Jump to content


Doctor's Orders - an actual letter from a dentist...

Doctor's Orders
tp.gifThe field of automotive repair and body work has always 
been plagued with a few unscrupulous individuals.  But, I 
would say that every trade has their share of them as well.  
I pride myself on doing the best that can be done for my 
customers and I don't take kindly to anyone who thinks 
this job is anything but a professional.  This is not a job 
that can be mastered overnight; it takes years of experience 
and understanding.  
tp.gifEven though I carry the title “ASE Master Technician” I 
don't consider myself a “Master” of the automotive field.  
I may have “mastered” the trade but not the technology that 
continually changes.  That's an ongoing education which each 
and every mechanic deals with.  But, with that said, there are 
still some individuals that still look down upon the automotive 
trade as some sort of second class job. Recently I received an 
email from one of those type of individuals.  
tp.gifSeveral years ago I wrote an article titled, “Diagnostics Fee or Diagnostics Free” which was published in a variety of magazines.  The article was primarily about the issues of a diagnostic fee for testing and evaluating a vehicle.  A copy of one of the magazines was in a waiting room at a repair shop where this guy was getting his car to be repaired. He happens to be a dentist, which I consider as much a professional field as mine.  However, this guy... doesn't see it that way.  His email went something like this:
tp.gif I read through your 'two cents' on engine diagnostics and I could not agree more.  However, I do have a bone to pick.  Charging for a diagnostic is fine but where do you draw the line?
tp.gifI am a general dentist.  For a new patient I charge $39 for an exam (cleanings from a hygienist are $60).  I take roughly 25 minutes to complete an exam on a patient.  Some patients take longer as they have a more difficult case and sometimes they just have more questions.  
tp.gifI have spent 9 years in college, at a cost of over 200k, and roughly 600K on my practice (I have lots of fancy equipment too, even more expensive than the 'diagnostic computer') AND I am dealing with the actual health and well-being of mankind (screenings for head neck cancer, dental caries, oral path., etc., etc.)  If I used your kind of math I guess I should charge more in the neighborhood of $500 for an exam (my education alone was probably more than 20 times yours so the math is still WAY low).  
tp.gifBut I don't charge that much.  A true professional would realize when a charge is ridiculous and when it is not.  A diagnostic charge from a mechanic should be in the neighborhood of $20. If you are charging in the near $100 range I would consider removing the self-titled "professional" from your website. Which I found funny that you brought it up anyway.
tp.gifYour computer is a one-time purchase. You don't throw it away when you are done so quit trying to factor in the computer cost like it is a consumable.  A
mechanic's pay at best is $35 an hour.  A $20 diagnostic over 5 minutes is more than enough for that and even overhead.  
tp.gifActually, you just gave me an idea.  I am going to tell my patients I now have a "parts, labor, and supplies" fee.  That would be great.  Imagine the next time you come into my office and I say that my labor fee is over $500 an hour.  My patients would leave.  I can't believe a mechanic thinks charging $100 an hour or labor is reasonable when everything else is also marked up 300% PLUS!!!! ... It is laughable.  
tp.gifAnyway, I agree....but let’s get realistic.  
tp.gifThis is a junk email and address, no need in trying to contact me with your response. 
tp.gifHe agrees?  Realistically, I find that hard to believe.  These are the typical misguided perceptions that still linger in some peoples conceptions of the auto mechanic.  Apparently, according to this guy... I'm not worthy of calling myself a professional because I'm “just” a mechanic.
tp.gifIt's sad to say that there are still people out there that take this dim view of the automotive mechanic world.  It could be this guy is only retaliating from a previous experience with his car that didn't go right, or it could be he was at one of those “unprofessional” shops that tried to tackle a job they shouldn't have been taking on.  Maybe he thinks all mechanics alike, and not one of us is a true professional in our trade.  
tp.gifObviously, after reading this, I have come to realize that all dentists are not alike.  I know my personal dentist respects my profession... and has a great amount of appreciation for my trade, just as much as I do for his skills and abilities.
tp.gifEven though in the email he stated there was no need in a response, well, there is a way to respond.  Here it is.  
tp.gifThose years you spent in college almost equals my years of training... your investment into your field is acknowledged and is definitely a part of both our trades.  Mind you, the countless changes and improvements in the equipment and procedures in the auto industry (and dentistry as well) doesn't offset the cost of doing business in any shape or form.  You'd think it would, but, as fast as the auto manufacturers introduce new systems so does the equipment to diagnostic them change.
tp.gifHonestly, I feel sorry for this guy.  He seems kind of bitter.  As a mechanic, I work on everything from the front bumper to the rear-end of the car.  This guy... using a car as the comparison... only works on the shiny grill that everyone first sees.   I mean really... he only has two models to work on and the last time I looked both models have the same 32 components to deal with. But, let's not reduce ourselves to his level of explaining the differences between the two professions. Oh wait… I already did.  My bad… I guess it’s a lot easier to be condescending than it is to pull teeth, huh, Doc.?
tp.gifSorry Mr. Dentist, I don't think I'll be following “Doctor's Orders” as you clearly state them in your email. I think this time you should take my advice and try to be more respectful to the guys and gals that keep your cherished ride on the road. There's no set fee for diagnostics, there's no 300% mark-up on parts, and there definitely isn't any magic one time purchased machine that will diagnose a car.   Maybe you should try to be a little more understanding and a bit more professional, because right now... you're not!  

