I get asked quite regularly by both shops and insurers, "What is a reasonable charge for a vehicle scan?"
Our “Who Pays for What?” surveys have found there’s not much consistency for what collision repairers charge. In 2018, of about 1,000 shops responding to the survey, about 1 in 4 of those who perform scans in-house charge a flat fee. Just over 40 percent charge up to one labor hour at a mechanical labor rate. But the remaining 35 percent of shops conducting scanning in-house were all over the map. There was similar variety in whether and how shops bill for their labor---such as hooking up the vehicle---when they use a remote scanning service.
So whenever I get asked, “What’s a fair and reasonable charge for scanning?” I just say it depends on what steps you’re including as part of that charge. I’ve been asking people in my classes to write down all the steps involved in scanning. Only a handful of people are able to list all the steps. Think about it:
• You have to gain access to the vehicle battery. Depending on where the battery is located in the vehicle---under the hood, under a seat, in the trunk---you may have to remove trim or other items. Is that additional labor time included or do you line-item it separately?
• You need to access the battery because you have to hook up battery support in order to ensure you have the proper voltage to perform the scan.
• You may have to allow the vehicle to get to operating temperature. This might not often be an issue in Southern California or other warm climates. But if you’ve pulled the vehicle in from outside during the dead of winter, in many parts of the country it may take some time to get that vehicle up to operating temperature.
• Only then can you locate the port and hook up your scan tool to perform the output or functionality test. How long that test takes, to send a signal out to all the different modules and determine if any diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) have been set, can vary by make and model, how many modules the vehicle has, etc.