How Much Should a Brake Job Cost?

Reader Question
Hi Austin

I enjoy your emails and info very much.

My soon to be 88 year old mother had a brake job done (front and back) on
her 1994 Ford Escort. The total bill was $602.97.

The break down is:

2 wheel cylinders – $35.00
Pad – $50.00
Shoes – $30.00
2 rotors – $110.00
Total parts – $234.00

There is also reference to “machine the drums.” This would be included in
the labor charge?

Labor – $352.00

Tax $16.97

I do not know their hourly rate, but based on $100. per hour, this would
equate to 3.5 hours of labor – to replace old parts with new?

What is the time frame for this job?

Thanks for your help.

Thanks Patti

I think the prices that you were given are fair, you could have saved a few bucks on some of the parts but for the most part it sounds legit to me.

My labor rate is $75 an hour and would expect this job to take about 2 1/2 hours but the actual “book time” is closer to 3 1/2 hours. The thing is, one of my faster guys could do the whole job in 1 hour. This car is small and the parts are easy to replace, but shops can’t make money that way.

We charge by “book time” so it says it might take 3 hours, we charge 3 hours even though we really hope to complete the job in half the time and profit from our speed and experience.

If they used good parts and the brakes seem to work ok, and you have been dealing with this shop for awhile I would say stick with them.

I probably could have saved you $100 or so using cheaper parts, and cutting some time off the labor knowing that an 88 year old lady owned and operated the vehicle…but most shops don’t “feel out ” their customers like I do…they just do the normal repair like they do for everyone else.

In the future I would make sure the shop knows who the driver is and how little the car gets driven.

Posted in: Brakes

16 Comments on "How Much Should a Brake Job Cost?"

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  1. Chris says:

    Shop Owner sounds like he wants nobody to do their own work so he can charge even more. A complete brake job for my truck which includes all new brake pads, rotors, brake calipers, drums, drum brake pads, cylinders, drum brake hardware cost me $400 for parts for me to do a COMPLETE brake job. now for a average brake job without new rotors/drums knock off $200 on that price. Now you want to charge $600 for a job that takes 2 hours max and parts that cost $200??? and for the way he talks it sounds like that shop is a rip off on its own

  2. Danny says:

    Bull crap. You can fix your own car and not worry about liability. And as far as the Chick as you say not getting ball joint replaced she had the right to take it else where.

    600 for that job is crap. That is a four hundred per. mark up. Come on in any profession that is highway robbery.

    I can get my brakes (cheap ones which do just fine, I never had a wreck they caused) and my rotors turned for about 120 an axle. So 240 to get a complete brake job. While on vacation Sears did this for 370 but I did get a 60 gift card. Shop Guy is just trying to scare you he should change his name to YOUR MONEY IN HIS POCKET GUY

  3. Nathaniel Harrison says:

    I had pads only put on my 2001 neon plymouth for 150.00 plus tax. I felt the price was steep. It was done at Gomes Tires at 50th & International Blvd in Oakland, Calif. I probably could have found a better price if I had shopped around.

    • By Austin Davis says:

      Actually that is pretty much the going rate these days….made up of mostly labor costs. Would have been much higher at the dealership, so I think you did ok.

  4. Mike says:

    I received a qoute from Midas for $625.00 to replace both rotars and break pads. I told him it was to much, that the car was only worth $1,200.. He told me it came witha a 1 year warranty. I went to a small independent shop who charged me $110.00 dollars and they did a great job. they charged me only what the parts cost and didn’t pad the parts with a higher price. and it was done in 1 hour. I don’t care how price. “book time” what a joke. How about charging and stop over charging for parts. It’s no wonder you have the worste reputation out of any profession.
    $75.00 dollars an hour. Really. who do you think you are Lawyers. oh yeah the second worst reputation.
    at least the had to go to college for 4 years to get thier degree. my 2cents.

  5. Shop Owner.. says:

    MOST profitable repair, ya because it holds the most liability! Your buddy you paid $100 bucks, he can go to jail if that job fails and it kills someone… Might want to check out the legals on that before you make your own repairs next time, jail for you also because you hired him. Lots of jail time for a hundred bucks!
    The back yard mechanic can go to jail for a long time for pad slapping a bad rotor!

