provide HONEST, QUALITY computer support, repair etc. I have worked in IT for nearly 20 years and the same can be said for "professional" consulting services. There may be a ballpark as far as hourly rates but the exact skills and depth of knowledge for any given "expert" are very difficult to gauge before it has already cost you several thousand dollars. I have even been in training classes by/for a "large enterprise database" that were more than 50% employees of that same company. They would of course be out selling their consulting service the following week for $100 to $150 per hour.

I like to think of computer services much like car repair. Most people have no way of knowing if they are being honest nor fairly priced. But once you have a mechanic you trust, you don't want to go anywhere else.

At least that is what I'm betting on.

2006-06-20 15:54:35
Which do you think that there are more of, dishonest PC Repair Shops, Car Repair Shops, or Hack Journalists with knee-jerk article writing ability?

I'm sorry to hear that you have seemed to find a repair house that was less than what you desired, but you can pretty much do that across the board with any shop or profession. Painting us all with a broad brush makes you seem petty and ignorant.

2006-06-21 10:35:18
Im sitting here and thinking that should be all of $200 including the new drive, installing the drive, imaginging the old drive to the new one. Throw in a spyware check for free just because the 'top is already sitting on the bench.

The bench fee of $65 sounds normal though.

Tom Harris
2006-06-21 21:36:06
The old American Rule " Buyer Beware"
2006-06-22 06:06:45
Here is the other side of the story. Couple of years back, I blowed fuse in my (at that time) new Honda Accord. I took it the Nation's #2 Honda dealer (Earned president award for straight 10 years). The cost of the fuse is $0.59 and my total invoice is (take a breath) $25.00.
I know exactly where is the problem (as only audio did not work). I am pretty sure where the fuse lives and even which fuse (marked on the casing). Why did they charge? they did a complete system check for 30 minutes.
It is not about how much they charge, it is their time to be counted. In most of the time, 'do it yourself' works great and cheap, and if you are not sure what you are doing - then I recommend leave it to the professional, whether it is fixing the water tap or rebuilding your house.
2006-06-22 11:00:40
Back in the late 90s, I ran a little computer repair business on the side. I'd go to people's houses and clean off viruses, upgrade hard drives, etc. I always charged $35.00 per hour, and the work rarely if ever went over an hour.

When Y2K became the buzz word in late '99, I would literally get phone calls at all hours from customers who were terrified their PC would implode on 1/1/00.

Now, I could have made a small fortune off these guys, but I didn't. I'd tell them to backup everything they couldn't live without, reset their system date to 1/1/00, and make sure all their apps still worked.

Nothing ever imploded, and I kept my good Karma :)

Horace B. Williford
2006-06-25 05:20:03
I think $150.00 per hour is a fair price for computer repair work.
I'm also thinking about raising my rates...considering high gas prices and cheap whiny customers it's only fair.....just kidding.

2006-06-25 10:37:27
I have o problem whith my car and a dindn't have any money and i found some repair car manuals at someone at a tuning car wbsite go there if you need any car manual at http://www.real-tuning.tk
2006-07-04 14:29:06
You're not paying for the actual labor, just like an auto mechanic, you're paying for the knowledge the guy/shop has. I charge $80 an hour and this is more than fair, especially for the Fort Lauderdale Metro area.
2006-07-09 15:31:12
no one, and i mean no one, deserves to get raped by the computer tech.
$50 an hour for labor should cover all costs, (not counting parts), such as education, labor, liabilities, shop overhead, etc.

if you are charging $150 an hour for tech labor, then I should charge you $150 an hour for watching stick my thumb up my ass.

2006-07-10 10:52:07
After reading this load of rubbish, I am surprised that having a computer expert in the family, that the father even bothered to take the computer any where?

I assume that the writer of this story thinks that experts shouldn`t charge for their time? Personaly if some one came to me for advice and wasted my time, I`d invoice them for being a pr*ck!

