How Much Does A Tire Alignment Cost On Average?
In my 40-plus years in the automotive business, this was a common question on the phone. My answer was: “for a basic, proper wheel alignment with no parts required, between $50 and $75”, the going rate at the time.
However, there is a great number of variables in quoting on a wheel alignment, not the least is the age of the vehicle the alignment is being carried out on. This also applies to four-wheel alignment.
What are the costs of labor?
The cost of hourly labor for having the tires on your car aligned varies from state to state and city to city and facility to facility. Most auto repair facilities and automotive dealerships work on a flat rate system. Companies such as mitm.com, provide service books for auto repair shops, a kind of kelley blue book for labor, that give service people times expected to carry out a particular job to base their repair estimates on.
However, these rates are just guidelines and there are a number of variables that can affect the final cost. Primarily amongst these is the age of your vehicle and corrosion and rust.
In wintery locations, salt is used on icy roads and the combination of salt and water on steel means corrosion. I can testify that rusted bolts and nuts on suspension parts are a mechanic’s nightmare.
Therefore, the age of your vehicle can affect the end cost in getting your vehicle’s wheels aligned. Older cars and pickups require more time than newer models.
What are the costs of parts?
The cost of parts can vary. OEM or Original Equipment Manufacturer’s parts from a vehicle manufacturer are generally at the high end in the costs of parts. For this reason, the automotive parts industry is a great breeding ground for what are called aftermarket parts.
The automotive parts aftermarket is a secondary market to dealer parts. It is made up of companies that specialize in manufacturing parts that for the most part are cheaper than those bought through a vehicle manufacturer but with similar quality.
An auto repair shop or tire shop will often quote an upper range and a lower range when producing a repair estimate leaving the choice up to you, the owner.
In my working life as an auto mechanic, I found aftermarket suspension parts just as reliable as the OEM parts and saved my customers money in the end.
As a rule of thumb, I found in my experience that cars with 100,000 miles on them required both upper and lower ball joints. Ball joints are the pivot points for the suspension. Tie rods, the steering links, can last many years. In older model cars, they came with built in grease nipples and were lubricated when it was time for an oil change. Tire rods in new cars are pre-lubricated and sealed and as a result, they may never have to be replaced. Many come with a good warranty.
Keep in mind, however; that their useful life span may be affected by the type of road conditions. Potholes, poor road surfaces, and extreme cold or heat can cause tie rods to wear faster and cause uneven tire wear.
The cost of a ball joint can range from $25 to $90 depending upon make and model and every car has four. A tire rod, again depending on make and model, can run between $30 and $100 dollars.
When Should You Get An Alignment?
If your tires are inflated correctly but your vehicle show signs of veering to one side (vehicle pulling) on a straight road with an even camber when you hold the steering wheel loosely, it is time to get a front-end alignment. However, there are some sources who think an alignment every 10,000 miles is required. In my experience and with modern cars, I recommend every 50,000.
When a mechanic carries out an alignment, they’re adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they meet with the car manufacturer’s specifications. If the steering wheel on your vehicle shakes at speed it may be time for a tire alignment. Keep in mind, this could also be caused by your wheels being out of balance and they should be balanced first. If a balance does not cure the problem, then a tire alignment is the obvious solution.
If you drive a lot on secondary roads with large potholes, you are more likely to require regular wheel alignments than someone who drives mainly on city roads
If your vehicle is having any kind of steering issue then a tire alignment is recommended. Another indicator of poor alignment may show up on the tire wear of your car or truck. If the wear is greater on one side of the tire than the other, this definitely is an indication of an adjustment needed in your front suspension of the caster or camber or both.
This type of wear is usually caused by out-of-alignment camber. What is camber? If you crouch down at the front of your car and look at the front wheels, camber is the “lean” inwards or outwards of each front wheel. If leaning in at the top, this is negative camber. If leaning out at the top, this is positive camber. Caster angles are vertical lines at a backward angle through the steering tires indicating where the tire pivots on the ground. Another critical area is toe-in where the distance between the steering wheels is slightly less at the front than the back. Most cars have toe-in, not toe out.
Modern front-wheel vehicles generally have a negative camber of 0 to 2 degrees. Older, classic cars that are generally rear-wheel drive have 0 to 1-degree positive camber.
The steering wheels on a vehicle always have to be adjusted to the manufacturer’s specifications. This is known as the steering geometry and as you can guess from the word “geometry”, is the front wheels and the mechanism that steers them being set to angles recommended by the manufacturers.
If your car is having steering concerns such as poor tracking and handling then it might be time for not only an alignment check but new tires. A poorly aligned front end on a vehicle can cause tires to wear unevenly and if you have a tire alignment, I recommend having a new set of tires installed at the same time.