    I would never hire a mechanic that told me he does brake jobs in less than an hour… I want my customer alive to come back again and I work hard to build my business reputation. Ever hear the horror stories of wheel flying off cars.. ya, mechanic in a hurry to meet expiations of cheep customers…

    P.S. in the paper few weeks ago, Chick didn’t fix ball joint that was recommended by shop. They had her sign a waiver that stated the car was dangerous to drive and could cause an accident… It broke, she head on’d and she killed 2 people, she got reckless homicide because she was informed about the repair. Shop was found to have covered their ass…

  6. Kent says:

    I just purchased high grade rotors and pads(ceramic) for the front at a cost of 150 bucks. Paid my mech buddy 50 to do it even though i’m skilled enough to do it properly myself. (Peace of mind) This weekend were doing the rear rotors and pads at a cost of 75 bucks in parts.Semi met’s and the cheaper rotors. I’ve had better luck w/ the cheap rotors then the ones twice as much so I stick with them.

    As for shops, They up the cost on parts considerbly. They say the pads alone cost 80 bucks, the store that delivered them to the shop sells them for 50 to the average joe, and then the shop also gets a discount so it ends up costing them about 35-40 dollars for the pads. Same goes for rotors and everything else.

    If I’m forced to take it to get fixed it will often be to a pep boys. Because they can’t mark up the parts cost.

    So For 3 hours of your time and 225 bucks you can get good quality/new rotors and pads front and rear. I opted to spend the extra 100 to have my friend do it. He’s much more thourough then I would’ve been. And it’s my stepmoms cars so I want it done right.

    So just remember, If you end up paying a shop 600+ for a standard pad/rotor job f+r they are more then likely profitting by 400+ dollars for 1.5hrs work.

  7. Eli says:

    Ok no brake job can be quoted with out an inspection. Most of the time lower mileage cars can get a regular brake job done for about 195-225.00.that’s for factory brake pads not aftermarket junk that squeaks !!! Per axle. However, if your Vehicle requires rotors,brake fluid replacement,bearing repack,or hydraulic part replacement that it will cost more. Brake fluid should be replaced every two years. Usually about 69-99.00

    Ask if the rotors were measured. And if they are heavily warped than sometimes replacement is a good idea. And remember cheap rotors are good for only one use. stay away from aftermarket parts as that is the main reason people are unhappy with their brake job.

    And by the way. Technicians that guarantee their work usually charge around 85-105 dollars an our depending on your area. Stay clear of cheap work as if it seems to good to be true than it most likely is in the auto repair world.

    Just my two cents

  8. SOmeGuy says:

    I had lightly warped rotors and warped rotors are perfectly safe to use but annoying and my rotors were rusting as well. So I went to a shop and got priced at new pads+rotors at over $350 and 2 hours work, whe asked about he parts I checked and found them to be mediocre at best.

    So I decided to do it myself. I purchased quality kit off of eBay with 2 rotors and 4 pads for like $109. Took me about 45 minutes to replace it all for both sides. Faster than the shop, just had to rent some tools from a parts store.

    I must say that it is a great feeling to do your own work. Easy too.

  9. Eugene says:

    I am a shop owner in SoCal, after reading the question and comments, felt like responding, as I always search for related material on the web and I always check my competition, for many reasons but to be fair to my customers (my shop is in the same location for ~30 years and in any given month, we service about 400 vehicles , 95% repeat customers!)
    here’s my 2cents:
    my shop can only use hi quality ceramic or extended wear pads and warranty no squels for 12K miles/1yr! my shop MUST finish a brake job in an hour per axle! my shop MUST visually inspect pads and rotors for glazing and uneven wear, as well as fluid quality and lines and cylinders for moisture and leaks. My shop MUST test drive the vehicle up to 55mph and at least 3 stop signs after brake job is done, as well as test handbrake.
    $600 is a fair price for machining one set of rotors/drums and installing one set as well as replacing 2 cylinders on the back in SoCal on the Escort. If the rear cylinders were never replaced on a 10 year plus car and there’s moisture present around them, yes they should be replaced.
    here’s an answer to DIYers : yes, you can slap $30 pads and drive that way and assuming you are not an expert, you are risking everyone’s life on the street, not only bikers, but also peds and other cars… Every industry is specialized for a reason! If it was up to me, I would make auto parts suppliers only sell to qualified people, you can’t believe how many uneven inner/outer brake pads I saw in my lifetime due to DIY jobs, resulting in premature pad wear, but more importantly…UNSAFE to be on the road. It is the same thing as you don’t try to repair your broken teeth with glue.. never forget, a doctor to a human is like a good mechanic to your car. there’s a reason California has BAR, a regulating body, and we have the book labor hours.
    All you have to do is find an honest shop that has liability insurance and provide warranty for all their work, cheaper is not better. My shop also declines the use of low quality parts because customer mentions they are selling the vehicle in a month…that’s a ridiculous excuse to go cheap on car repair, my shop stands behind all the work since we print an invoice and our name on it! all my dealer customers tell the new owner to come to my shop only..reason is obvious…
    I am not against anyone that wants to make couple bucks on the side, but think again… there must be a reason that ‘great certified’ mechanic does NOT have a full time job at a reputable shop! there is UNreliable something for sure!
    I am not putting my shop’s name since this is not a marketing activity for me, but if you have any questions on any kind of vehicle or repair, feel free to email me at and I’ll get an answer for you, if I can not, I’ll direct you to the right place. mention the so I know where the lead originated from.
    happy and safe motoring everyone
    E U

