Car Diagnostic Test Cost

What is The Car Diagnostic Test Cost In USA?


The Cost of Car Diagnostic Tests in the USA

A car diagnostic test is an essential process for identifying issues with your vehicle’s mechanical, electrical and computer systems. When the “check engine” light comes on or your car is not running properly, a diagnostic test can help pinpoint the problem so that repairs can be made. But how much does this procedure typically car diagnostic test cost in the USA?

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What is Included in a Car Diagnostic Test?

A car diagnostic test connects your vehicle’s on-board diagnostics computer (OBD-II) to a scan tool or code reader. The OBD-II system monitors your car’s key systems and can identify issues by reading diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). A diagnostic test will scan your car’s computer for these codes to see which systems may be malfunctioning.

Car Diagnostic Test Cost
Car Diagnostic Test Cost

During a diagnostic test, the mechanic will connect the scan tool to the data link connector, usually located under the steering column.

The scan tool will link to various sensors, contro modules, and processors throughout the vehicle that monitor systems including:

  • Engine and emissions
  • Transmission
  • Antilock brakes and traction control
  • Airbags and restraint systems
  • Cooling and air conditioning
  • Fuel and ignition systems

The diagnostic test does not actually repair your vehicle. Rather, it retrieves the DTCs that indicate there is a problem with certain systems. The mechanic can then use the DTC information to further diagnose and properly repair the issue.

Average Cost of a Diagnostic Test

The cost of a car diagnostic test depends on the complexity of the scan process and systems being tested.

Prices typically range from $40 on the low end to over $200 for extensive diagnostics:

  • Basic test – $40 to $100. Scans powertrain-related systems such as the engine, transmission, fuel system, etc. Simple tests take 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Computer diagnostics – $100 to $150. Scans all computer-controlled systems. Takes 1-2 hours for more complex scans.
  • Manufacturer-specific scans – $150 to $200+. Scans specific to certain car makes may cost more. Can take 2+ hours.
  • Dealerships – $100 to $150+. Dealers tend to charge more than independent shops for diagnostic tests.
  • Failed part scans – $75 to $150. Follow-up scans to check repaired parts may cost extra.
Car Diagnostic Test Cost
Car Diagnostic Test Cost

Additional Diagnostic Fees

In some cases, additional diagnostic fees may apply on top of the base scan cost:

  • Diagnostic time – $100 to $200 per hour. You may be charged for shop time spent diagnosing beyond the scan itself.
  • System tests – $50 to $500+. If further tests on components like alternators, starters or AC systems are needed, this costs extra.
  • Computer resets/reprogramming – $75 to $200. Resetting computer systems or updated programming after repairs.
  • Rental car – $30 to $50 per day. If the scan and repairs take longer than a day, a complimentary rental may be provided.

How Long Does a Diagnostic Test Take?

A basic OBD-II scan without any extensive diagnostics typically takes 30 minutes to an hour. More complex tests that scan all systems or manufacturer-specific diagnostics can take 1-2 hours. If additional diagnostics beyond the scan are needed, the full process may take 2 or more hours. Communicating the results and estimates to the customer also adds time to the process.

Are Any Discounts Available?

There are a few ways you may be able to get a discount on a car diagnostic test:

  • Ask for coupon or promotional offers from repair shops and dealerships
  • Join AAA for discounts at Approved Auto Repair facilities
  • Check Groupon and similar sites for discounted diagnostic deals
  • Visit shops during promotional sales events or off-peak hours
  • Ask about loyalty/rewards programs for return customers
  • Inquire about discounts for paying in cash vs credit
  • Get price quotes from several mechanics to compare rates

Key Factors That Affect the Cost

There are several key factors that can impact the cost of a car diagnostic test:

  • Vehicle make and model – More complex vehicle systems may cost more to diagnose. Newer cars generally cost more as they require up-to-date diagnostic software and scan tools.
  • Shop hourly rate – Prices can vary greatly between dealerships, chain shops and local mechanics. Shop rates range from $50 to over $125 per hour.
  • Extent of diagnostics – Simple OBD-II scans are quicker and cheaper than full, complex system diagnostics. Manufacturer-specific tests also cost more.
  • Location – Diagnostic test costs tend to be higher in metropolitan areas and large cities compared to small towns and rural areas.

Do Diagnostic Tests Include Repairs?

The diagnostic test itself only scans and retrieves the DTCs indicating an issue. Any actual repairs your car needs will be a separate cost. Some mechanics do provide free follow-up scans after repairs to ensure the check engine light is reset and systems are functioning properly again. But all parts and labor for the actual repair work would be an additional charge.

Car Diagnostic Test Cost
Car Diagnostic Test Cost

Is the Diagnostic Fee Waived if You Get Repairs?

Most mechanics will still charge the base diagnostic fee even if you proceed with their recommended repairs. However, some shops may be willing to waive or discount the fee if the total bill for repairs exceeds a certain dollar amount. It depends on the individual shop’s policies, so be sure to ask ahead if the diagnostic cost will be applied toward the final repair bill.

Bottom Line on Diagnostic Costs

While the cost can vary greatly based on your vehicle, shop, and diagnostics needed, on average expect to pay around $75 to $150 for a comprehensive car diagnostic test in the USA. Follow the tips above to find a fair price and quality service in your area. Proper diagnostics save money in the long run by pinpointing only the repairs needed to get your car back on the road.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average cost of a basic OBD-II scan?

The average cost of a basic OBD-II scan is about $40-$100 at most repair shops in the USA. This will check powertrain-related systems like the engine, transmission, and emissions.

How much does a dealership charge for diagnostics?

Dealerships typically charge $100-$150 or more for a comprehensive diagnostic test. Their hourly shop rates also tend to be higher than independent mechanics.

Should I get diagnostics at an auto parts store?

Parts stores can scan codes for free, but won’t provide a full diagnostic. Reviews on paid scans from parts stores are mixed. A reputable shop often provides more thorough diagnostics and expertise.

How can I find reputable mechanics for a fair price?

Look for shops certified by AAA, ASE or your vehicle manufacturer. Check online reviews. Get quotes from multiple shops. Avoid chain shops and dealers for lower rates.

Can a diagnostic scan miss problems?

Yes – diagnostics should find most issues but cannot detect every problem, especially mechanical ones. The scan gives starting points for an experienced mechanic to further test and diagnose your vehicle.

Do I have to pay if the scan finds no problems?

Most shops still charge the base diagnostic fee even if no issues are found. Some may waive the fee or apply it toward repairs. Check policies and get fee details upfront.

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