For job/task rates, I start with the guidelines published in the flat rate manuals, for the RV industry, and adjust accordingly. Two companies I use that produce these flat rate manuals are Spader Business Management RV Flat Rate Manual and the RVDA Service Management Guide.
Any RV Service Center will tell you that those published rates are guidelines, and not concrete prices to perform a specific task. The manuals themselves state this as well on the first few pages, but it is a fair starting point. The automotive and trucking industries have standardized flat rate manuals because their industries are more standardized on repairs. There is nothing standard about fixing an RV. That is why the idea of an RV industry flat rate is, at best, a guideline to be adjusted accordingly.
If the task-at-hand is published in the service manual I will let you know ahead of time what the guideline rate pays and any adjustments I feel are necessary. There are caveats that I will explain below. Charging for my labor time in this manor protects you and it protects me.
It protects you because you know ahead of time how long the job pays (whether by me or at another shop) and you don’t have to watch the meter run up-your bill. If I were to only charge for my time, by the hour, than a one hour job can be s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to two hours – It is not my nature to do that, but you can see how a shady tech or service center can take advantage of a ‘by the hour’ compensation rate. Unfortunately, it is done all the time not just with this industry. I like you to know up-front what you should expect for your money. So therein lies your protection with this compensation structure. A standard if you will.
It protects me because there is a built in incentive for me to have the knowledge and tools necessary to perform the job at the price agreed. If I beat the flat rate time it is a win for me. If it takes me longer than it is my loss. So I charge, as much as practical, to perform a specific job and not on how long it takes me to complete the task.
On some bigger jobs, like removing and replacing an AquaHot system, repairing rot on a slide room, installing tank heaters on your tanks or replacing a rubber roof, I will provide you with a quote for the whole job.
Here are the caveats I referred to above. Let’s use a water heater as an example. The flat rate guideline to remove and replace a water heater is 1 hour plus 0.5 hour to conduct an LP pressure drop test (whenever the LP gas line is opened, it is critical to conduct a leak test and a pressure drop test to ensure the integrity of the LP gas system.) So you are looking at 1.5 hours labor to remove and replace a water heater (this does not include travel or any parts). Now, let’s imagine, getting to the back of your water heater, where all the plumbing connections and electrical connections are, I have to remove a bulkhead wall and your furnace. Now we are looking at additional time to remove all this extra stuff and replace it, just to perform the water heater job. You can see why the flat rate manuals are more of a guideline instead of a de-facto standard.
RV manufactures don’t always make it easy on the tech to make a repair. There has been many times where the cost to gain access to a repair exceeds the cost of the actual repair. On one job, to replace a $2.50 water fitting I had to remove a toilet, washer/dryer closet frame, washing machine and the floor of the washer closet just to get to the fitting. That did not include the time it took to locate the leak and figure out how to get to it. Then I had to put it all back together! That was a very expensive repair in the end.
Another caveat is performing a repair that is not listed in the flat rate manuals. For those jobs I will try to provide a quote up front. In the end though, there are certain tasks that need to be done on an hourly basis. If it gets to that I will do my best to not run up the meter. Diagnostics on strange and random anomalies, that no one has been able to figure out, would be something that would be a by-the-hour rate.
Now I also charge a one hour minimum once I arrive at your location. This is a standard practice that you will find if you look at other mobile service companies. I charge this because a lot of the initial repair is diagnostics time. Even if there is no diagnostics involved there is still administrative cost to my company to provide this service to you. The one hour minimum helps to offset these costs and if the repair only takes a few minutes, you paid for an hour, so use me for some other things you may have issues with or to discuss the laws of thermodynamics and how they apply to your A/C and refrigerator – such an exciting topic – remember I was a systems engineer for 25 years so I bring a lot to the discussion table…
On previous service calls, I have driven over an hour to replace a fuse, turn off a light in a storage compartment and simply flip a battery disconnect switch. I am going to charge the full rate for those trips because it could have been something more involved that needed a lot more firepower to fix. When I load-up and head to your location, I have no idea what solution will fix the issue. I take a lot of tools and parts to be ready for just about anything. The blown fuse job was from pulling too many amps but it could have been a bad control board, that needed to be replaced, or an electrical short, that needed to be traced out and repaired. I still checked the electrical system for any oddities and determined everything was fine – just too much power was drawn from the 12 VDC receptacle when they plugged in a 12 VDC appliance. I charged $165 to replace a fuse! I did not charge for the fuse… But consider that while I was on that service call, I lost the opportunity to serve another customer and incurred expenses to get me to you. The moral of the story, I guess, is to do some of your own detective work before you call. If you do call me, I will try to help you troubleshoot over the phone if it will save you and me the cost of a service call. It has been my experience though that by the time folks call me they just want me to come there and fix it no matter how ‘simple’ the fix is.
Service call charge. If you set an appointment to bring your rig to me, than there would be no service call fee involved since I didn’t have to go anywhere to start working on your rig. If I have to load-up and head to your location, I charge a service call fee to offset not only my time to get to your location, but also the equipment I have to operate and maintain to support me and carry my tools to you. The farther I have to travel, the more I charge. I created a concentric ring on my area map to make the process easier than having to figure it out for each trip.