Danny C
2006-07-10 22:37:21
We can do that for $200.
vlad, galant
2006-07-11 00:01:24
I run my own business "911 PC HELP" i couldn't believe in what you described....
If it's really true...i'd just burn that place. Such a shame,it's compramizing all others like myself.
2006-07-11 06:43:23
The person writing this seems to thnk that backing up data, checking for spyware and other malicious software, replacing a hard disk, reinstallng an o/s and then restoring the backed up data, only takes about 1/2 hour? You`re joking?

Perhaps garages charge too much to change a set of brake pads - after all, it`s only a case of taking out the pads and replacing them, nothing ever goes wrong? Yeah right! I could say pretty much the same about any trade going, but I won`t. I wouldn`t insult people by saying such rubbish.

I could probably build an extention to my house for less than a builder, but would it take me longer and possibly cause me loads of trouble? Perhaps, perhaps not!

2006-07-12 09:08:09
I imagine that what you mean by saying how used car salesmen are dishonest is because they are trying to sell you something less than what they claim. In other words, they tell you the car is great and you get a lemon.

How, in any way, is that even approaching what you have here?

You went to the repair shop, the man explained precisely what you would get, for a precise price, you felt it was too expensive, and didn't choose to purchase.


That's _dishonesty_? At what point was he lying to you? I mean, not to mention that, obviously, you wouldn't need to have your computer cleaned if it was reformatted and reinstalled. So at most you could've been charged $800-$900.

And that's expensive. You could call it highway robbery! But, and this is the vital part you seem to be missing, you can't say you were _actually robbed_. You got a price quote, didn't like it, and chose to DIY. You could have _also_ shopped around to other PC repair shops, and see if any others were cheaper. Did you? Was every PC repair shop in the area this expensive?

All in all, you only paid $65 to have a guy tell you what was wrong with the computer. That's a little more expensive than I would charge in that business for a diagnostic, but you were told the price up front. You were told what you would get. And you stated your agreement to the price for that product by turning over the cash and computer.

You aren't really supposed to complain about getting precisely what you paid for at the same price you were quoted before you paid for it. That's uh ... Well _I_ wouldn't do it, at any rate :P

2006-07-12 10:53:34
I`d love to know how much the writer of this article charges by the hour or whatever?

I love it when people say something as stupid as, "but that is more than a new pc costs, I`ll buy a new pc then". Guess what, they still won`t have the fr*gging data that they were after saving!! :o) Nice new pc and an old pc with the problem and all the data, so what did buying a new pc resolve?

As for you guys talking about charging $50 an hour and some other guy said, that pc repairs never took him more than an hour! Firstly, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys! Secondly, one hour repair service - probably a monkey and should have been paid a fr*gging peanut!

Happy days :)

2006-07-12 16:25:26
If you have problems with dead pixels on your lcd i found a program who remode dead pixels in http://www.repair-lcd-dead-pixels.com Good luck
2006-07-13 06:12:20
Quote, "It's the enternal question:" Line one. You call yourself a writer?

Quote, "I brought it to a place here in Cambridge" Para 4.

Quote, "the tab would have been up to between $1100 to $1200 to back up data" Para 15.

What`s worse, a writer who is unable to spell, with terrible grammar or this biased, ill prepared, thoughtless junk?

I Hate Dumb Piople
2006-07-13 15:45:13
You sir are a dumbass. just because you are mad that your computer wont be fixed for 10 bucks, dont go knocking the shop. I deal with idiots like you all the time. You have inflated the prices by at least 3 times. Why would they charge you the 225 or 250 give it a "virtual bath" as you say, if they were going to give you a new formatted hard drive and install windows on it? all you would have paid was the price of the hard drive, the diagnostics and the labor for "installing windows, installing the drivers, windows updates, antivirus software, applications, etc". is your time worth more than their's? Why dont you just ask the person at the repair shop if you can get your pc repaired for free, let him tell you to get out and go back to your stupid family and do the work yourself if you are so smart. it would have cost you 300 bucks to do the job and you could have better spent your time doing something to make yourself better for humanity.

