What’s the Difference Between an RV Shop Rate and Hourly Rate?

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An HOURLY rate is NOT the same thing as a SHOP or LABOR rate. This is a source of common confusion.

Hourly Rate

An hourly rate is just that: The RV Technician or Service Center charges by the time on the clock. Most will charge in 10, 15, or 30 minute increments. This time begins when the Technician arrives on site and ends when the Technician has completed their work and cleaned up the job site.

Most dealerships or technicians will charge a minimum time as well. Usually, this is one hour. Some Technicians will charge the full hour even if they replace a fuse in 5 minutes. At Sterling RV Services, you paid for an hour; you get us for an hour! Even if we fix your problem lightning fast, we’ll spend time answering your questions, fixing other issues, or performing general maintenance.

Shop/Flat Rate

RV dealerships usually charge a shop rate, which is confusingly quoted as “$X per hour.” You’re not actually being charged by the hour; the dealership is charging you based on a certain amount of “time” assigned to each task.

These tasks are listed and costed by industry-accepted Flat Rate Guidebook manuals (usually from Spader Business Management or the RV Technical Institute). For instance, a Flat Rate Guidebook might assign 0.8 hours for system diagnostics and 1.3 hours for a certain part replacement. The dealership will charge you their labor rate multiplied by the theoretical time allowed by the Flat Rate Guidebook. Whether it actually took 2 hour or 3 hours makes no difference. If they finish the job faster, they make more money.

Fixed Fee

A fixed fee is the simplest kind of pricing: You’re charged a fixed amount for the project, regardless of time, tools or supplies. A Service Center may offer a winterization service at a fixed fee, for instance, such as “$399 to winterize any towable RV!”

Simple maintenance services are often offered at a fixed amount. For example, an RV Technician may clean and perform annual maintenance your air conditioner for $249, regardless of its condition.

(To muddy the waters, some people refer to the fixed-fee structure as a “flat cost,” but the term “flat” is usually associated with the aforementioned Flat Rate/Shop Rate, not fixed fees.)

Project/Contract Basis 

On larger, multi-faceted projects, it is often best to charge per project. For instance, installing a 10,000-watt solar power system on an RV is a lengthy process that involves several client consultations, removal of the roof components, installation, lots of testing, and checkup. Agreeing on a contract quote is usually the best way for all parties to manage their finances – and their time!

Is There a Perfect Pricing Structure? 

Some customers worry that an RV Technician who charges by the hour will streeeeetch out the time to skim money off the top. On the other hand, other customers worry that an RV Technician who charges by the Flat Rate Guidebook will cut corners to get the job done faster.

There is no perfect pricing structure. An unethical or incompetent Technician can take advantage of a customer either way (sad, but true).

At Sterling RV Services, we believe we can best serve our customers based on actual time-on-task. This gives us the opportunity to answer any of your questions and quickly resolve problems as they appear. In most cases, charging by the hour saves you significantly more than if we charged a shop rate!

We try to be generous and fair with our time. (In the vast majority of cases, we will not exceed the Spader Guide flat rates). We don’t charge you for rabbit holes, wild goose chases, or time spent learning something new.

There are certain services we may offer for a fixed-fee or a contract basis. We pride ourselves on offering fair, consistent, transparent pricing. If you have any questions, please, give us a call or read our Payment Policies. We’re not satisfied unless you’re satisfied!