Truck battery cost
July 27, 2009 4:30 PM   Subscribe

My 18 year old son went to Express Oil Change to have a new battery put in his 2004 Ford Explorer Sport Trac. His battery was dead and when jumped off, it would not hold a charge. They put an MTP-65 Interstate battery in and charged him $146 for the battery alone. With installation, charging system testing fee, and taxes, the total cost was $208.93. Does that sound high? I was expecting to pay half of that.
posted by Kam1761 to Shopping (15 answers total)
Doing a cursory check online that's a high but not outrageous price for that specific battery. According to AutoZone's website you could get a battery for that truck for prices ranging from $91-202 dollars.
posted by jessamyn at 4:36 PM on July 27, 2009

Last time I bought a smallish battery (for a van) it cost $85, so I'd expect a truck battery to cost more, perhaps even $150. Half an hour of mechanic time for testing & charging the battery, and then putting in the replacement, would not be unreasonable, so with tax that could come to $200+.

But I'd expect my son to change the battery himself, and find a good price for the new one too.
posted by anadem at 4:41 PM on July 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

That's not cheap but it's not extraordinary at all; you're always going to pay a hefty premium for having something done by a shop instead of taking care of it yourself. If you/he had installed the battery, your costs could have been the half you were expecting.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:42 PM on July 27, 2009

Yes, you're paying for labor and convenience. The "charging system testing fee" sounds really hokey though... it takes five seconds to check the battery with a voltmeter to see if it's charging.
posted by crapmatic at 4:48 PM on July 27, 2009

Yeah, I mean, this is why I go to Auto Zone. They test for free, and they charged me about $85 for my battery, but it came with a full 2-year warranty. In Arizona, two years is about all we can ever expect. My battery died the other day, two months ahead of the warranty, so I jumped it, drove over to Auto Zone, had them test it, yep, dead, they handed me a battery and receipt and a tool box, and let me install it in the parking lot. Done and done, free new battery.

So yeah, $150 for the battery alone isn't insane, but I'd expect a nice warranty on it. And I wouldn't pay to have someone install a battery, but you're definitely paying book rate for about a half hour or hour of someone's time there, which is fair.
posted by disillusioned at 5:00 PM on July 27, 2009

I needed a battery for my Camry. Several people I asked said I should get an Interstate. Mine cost 89.00. I was told that they are good for our Minnesota winters-- it sucks when your car won't start at -20 degrees. My neighbor works for a well-reputed "garage" in town so he tested the bad one and the alternator and all that and got the Interstate. While he was putting the new one in for me he commented that Goodyear batteries are good, also. FWIW...
posted by wafaa at 5:03 PM on July 27, 2009 takes five seconds to check the battery with a voltmeter to see if it's charging.

I watched my mechanic do the "charging system test" and it's a little more involved than just metering the battery. Besides, it would really suck if you had to pay for a battery when it was something else all along. (like you go to work with your new battery and you get out of work and your car won't start. Call a tow truck...blahblah... Chuh-CHING.
posted by wafaa at 5:13 PM on July 27, 2009

This is about normal for an SUV.
posted by arimathea at 5:30 PM on July 27, 2009

Sounds expensive, but not extortionate.

That said, if you can't change a car battery, you're already looking like a bit of a mark to a mechanic.
posted by pompomtom at 5:52 PM on July 27, 2009

it takes five seconds to check the battery with a voltmeter to see if it's charging

No, it takes 5 seconds with a voltmeter to check whether the alternator is working. Checking the battery involves completely charging it (which takes a while, mostly unattended) and then doing a load test. It's still not a lot of labor, but it's worth mentioning on the bill.

Nthing that yes, it would've been cheaper if you did it yourself... but you didn't.
posted by jon1270 at 6:32 PM on July 27, 2009

What pompomtom said. Being an 18-year old with a pretty nice 2004 car probably doesn't help either (and, correct me if I'm wrong, but 'I was expecting to pay' makes it sound like your son was an 18-year old with someone else's money).
posted by box at 6:50 PM on July 27, 2009

It's high, but not abnormally so.

IMO, and nobody asked, battery swaps, wiper blade changes, fluid-fills, spare tire swaps, and oil changes are something you should have to know how to do to get a drivers license.

And really, unless you live in death valley or the UP, you don't need any special battery over any other special battery.

wal-mart guarantees all vehicle batteries for 2 years from purchase. There is a large contagion of people who return batteries after 23 months. Enough so that, if one were doing a project which involved 12v car batteries, one can almost find perfectly good ones for free of the junk battery rack @ wal-mart.

No, seriously, you should expect 5-7 years out of a battery, 7+ if you actually check your fluid.
posted by TomMelee at 7:21 PM on July 27, 2009

That's a reasonable price for a battery. Interstates have a decent warranty and are pro-rated. I worked at a shop that sold Interstates a while ago and if your battery fails within X time, any other interstate shop will replace it under that warranty. If the battery's $150, that means you paid about another $50 for diagnosis and labor. That's not bad.

No, seriously, you should expect 5-7 years out of a battery, 7+ if you actually check your fluid.
The realistic average lifespan of a battery is closer to 4 years. And virtually all new batteries are sealed and maintenance free, so it's kind of hard to check the fluid. When a car from around 2005 comes into my bay with slow crank or a hard start, I NEVER think, "Well, it can't be the battery because those should last at least 7 years." I check the battery first and the battery proves to be the culprit about 95% of the time.
I have zero memory of ever encountering a 7 year old battery still in service and when I see one that's 6 years old, I'm pretty amazed.

That said, if you can't change a car battery, you're already looking like a bit of a mark to a mechanic.
That's so true! We look on everyone who doesn't want to dig around in their filthy engine bay, bust their knuckles freeing rusty fasteners, shower themselves in sparks when they disconnect the wrong cables, and then overexert themselves lifting heavy car batteries out of their tall trucks as "marks."
Dude, installing batteries kind of sucks and I wouldn't fault anyone for not being excited to do it themselves. Lord knows, I don't enjoy it and I install at least one or two a day.

posted by Jon-o at 7:44 PM on July 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and insights. I am a single mom of two sons I've raised pretty much alone since they were 8 and 10. I know nothing about autos or the mechanics, and neither do my sons...their dad either for that matter, so we are pretty much at the mechanics mercy when it comes to having to trust them. My 18 year old just graduated from HS and starts college in the fall. Their dad and I have an agreement that until they are out of college, I will pay ins. and maintenance on my older sons truck and he will do the same for the 18 year old. The guys went together to have this done and I paid for it and my ex is to reimburse me, but I get yelled at if he thinks a cost is too high. He has reneged on repaying me if he can find the slightest loophole, so I just needed reinforcements that we had not been taken advantage of. Ahhh, the perils of divorce!

I have learned to do a ton of home improvements myself and I guess auto mechanics should be next! Thanks again for your advice and expertise.

Kam :-)
posted by Kam1761 at 8:56 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, in many areas AAA* will deliver and install batteries for a lot of vehicles. 3 year warranty, then another 3 years prorated warranty. They range from like $95-150 depending on the vehicle. They come to you, dispose of the old battery, test the charging system, etc. All at no charge other than the battery. (Assuming you are a AAA member.)

For future reference or something. :)

* I am employed in an AAA call center.
posted by speeb at 10:09 PM on July 27, 2009

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