2006-07-18 09:03:41
The price he was charging you was fairly excessive. If you're in a small community, with just the one repair shop, however, he can probably get away with that. On the other hand, if you're in a larger community with more than one shop, I'm fairly certain you'll find that his prices were an anomaly. Word of mouth alone will drive clients to the lower-cost, more professional services, which focus on actually helping the customers, and still turning enough profit to pay employees a decent wage. I personally would have charged $75 for the labor, plus parts, or $70/hour if you had wanted on-site service.
2006-07-20 06:12:08
Lol, that's hilarious. (And by the way - all you literary critics - do you charge those rates yourselves since you're getting so childish). I think you were just unlucky though in the shop you found. Maybe the person there was used to repairing computers for businesses, which pay crazy amounts of money. I'm only starting off in this business, and so charge the equivalent of about $35 an hour (I'm only 19, so can't really ask for much more. I am completely self thought, and so can't claim that a person is paying for the knowledge I have bought off of a college). It should definitely be under $350 for a 50 gig drive and the labour though, especially as it would only be 3 hours work max.
Pc Doc
2006-07-28 11:14:04
OK. I am in this business and I think the repair shop (if the writer is telling the truth) charged too much. It may well be for a reason. Businesses are profit driven and it may be that this business wants to dump all the stupid "home users" and focus on businesses where there is some real money. If a luser is willing to pay the outrageous pricing, they will take it, but doing PC repair for "home users" with crappy cheap hardware and software is a losing business. I would say $65 an hour is about normal, but two or three support calls from Joe Moron who cant find his icons.

People wanting stuff so cheap has made computers a throw away item. Then they whine that tech support sucks when its outsourced or the poor techs are underpaid and beat to death.

Pc Doc
2006-07-28 11:16:08
OK. I forgot to finish a sentence. Two or three calls from Joe Moron who cant find his icons and you have wasted in tech time whatever money you made.

I dont agree with it, but the money driven market says
If you lose money on your customers, fire them.

chris austin
2006-08-02 15:59:16
I do PC work on the side and always find it dificult to strike a balance between earning extra money and providing the best deal i can to the customer. More often they win and I loose. I have a hard time when the repairs exceed the value of the machine. Since troubleshooting can be very costly I find it cost effective to just backup the data and restore all the software from scratch. Sorry you had such abad experience
Mike M.
2006-08-10 05:41:16
Sounds like the repair shop was charging about $50 to $75 an hour which is reasonable. He has overhead, training, advertising to pay. I bet you would not think twice about paying a mechanic or plumber that.

2006-08-14 12:45:25
Who should readers trust more?

A father who doesn't trust his son to help him with a problem?

Or a writer that uses bad trust analogies (computer repair guy vs used car salesman)?

If its so easy to repair a computer problems maybe you should go into business with your son, and don't keep your day job.

2006-08-25 11:09:32
So I don't get it, everyting has a high price attorney fees, doctor fees, etc. The fact of the matter is you pay for something you don't know how to do. If you can fix your own car don't got to a mechnic, if you cen represent yourself in court don't pay for an attorney. If you think you are getting overcharged for something wouldn't you compare pricing or at least call around to see what some prices would be?
Dave P
2006-08-25 11:13:00
Lol good thought Joe, check your spelling though. Ask me how much my lawyer fees are ---------
David B
2006-09-05 18:15:04
That is ridiculous. What were you expecting? The store owner has to keep 20 different hard drives in stock (plus a million other parts so they are there for you convenience), staff an individual that has the knowledge to working safely with hardware and software and also have the knowledge to fix other problems (created by your lack of knowledge). Sounds to me like you were not sure what the problem was exactly or I don't think you would have taken it to the shop in the first place. Are you expecting the shop owner to fix your laptop for free? Do you realize the cost of running a computer repair shop..?