  10. K Patton says:

    Total rubbish. Your mother is the break mechanic’s dream come true. What should not have cost more than $300 total, cost over $600. I went to Brake Stop and got an estimate on brake pad replacement for the Explorer I was giving my daughter. What was advertized as costing around $100 suddenly ballooned to closer to $500. After listening to the list of frictitious fixes and parts replacements that they thought I needed, I told the young punk shop manager, that I thought he was full of s**t and that I had been replacing brakes longer than he’d been alive. I told him he could replace the pads and shoes and the pads and shoes only, or he could put the truck back together and I’d do it myself. We ended up doing the latter. It cost me $60 in parts and about 2 hours of my time.

    Your mother probably paid for a lot she didn’t need, as the shops are great at scaring the uninformed.

    She probably didn’t need brake cylinders, nor rotors unless your mother drives her Escort like a NASCAR racer – so that leaves $80 for the shoes and pads. About the same I payed plus the 20% markup that most shops charge. They actually get a lot of their parts from the same discount stores anyone can go to (thats why the stores have delivery pickup trucks) and add $20 to your bill for nothing. Not replacing the cylinders would mean they would not have to bleed and refill the brake lines which cuts about two hours from the labor bill. Cut another .5 to an hour for not replacing the rotors. That leaves about 1.5 hours, about the same it took me. And at $80 an hour thats $160 in labor, half what they charged. I have worked on cars for about 40 years, starting with my father at age 8. I have never met an honest car mechanic. They are kind of like lawyers (I’ve been to law school too) they capitalize on the ignorance of people and their lack of knowledge of cars. They feed you a line of BS and scare you into spending money you don’t need to spend. Ever heard of a wall job? Its when a mechanic charges you for a big problem that never existed, when the problem was very simple. The simply leave the car sitting by the wall, fix the real minor problem but charge for the bigger fictious one. One way to avoid or at least keep them honest is tell them you want the old parts or at least want to see them. In your mother’s case. I can almost bet they didn’t replace the brake cylinders but charged you for it anyway. The only way you would be able to tell without standing and watching them, would have been to ask to see the old cylinders they replaced and have them show you why it was necissary to replace them. Otherwise you’d have to remove the drum in order to check if new ones had been fitted. Its a win win situation for them. I have heard this happening time and time again.

  11. nick says:

    basicly your looking at paying both the shop time and the mechanics wage. not to mention the mark up on the parts shops use. also knotice the enviornmental fee alot of shops tack on the bill. if you think your paying to much for a break job, you probably are from a shop. your best bet is to find a mechanic that dose side work. they will do it in there off time away from shop for roughly half of what you are paying now. we love side work.

  12. vickie howell says:

    took 2001 ford 150 truck for brake repair. mechanic said it was going to cost 825. when i thought about it, i went there and told him i wanted to wait, he said the truck was already being worked on, i told him, that i thought that was too much money, and he said he would cut cost. he did. called me back saying that he would use cheaper, but good, parts, and now the bill is $625.00 . i still think i am paying too much.. i will be picking it up this evening, and will no more on the itemized details. any thoughts? thanks, vickie howell

    • admin says:

      Brake work is the most profitable repair, so there is probably a lot of profit in the job. brake repair costs in general have increased from what I have been seeing although brake parts costs are decreasing. A 4 wheel brake job for $625 is probably about average these days depending on where you live. I would be surprised though if the parts COST was more than $100 if you bought brake pads from your local auto parts store.

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