A good rule of thumb is to have an alignment check carried out every two to three years at a wheel alignment services specialist. This can save you money on tires and fuel as well as make your car safer to travel in on high-speed highways.
How Much Does A Tire Alignment Cost At The Dealer Vs Other Places?
In my research of tire alignment prices, I found the average alignment costs between $70 and $127. Generally speaking, the lower costs could be attributed to independent auto repairs facilities or tire shop and higher costs to automotive dealers.
Based on that research, let’s use the cost of $127 in the following examples of dealers versus an independent or a chain facility or tire shop.
- $127 Vs Midas Muffler Shops $69.99
- $127 Vs Precision Time Auto Care $69.90
- $127 Vs Firestone $80.00
- $127 Vs Jiffy Lube $69.99+
- $127 Vs Pep Boys $74.99
- $127 Vs Valvoline $84.00
Where Should You Go For A Tire alignment To Get The Best Price?
The answer to this question is; it depends on where you live. If you live in a small rural town, your options are limited. Not all repair car maintenance garages are equipped with alignment equipment.
If there is an auto dealer in town, they usually have a tire alignment bay and even though they may sell one particular make of auto, most of the time they can repair and carry out checks on other makes.
If you live in or near a large city, your options are much better for finding a deal on a tire alignment. However, before you buy, research! You might have your vehicle serviced at a small garage who is not equipped with a tire alignment bay. They may recommend a facility to you.
If they are reluctant to do so, check with friends or family. They may be able to recommend a facility. If not, go online and create a list. Then check the reviews on those facilities. Failing that, you could check with your local Better Business Bureau or the local Automobile Association.
Once you find a facility that looks good and is offering a coupon, check the fine print on the coupon. Some coupons have restrictions such as the discount being available on certain days of the week for example
How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off When Buying A Tire Alignment?
Once you have decided on a facility, get a written estimate. Then, always ask them to call you if they need to replace any worn parts. These may be tie-rod ends, ball joints and in some older vehicles, suspension springs. Keep in mind, that alignments cannot be carried out if a suspension and steering gear are worn. However, don’t give the repair facility a blank check. Ask to be called if repairs have to be carried out before an alignment can be done and ask for an estimate of the completed job.
When I was in the automobile business, my facility had a slogan for our customers. “No surprises”. In other words, every customer knew what the bill was before they came to pick up their car.
Keep in mind, a standard rule of thumb in the car repair business is that estimates can be up to 10% over the price quoted. The repairs and subsequent alignment on your vehicle may be almost complete and another part may be required. If the facility cannot reach you, they may have no choice but to replace the part to be able to complete the job and move your car off the alignment rack for the next repair.
When checking your car in for the alignment, always ask them to keep the parts so you can see what has been replaced.
The internet is a great help for auto owners in not getting ripped off. Yes, there are unscrupulous repair shops out there. You can avoid them if you follow a few common sense guidelines
- Ask for referrals from friends and family
- Check for reviews online
- Check with your Better Business Bureau
- Check with your local Automobile Association
- Check if the facility belongs to a certification group for repair shops.
How To Save Money On A Tire Alignment?
The best way to save money on a tire or wheel alignment on your vehicle is with regular maintenance. There is an old saying that goes; a stitch in time saves nine.
What this means roughly speaking is take your vehicle in for regular checkups and have problems and issues taken care of before they get worse. Your maintenance costs are lower than having to have full-blown repairs carried out. This really does apply to tire alignments.
The main reason for a tire alignment is to make sure the wheels of your car or truck react to the road surface in such a way as to minimize wear and tear and to ensure safe driving. Tires, steering and suspension components that are not set to the manufacturer’s specifications will cause bad road handling and will cause much faster wear and tear.
Tires and suspensions that are out of alignment can have an impact on fuel efficiency and fuel economy.
Your wheels and tires, if properly aligned to the manufacturer’s specifications prevent a vehicle from pulling one way or the other, reduce the possibility of poor gas mileage and most importantly prevent wear and tear on the life of your tires.
Saving money on a tire alignment means taking notice if your steering wheel vibrates when you reach a certain speed, your vehicle drifts one way or the other when unless you have a tight grip on the steering wheel or there is a feeling of drifting at high speeds.
A proper wheel alignment is simply a matter of checking the wheels of your vehicle, your steering components and suspension are all in line and meeting the correct specifications to ensure your vehicle drives a straight line on roadways in a manner that provides you with full control behind the wheel.
If you don’t have a regular mechanic, you can save money on tire alignments by shopping around. When you find a suitable facility, ask for a written estimate. Also, ask that the service center requests your approval before carrying out any repairs over and above the estimate.
And lastly, check for coupons. Many chains and independent facilities offer deals on a vehicle’s alignment.