An another thing, if y the shop owner was going to charge so much to backup data from a hard drive that was working perfectly - what the hell were you doing there..?

You are a moron and a cheap one at that. I also believe you exaggerated the prices for your mindless article that has zero value.

David B
2006-09-05 18:21:26
ooo yeah. No, all PCs do not run slow.
2006-09-07 10:12:02
Straight from the writer's bio:
"A well-known technology expert, Preston has also appeared on many TV and radio programs and networks, including CNN, MSNBC, and NPR."

Ha ha - a well-known technology expert - he can't even replace his own HD! Here's how it breaks down:

Data Recovery: your HD was FAILING! That means it's going to take a lot more time and expertise to get your data off it. Besides, if you don't keep a WEEKLY back-up then you shouldn't call yourself a technology expert or a writer.

Format/Reload: the new HD costs money and it won't be the wholesale cost. Do you expect the shop to NOT charge you for installing windows/drivers, updating, and installing any third-party apps?

Your attitude: you're obviously ignorant about computers and are scared of the results if your novice son were to work on it. You probably had it in your mind that since a HD generally costs around $80 and that's what needs to be replaced - most likely - then the job would simple, quick, and fairly inexpensive. You've already set yourself up to be defensive and immature.

What do the polls say?: minus the Trolls who are upselling themselves on this page, almost EVERYONE is letting you know that the real problem isn't with your PC but with you. You weren't open-minded enough about the whole process and you didn't even try to get a second opinion. You probably thought to yourself, "Oh I hope I get screwed on this so I have something to write about next week..."

Michael Wright
2006-09-24 10:19:11
A little customer common sense would help. Don't pay to speed up or clean up a defective hard drive. It's defective so what difference would it make. Your replacing it anyway!! Just pay for the work that is necessary. He probably gave you scenarios on other options after you started complaining the price. It's unfair to add up each scenario so you have bash him. The shops prices were on the high side but were within industry norm. Also, why not get another estimate if the price wasn't right? Our industry is no different from any other service industry.
2006-09-26 14:52:56
I run a small computer shop in NY and would have charged you $50 to backup your data onto DVD & restore it to your new HD. The HD would be probally $100 - $125 depending and the Windows installation about $80 for a grand total of about $225. That would also include free antivirus, a complete diagnostic of your system and a few other free helpful software packages installed. I am very honest with my customers and that is what keeps them coming back. Sorry to hear about your misfortune.
2006-10-01 19:31:07
I guess I could comment on this. Ran into this really on an unrelated search.
First let me preface my reply with I repair computers.
When a customer brings in a system with problems. They may think they know the issue involved and in this case it sounds like you did have a good idea of the problem. A bad HD. This is not so evident in all cases. A bad HD controller, some virus and other factors can cause this error. So a decent tech has to look at all possibilities.
You stated they could do what I call a cleanup in a half hour. I have had systems that took 10-12 hours to find and destroy all the spy ware, virus' and mail ware on them. It is not always as simple as downloading Ad-aware and running it. Some are found and some are not. Some software will take hours to examine. And sometimes several are needed to be used.
I understand the reasoning behind the cost of repair and the cost of new. This is something that should be considered when work is performed. I thing the 65.00 charge would have found this to be the case.
As for backing up data. 300.00 is not out of line. You had a hard drive that was dieing. He didn't know if he could just back it up easily or not until he tried. Hence the charge. It sounds like this shop charges $65.00 an hour. Not bad for the experience he probably has. And the investment in his or her business. Some charge a few hundred an hour and are in great demand.
I don't want to ramble much more so suffice to say. The customer is the final judge of whether this computer and its data is worth the expense or if it is smarter to buy new.
2006-10-05 20:17:18
This article sure caught my interest. I just had a run-in with the owner of an Apple authorized repair shop in Boston. I won't mention the name of the shop but it's near the Squealing Pig. The computer was dropped off to replace a faulty hard drive NOT under warranty and the quote was $310 including reinstalling the operating system. So far, so good. I did not question the price but since I had plenty of personal data on the old hard drive, I asked for it to be returned.

