Vehicle repair costs rise in Ohio

In Ohio, the average cost of labor and parts for vehicle repairs associated with check engine problems increased by 3.4 percent last year to $308, according to CarMD.com, a California-based company. Ohio was one of only a dozen states that saw repair costs rise.

But the state remains one of the cheapest in the nation for such repairs, and automotive experts attribute its low prices to decent weather and road conditions, driving habits and cheaper living costs.

“We are easier on vehicles, we don’t beat them up as hard and our labor costs, overhead costs and costs of living will all be less” than many states, said Matt Overbeck, the mechanical division chairman of the Automotive Service Association of Ohio.

Vehicle repairs associated with check engine lights in Ohio on average cost $308 in 2011, up from $298 in 2010, according to CarMD. At the national level, the average cost of repairs fell last year by 6 percent to $334.

CarMD produced its report after analyzing more than 160,000 repairs made on vehicles with problems associated with check engine lights.

Last year, the cheapest state for car repairs connected to check engine problems was Indiana ($283.95).

Other states with low costs were Maine ($289.56); Wisconsin ($289.90); Iowa ($289.91); and New Hampshire ($292.66).

The most expensive states were Wyoming ($389.18); Utah (378.54); California (367.86); Montana ($364.29) and Arizona ($362.65).

Repair costs in sparsely inhabited states, such as Montana and Utah, are often higher because there are few maintenance shops, and the lack of competition means there is not any downward pressure on prices.

Wyoming’s high costs are likely tied to its high altitude and brutal weather conditions, CarMD said.

The five states with the highest repair costs are all located out west, and one explanation for this trend is that dust is more common in the region and it damages mass air flow sensors.

Ohio does not have the harsh weather conditions found in many western states, and its roads are in better shape than many other places across the nation, experts said.

Overbeck said drivers in Ohio do not have the commute times of residents of states, such as California, and shorter trips often mean that car problems are cheaper and easier to fix.

In Ohio, the most common problems associated with check engine lights are faulty engine sensors; missing, loose or damaged gas caps; catalytic converter troubles; spark plug issues; and mass air flow sensors that needed replaced.

The price of vehicle repairs depends on the type of vehicles and the prices offered by competitors, said Dave Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Autocare.

The average age of vehicles on Ohio’s roads continues to increase, and the state’s economy is still depressed, which has led many service-providers to cut prices to attract customers, Murphy said.

He said some studies show that Ohio’s labor costs on average run about $85 per hour, compared to $165 per hour at some specialty shops in California.

On average, labor costs for repairs related to check engine issues cost $109 in Ohio, compared to $131 in California, according to CarMD.

“Consumers in this part of the country should consider themselves very lucky, because automotive repair costs are lower, at least from the labor standpoint,” Murphy said.

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