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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-30-2019, 09:42 AM Thread Starter
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Local Small Engine Guy Seems Expensive--Second Opinions?

Hello! It's been a number of months since i've been on but really enjoy this site and your guys input. Actually it's about time for the snowblower forum (Vermont.)

So there is a guy down the street "Big Al's Small Engine Repair Shop" who does it all and does really good work--he just seems expensive to me; so i was hoping to get a second opinion on that. I go to him because he's right down the street and i can literally push or drive my lawnmower, lawn tractor, snowblower or dighy engine to him to be worked on. However; he is "cash only" and though he does good work, it always winds up being more than i thought it might be. I think every small town has a shop/guy like this.

Here is a recent example. I brought over my Honda push mower for an Oil change and oil change only; thinking that should be $20-$30. I have used it for light edge work on my lawn for two summers with no maintenance done. He looks underneath it and goes "the blades need to be sharpened." Okay.....didn't think they would after two years of light grass cutting. So he calls me 3 days later and goes---I changed the oil, sharpened the blades, cleaned the carb (it needed it he claimed) added some gearbox/transmission oil, oiled the gears/wheels, and did "general maintenance." He then said it would be $70; and he was giving me $10 off his labor costs. Doesn't $70 seem high for a push mower, or is that par for the course?

I'm debating finding another shop but this guy is just so close/convenient and the work he does at the very least is solid; the machines always run like a top afterwards. Thanks for your opinions!

My Garage: Cub Cadet 1028 2x Snow Blower, Honda GCV 160 Push Mower, Cub Cadet i1050 Zero Turn Lawn Tractor, Suzuki 3.5hp 4 Stroke Dinghy Motor, 1993 Sunbird 205 Corsair w/OMC 302
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-30-2019, 03:38 PM
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It seems a little high to me for the work done. But if you use this shop sign as a guide, good work is worth the money.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-31-2019, 10:23 AM Thread Starter
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Very true....guess i'll stick with him for now. Breaks down to $35 a year for the mower so i guess that isn't too bad.

I guess i'd pick good and cheap if i had a choice....I can wait haha

My Garage: Cub Cadet 1028 2x Snow Blower, Honda GCV 160 Push Mower, Cub Cadet i1050 Zero Turn Lawn Tractor, Suzuki 3.5hp 4 Stroke Dinghy Motor, 1993 Sunbird 205 Corsair w/OMC 302
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-01-2019, 09:36 PM
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The local Toro dealer charges $80.00 an hour shop labor. If he did in fact do all what he said he did, it probably took him an hour so he is in line with the big dealers but not the bargain basement guys. If I were you, next time I need work done, I would tell him in no uncertain terms (politely) that you only want done what you ask to have done, nothing more, nothing less, without him contacting you and getting prior approval. While he may be well intentioned in making sure your equipment has the best of service while in his care, you are the one ultimately paying the bill and deserve to have a clear estimate ahead of time what your bill will be. Bill
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-05-2019, 08:37 PM
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Is it a matter of not wanting to do the maintenance or do you just not know how. If you don't know how, YOUTUBE will make you a DIY guy in ten minutes. Oil change, air filter change, spark plug change, even blade sharpening are all easily done by the average guy with a socket set and screwdriver. The blade sharpening would need accessibility to a bench grinder however. So, if you just don't want to do it yourself, then you put yourself at the mercy of the repair shop. I am not going to say anything bad about the guy you use. I don't know him, but there are a lot of shady guys out there. But, most of the time "carb cleaning" entails simply spraying some carb cleaner in the intake. Even at $60 and hour, that is a $1 job. And I never mess with the carb on my small engines unless they are causing issues. You can easily do all the maintenance yourself in one hour. If not ask the kid down the street to do it for $20.