To my surprise, they wanted $90 to give me MY old hard drive back. HUH? WTF! Since I paid for and owned the hard drive when I walked through their front door, when did I give up possession of my drive? The owner said that was their policy, "that's how they make money" is his exact quote. I asked him a few pointed questions and his next quote surprised even me. He said, "I don't have time for this nonsense. You're full of shit, go to hell!" How's that for a so-called businessman. My vote is split, you know you'll get screwed by a used car dealer and I got screwed by this hothead.

2006-10-06 02:47:59
When dealing with computers the price to replace any paticular part or even the whole rig will always be less than the price to repair the same. It is similar to buying all of the individual parts for your car and trying to build it (whoaa co$tly). Further, the way the industry is set up with hyper accelerated depreciation, your hardware is baiscally worthless, in contrast however the data on it is usually priceless.

I currently make $80/hr plus benefits working in the IT industry. I have often thought of leaving my company to set up my own computer shop. I would focus less on repair and more on conuslting. This way I could help prevent problems rather than try to patch them up on the tail end. My target clientel would be small to medium business rather than residential. Part of my dilema is coming up with what would be considered a fair price to make it both worthwhile and profitable for me and a great deal for my customers.

In your situation I would have fixed the laptop for the cost of the hardrive + 1 hour labor + a diagnostic/tuning fee if you so desired. Then I would provide a comprehenisve report of the services and/or products you could acquire to keep you from being in a situation where you have to run into a shop complaining about hardrive failure and potential data loss. And most importantly I would return your computer to you within 24 hours of you dropping it off.

Below is a list of my priorities for service offerings

1) Consulting: matching consumer needs to IT solutions
2) System security and data assurance (backup plan and virus protect)
3) Network infrastucture and Software Application planning
3) Software/Database installation and limited maintenance
5) 1st tier website development (ie, info only no multimedia)
6) small parts and typical repair service on-site and in shop.

Consumer and pros list what you think would be a fair price for each.

2006-10-09 18:49:48
from a pc repair technicians point of view, the pc person was honest with you about everything (just not the price), whereas a car dealer may tell you the price you want to hear (but lie about the quality)........as a side note most pc repair people get paid very little to help their friends and such, so when they go into debt buying all kinds of gadgets to "test out" plus the endless hours configuring software, somebody has to pay for the time and stuff. That somebody ends up being the customer. Tell your pc repairman flat out you will not pay the high prices and see if you can negotiate a better deal in the future. He will respect your honesty and probably give you a more reasonable price (but make sure you get a guarantee on the work and parts).
2006-10-12 17:56:32
Not all shops are like that. I am a 10 year Computer engineer and own a Sales/Service biz in NC. We charge nowhere NEAR what you quoted! Was this guy smoking something? Fist, our diagnostic is FREE - and we only charge $75 per HOUR of service - period. So if you came to us we would have charged $75 for the instal,backup and re-installed software - plus about $60 for a new drive - total: $135 - a typical service we offer. Sorry you almost go taken but not ALL shops are like that one. Chances are you will need help again in the future and I hope for your sake it is ONLY a drive - not something serious!



2006-10-15 21:23:30
I am sick of all the evil computer industries that not any charge out the window, but lie and get you to pay outrageous fees. That is why I started an ethical and honest computer company 3 years old (Anointed Hands Computers www.ahcomp.com). I believe we will go national in about 1 year. And our plan is to revolutionize the computer industry. And set standards so that all the other companies will have to follow or go out of business.
2006-10-17 17:27:27
Some computer service shops have started charging flat fees for most common repairs which may be better than an hourly charge. I rarely see a PC repair costing more than $300 (in labor). It's best to pay for a diagnostic to get a written estimate for the total repairs costs before going forward with a repair. Also getting references from previous customers is also a good idea. Just my 2 cents.
Theodore P. Olson
2006-10-17 18:57:51
Great comparison!