User Feedback

Recommended Comments

That's a result of doctors going to school, they learn everything about being in their profession, and don't know anything else! They have to hire other professionals to  do just about everything, even if they have time to do it themselves. Unfortunately, some don't realize this, such as in the case of your dentist story!

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The real problem is your haggler is comparing apples to oranges.

He talks about how much of a professional he is in comparison to you, and then uses the most ridiculous job to do it with.  Cleanings.  Cleanings for the automotive industry is the equivalent to getting your car washed and vacuumed, not even a detail wash and vacuum.  To truly compare apples to apples, he should compare when someone comes in and says their tooth hurts.  Then, diagnosing has to be done.  Albeit, light in most circumstances.

  1. Xrays have to be done.
  2. Patient has to go in the chair and physically get inspected.
  3. Sometimes it's not easily visible on the Xray or in the visual inspection and he has to actually do something else.

A professional in this field has to start with the basics each and every time.

  1. Interview the customer about the problem.
  2. Perform all the basic checks on the vehicle. 
  3. Then perform basic checks based on the symptom.
  4. Then check for codes stored.
  5. Evaluate all of the above.
  6. Formulate a test plan.
  7. Execute said test plan.

Mind you.... we haven't even started testing yet and at least 30 minutes have gone by, our non disposable scan tool was used, along with years of experience.


  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

yuck !!! These kinds of people make my blood boil.  That being said he fits the majority of the common sector out there..  We have been and probably always will be looked down on , as the guy that couldn't make it so he settled on being a mechanic , an easy mindless job... I turn purple in the face daily at work trying to explain to people about diagnostic charges and why I don't go off of others diagnostics and why I don't like to use their parts..   

The funny thing is most honest good mechanics live a basic life where most dentists live a lavish life , hmmm go figure 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

mechanic's pay at best is $35 an hour.  A $20 diagnostic over 5 minutes is more than enough for that and even overhead.  

yes, $35 an hour is pretty good.  And yes, $20 over 5 minutes ain't bad, if a diag. actually only took 5 minutes, most diags can take 30 to 60 minutes at best.  This includes all the research time and equipment use.  Let's do the math, at $20 per 5 minutes, diag. comes to $240 per hour.  hmm, I'm pretty sure the labor rate ain't that high.... yet.  Meaning, an average diag. should fall somewhere between $120 and $240... depending on the amount of time it took to diag. the average problem.  (If it took 20 minutes .... it must have been super easy... like.... what was it a loose hose? a bad tooth?  Seriously... how long does it take to look at a horseshoe?)   I guess, the way he is explaining things, a diag. should only take a few minutes and can't be compared to the involved tests and xrays he's got to do in order to properly diag. a problem.  Maybe, I should suggest to him that I'm only going to pay him for the actual 20 minutes he was in the room and not count the hour and a half that I've spent there. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...