Define heaven in a driver’s point of view.
It is when driving on a smooth road with no engine trouble whatsoever, virtually silent engine, and perfectly aligned wheels. Hallelujah!
But most often than not, these conditions do not happen all at the same time. So what can a driver do?
When there is an issue with the engine, you may not notice it immediately because some of the parts offset the impact making the problems seem non-existent until such time it becomes severe that your engine starts to fail. But when it comes to wheels, there is hardly anything you can do to dismiss the symptoms since they bear all the weight of the vehicle including what is inside it.
Sure enough, the shock absorbers can make things seem perfectly fine, that is if you have perfectly aligned wheels. The problem is if you don’t.
So the question is, how much do alignments usually cost? Find out below.
Average Cost of Alignment
The average car alignment price varies depending on several factors but primarily due to the choice of auto shops, the warranty involved, and the location.
As a basis, computerized wheel alignments at Pepboys are as follows:
- 3-Month – As Low as $89.99 (3-month/3,000 mile warranty)
- 1-Year – As Low as $99.99 (w/ coupon) (1-year/12,000 mile warranty)
- 3-Year – As Low as $119.99 (w/ coupon) (3 year/36,000 mile warranty)
- Lifetime – As Low as $149.99 (w/ coupon) Lifetime, Unlimited mile warranty
Meanwhile, Repair Pal charges wheel alignment for around $88 to $111 for all type of vehicles excluding taxes and fees.
On the other hand, Sears Auto Center has the following rates for their wheel alignment services:
- 6 Month Alignment – $89.99 (6-month or 6,000-mile warranty)
- 1 Year Alignment – $114.99 (1 year with no mileage restriction)
What is Included
Wheel alignments usually do not require parts replacements and would only include the labor charge of the mechanic plus the service of any machines or tools needed in the completion of the tasks.
Typical alignment cost would include the following:
- Inspection of the steering wheel and suspension system.
- Checking of tire condition including air pressure.
- Adjustment of camber, caster, and toe angles if necessary and if possible.
- Road testing the vehicle to ensure the alignment was achieved.
- Providing documentation of your car’s before and after alignment readings.
More popular vehicle repair and tire shops use detailed computer analysis and computer-generated measurements in restoring the car’s alignment. This way, you can be assured that your wheels would feel and look as they were when you have first driven your brand new car.
After determining how much do alignments usually cost, the next important thing to know is if there are extra costs you need to spend on apart from the price of wheel alignment.
There are certain types of vehicles which need more than focusing on the wheels and may require additional parts to be monitored in order for the steering and suspension geometry to be returned to its almost original state. Your mechanic should be able to identify if your vehicle is one of those and would recommend you the following additional expenses on top of your typical alignment cost:
- Front Cam / Wedge Adjustment – starts at $49.99
- Rear Shim Adjustment – starts at $49.99
- 4WD/AWD Shim Adjustment – starts at $69.99
The above prices are for labor only. If adjustments of the wedge and shim are not possible, replacements for these parts are required at an additional price.
If your vehicle has a failing suspension aside from the alignment issues, the suspension needs to be addressed first prior to any alignment activity.
Shopping for Alignment
When availing of any services, we tend to find the best service with the cheapest price as much as possible. Sounds impossible? Not really. Here are some of the important tips to get a shot at getting the best quality of service while stretching a budget:
- Referrals – what can be more reassuring than getting the service of someone whose service can be vouched by someone you know? Arguably none. What’s more is that you can even get a nice discount just because you know who they know.
- Look for a shop that specializes in your vehicle’s make – whenever possible, get the services from those auto shops that focus on the type of vehicle that you have. This way, you have the assurance that they really know what they are doing and since they know it like the back of their hand; they would not likely be charging a lot. Or it can be otherwise, but still, at the end of the day, expensive quality service is always better than those cheaper ones that you have to do over and over again.
- Research – if you are starting from scratch, meaning you have no idea where to go and nobody to ask, you are left to search for mechanics yourself. The Internet is a powerful tool in looking for just about anything under the sun. What is more is that you can even get free estimates if you really have no idea about wheel alignments. Just get several quotations from different vehicle shops so you could compare the prices as well as the scope and the warranties.