Used car dealers are frequently seen as scum. In reality, they're goldfish compared to the sharks in service.

2006-10-19 17:11:02
As a honest educated technician, I've had one hell of a time finding a honest business to work with. As you stated, they all want to charge unreasonable rates, they don't finish the work correctly, they leave un-neccessary and pirated software on customers machines, they think a A+ cert or MCP means they are educated, etc.

Unfortunately, in order to support my children, I am forced to put up with this as I haven't got the money to open a honest company and compete against them, and I don't have the time to oversee all the technicians. Can you offer a solution?

2006-10-19 17:28:38
I would have charged you nothing to look. I would have sold you the hard drive at cost. I would charge $30 to image and restore the old drive to another drive using my imaging server. Spyware and virus removal is also $20. If I have to leave the store, it's $75 per hour. I would remove any malware, spyware. I would install all updates, immunize you against spyware and malware, and fine tune a few registry settings.

I would do all this without installing any tools or software(besides updates) on your machine. (flash drives and custom live CD's are great)

Anyone want good honest repairs, in the Conway, Myrtle Beach, Socastee area of SC, just email me at my website. www.cagletech.com
I own the domain name, not the store. Yet, I'm dealing with them in order to sell my custom configured asterisk pbx's.

2006-10-19 17:45:07
I see so many responses saying the repair company was correct, or in the right price range for this type of service. Maybe I'm wrong, but any tech worth his salt should be able to fix any modern speed machine within an hour if he/she has parts available to him/her.

Also, why try to make money off hardware, when it just keeps getting cheaper. You can't roll it over as quick as the prices drop.

Looking at the wesites of the responders to this article, I believe there's a few crooks here. I even see offers to perform repair work on win95 machines? The repair work will be more expensive than upgrading the machine and restoring the customers data. I mean, I can get a 3000+ athlon64, mobo, DVD+/-RW, PS, and 512mb for around $200. Either charge the customer less for the time spent, or offer a upgrade.

2006-10-19 18:28:56
You stated they could do what I call a cleanup in a half hour. I have had systems that took 10-12 hours to find and destroy all the spy ware, virus' and mail ware on them.

I have too, when I was a newbie.

It is not always as simple as downloading Ad-aware and running it.
Well duh. But it helps if your educated enough to know that a file named aljdhld.dll shouldn't be in C:\windows\system32\ , you should know what files belong and what files don't, you should know how to use the command line tools so you never have to start windows to fix windows. There are command line antispyware and antimalware tools.

What I see is a bunch of crooks overcharging because they can't offer fast repairs due to their lack of knowledge. They got certified, and went to school to learn nothing, when they should have been researching online and learning Bash.

auto tech
2006-10-23 00:52:47
I find it funny that anyone would try to compare these two techs.
I don't see computer shops having to deal with toxic disposal of chemicals, like brake cleaner or solvents that would eat your skin off or blind you if it gets into your eyes. I don't see comps having to deal with DEQ or EPA or OSHA.
My tools are priced at $30.000 thousand dollars. Thats not including the additional $25.000 in Scanning and Diagnostic equipment which by the way can range up to 50.000 thousand dollars plus. All of this so that people can drive there cars.
Oh yes, then there are rags for cleaning and gloves that protect the techs hands, uniforms, manuals, Online repair manuals, all have to be payed for by the company so that the tech can repair a car.
But you know one thing that burns me........ its the gripless loser companies with hacks that give everyone in any trade a bad name.
My Customers Know That They Get What They Pay For, And More.
Read and stay informed before you act. If you feel the you are being ripped off contact a lawyer.
Never SIGN anything if you feel dissatisfied with the work.