I bought a USED $30 Craftsman push mower to trim with after mowing with the rider. That was ten years ago. I have changed the oil every other year, the air filter once and I don't think I ever changed the spark plug. I replaced the starter rope this spring. It starts first pull every time, even first pull after the winter. I sharpened the blades once about 4 or 5 years ago. I have a total of less than $100 invested in that mower aside from gas and it still runs beautifully. I have never touched the carb. If it dies, I will buy another $50 or less used mower, change the oil, plug and sharpen the blade and all for less than paying for some other guy to one years maintenance.

If you just change the oil every 1-2 years and use premium (no Ethanol) gas, you should never need to change the plug or mess with the carb.

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-06-2019, 03:50 PM Thread Starter
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Just got a call that he was done with my snowblower.....total was $120.

Said 2 1/2 hours later (knocked off 1/2 hours) and oil, transmission oil, greased bearings, tightened a cable or two.

Still just feel like its a touch on the pricey side.....Oh well..

My Garage: Cub Cadet 1028 2x Snow Blower, Honda GCV 160 Push Mower, Cub Cadet i1050 Zero Turn Lawn Tractor, Suzuki 3.5hp 4 Stroke Dinghy Motor, 1993 Sunbird 205 Corsair w/OMC 302
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-07-2019, 03:50 PM Thread Starter
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Well....called the local shop that sold me my snowblower. They want $150 for an oil change and winter tune up. Guess this guy isn't so expensive after all....lol

My Garage: Cub Cadet 1028 2x Snow Blower, Honda GCV 160 Push Mower, Cub Cadet i1050 Zero Turn Lawn Tractor, Suzuki 3.5hp 4 Stroke Dinghy Motor, 1993 Sunbird 205 Corsair w/OMC 302
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-08-2019, 01:15 AM
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I would imagine regional cost of living plays into this too so kind of hard for those of us living in a different part of the country to make much more then just a general comparison. It's been so long (many years) since I've had to go to the shop with a mower I don't really know the going rate here other then $80/hr is pretty much as cheap as it gets for anything and $100+ is more the norm. Working in a small tv and appliance service shop I would add a couple things to keep in mind when comparing how much someone is charging. Is it their main income and business? If so they are working to pay for medical insurance, food and shelter, service materials if they do any manufacture warranty work. Compare that to a retired guy on medicare looking for some extra spending money through a hobby or a kid down the street still covered by his parents medical insurance, roof over his head and looking for some play money. Obviously the guy doing it for a living has to hammer the customers harder for as much as he can get them to pay and still return next time they need repairs or he is out of business in short order and looking for another line of work to support his family. The retired guy and kid not so much unless they get greedy. I'll admit I have given the friendly patient customers more then once the last 32 years a break in labor. But the pain in the rear ones get the full amount when adding up a bill. I found this sign on the net a number of years ago and have it posted above my bench at work. Thought it pretty cute and there is some truth to it.
labor rate.jpg
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-14-2019, 11:36 AM
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Rick - I think you have several things going on here
1) I would say the prices are fair and not out of line with services provided
2) as stated before - make sure your mechanic does ONLY the things you ask him to do
3) How nice it is to have someone that close. That there is worth a whole lot of money. You don't have to put it in your vehicle, drive to the location then drop it off, you get the picture. That there alone is worth paying fair market prices.
4) several years(about 15 years) ago I asked my local dealer what it would cost for him to tune up my lawnboy - he said $75.00 or, and then he threw a spark plug and an air filter at me and said $10.00 for the two of these and you can do it yourself. I have been going to him ever since. Stay with someone that is good to you and I think your mechanic is
5) I think you are over thinking this one brother.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-15-2019, 04:54 AM
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Personally I think you (and myself) are getting old enough that the inflation has given you sticker shock. I feel it all the time myself. I think we have 2 choices.


1. Bite the bullet and accept the modern rates for quality work. Being thankful that we have a source for quality service at all, at any price.


2. Do the basic shade tree maintenance ourselves, and save the shop for serious issues.



I think that one reason shop rates seem high is because they can quickly exceed the purchase price of many of the cheaper machines that were never engineered to last more than a few seasons. Shop rates don't seem as high when investing in a high quality machine meant to last a generation.
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