- Warranties – speaking of warranties, make sure that the shop you choose offer warranties for its service corresponding to the price you need to pay. This way, you are assured of either the quality of service or the assurance that you would not spend a dime again in case a service fails.
- Certification – it would help ease your mind that your choice of mechanic is not a fly by night when it is certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE before getting its service. Of course, it could sometimes be awkward to ask them face to face so you can check it out yourself at their website. If they are certified, they would likely post it there with pride.
- Better Business Bureau – in any service that you need, you should check out bbb.org as a precaution. In fact, auto repair shops rank 12th in its list of common complaints. This way, you would know what shops to avoid. That is if you do not feel to be a devil’s advocate and go on with getting the service of a particular auto shop with bad reviews.
- Convenience – when choosing between a more expensive service that is near your place and a cheaper one but you need to travel a few miles, always choose convenience if the difference is just a few dollars that could just as well cover for your fuel consumption going to the latter plus the effort you put to get your car there.
- Start small – trying out a shop’s service for the first time? If you have not yet tested the quality of service of a particular vehicle repair shop but it is very convenient to you in terms of location, you can start by availing petty services to sort of test the waters. If they can be effective in small endeavors, they probably can with bigger ones.
Factors Affecting Alignment Cost
Auto / Vehicle / Tire Shop – not all shops charge the same fee for their services as those which are under the category of dealerships charge higher than your neighborhood auto shops due to the high cost of operating a business for these auto giants. More often, the popularity and integrity play a part in pricing as a result of quality services provided.
Warranty – most vehicle shops, especially those which are at the higher end of the spectrum offer warranties along with the alignment and choice of the duration of the warranty would definitely affect the pricing as the average car alignment price is directly proportional to the warranty involved.
Location – how progressive an area most likely determines how much the commodities and services are priced due to the cost of living and cost of doing business factors.
Make / Model / Year – although you could see a lot of vehicle shops pricing every vehicle models the same since it involves labor only, there are still those which charge depending on the make, model, and year of the vehicle due to the level of difficulty or ease to align the wheels.
Other connected issues – charging of the wheel alignment is pretty straightforward. Vehicle shops correct the issue according to manufacturer’s specifications and bring the alignment back to almost the same alignment like how it was manufactured. The additional cost lies on the need to address other issues connected with the wheels to ensure the optimum performance after the alignment.
Insurance – consider yourself lucky if your auto insurance includes collision coverage as your wheel alignment would typically be covered if the issue is a result of hitting a pothole or a traffic accident. Just be mindful of the deductibles as they are typical in most car insurance. In this case, unless you have gotten your vehicle a major repair due to the collision, then you can forget about claiming from insurance as most of the time, wheel alignment costs are minimal compared to the deductibles that insurance companies impose.
Vehicles have their way of informing the owners of their issues, no matter how subtle they seem to be. It is no different when it comes to alignment issues. Some of this warning signs you need to pay attention to are the following:
- If you feel your car is pulling to one side when driving
- If your steering feels unstable or there is a vibration
- If your tires are wearing unevenly, squealing on turns, or grinding
- If your vehicle is having an irregular or premature tire wear
- Uneven tread wear
- Inefficient fuel economy
- Declining overall vehicle performance
When is it Time
Regular alignments should be a major part of your vehicle maintenance to ensure the quality and safety while driving. But you might ask yourself when is it time?
If you are the type of person who is too cautious and would not want any major symptoms or hates to wait for something to happen before acting upon a situation, here are the following instances when you need to have your car’s wheel alignment checked:
- When you purchase new tires. Amazon has a wide variety of tires for all types of vehicles that you can choose from.
- Every 30,000 miles
- After a collision, accident, or hitting a large pothole
- When replacing suspension or steering parts
It is essential or crucial if you may, to have a wheel alignment as part of the vehicle’s maintenance. This is to ensure that the tires can perform well and endure long periods of time. Moreover, it gives you more comfort, convenience, and a safe and smooth ride while driving on the road.