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  • Posted by Alan Watkins on January 23, 2020 at 7:25 pm

    Thought I’d ask for those doing programming, what’s a fair price to relearn reprogram ecu, tcm, and keys. I know there’s a lot of hidden cost off the top to the shop owner, such as scanners and software. I’ve recently purchased an Autel elite system but there’s more involved than just the system. For instance. Nissan ners is $350 plus the flash code of $29.99 and that’s just Nissan. I think VW wants a $100 annually plus the firmware file you need. I’m pretty sure these files are a one time use as well , meaning you’ll need to pay again once the file is loaded. All manufacturers are basically the same. Pay to play. Any suggestions and or pricing guidelines would be appreciated.

    regards Al

    J. Larry Bloodworth replied 2 years, 6 months ago 6 Members · 8 Replies
  • 8 Replies
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  • George Smith

    January 24, 2020 at 8:49 am

    We charge $135 at our shop and we are the cheapest in town…crazy frankly!

  • Matthew Brade

    January 24, 2020 at 9:24 am

    We have factory scan tool capability for Chrysler, Ford, GM, Nissan and Honda, and also looking to add Toyota in the near future.  Most dealerships also have to pay for the software package and pass that cost along to the customer. The subscription fee ($350 for NERS, $50 for  3 days on Chrysler, $900 annual for Ford, etc..) is something we consider cost of doing business, however if you are selling software updates and reflashes properly you will quickly offset this cost.  At the KCVision conference last year, a whole lot of instructors (read 99.9% of folks who are the top in the automotive field) stated that ALL modern vehicles are software driven and that if  vehicle comes into their/your for a driveability problem we are doing a grave dis-service to our clients if we are not checking that the software on these vehicles ae up-to-date. In fact 80% of these instructors stated that if a vehicle comes in with a driveability issue and the software is out-of-date, they will inform the client that the software must be updated before any further diagnostics can be performed. Why? We have found that a significant portion of drivebility problems are being solved with software updates.  Depending on the number of modules we are flashing we charge between $110 and $330 for labor and $35- $95 for software.

    On an end note, you mentioned VW and I can only say good luck.  ALL of the Euro manufacturers will ONLY give you access to a very SMALL subsection of modules (can’t program keys, ignition switch, BCM, SRS, ABS, instrument cluster, etc.. basically anything that would run through he security system on the vehicle is off limits to the aftermarket)

  • jbrenn77

    January 24, 2020 at 9:47 am

    I’d start by figuring out what your target GP$/hr is.  A good baseline might be whatever you are averaging now(assuming you’re profitable).  Personally I’d go higher than that due to the high liability, equipment, and labor cost involved.  Figure out how long the programming is going to take on average then charge the $/r rate times that amount of time for that make.  Nissans may need to be more than GM’s.  For example, if you paid a diagnostic tech $40/hr and your labor rate was 130/hr you’d be making 90/hr GP$ on that tech assuming he was at 100% efficiency.  Now let’s say he’s installing a 1hr water pump that you bought for 50 and sold for 100.  Your GP$/billable hr in this case would be 90+50 = 140.  In the case of programming, you would not be selling parts, and in my opinion you should be able to make a higher profit than water pumps on programming for the reasons mentioned above.  If it took an hr to do the programming and you wanted to make the same $ as water pumps you’d need to charge $180 for that service.  As for the software fees, in our shop if it’s a per instance fee we get charged, we simply pass that along to the customer.  If it’s something we need to buy (NERS, new hardware,etc) then we consider that a shop overhead, just like we would with a special timing tool set needed to do a complex water pump.  It’s not a direct cost for that job alone.  That being said, you may need to have a higher labor rate for programming if you don’t have a lot of volume to recover that expense, since these tools and equipment are typically higher as a percentage of your labor sales.

    This is my opinion on this so far.  If you are in a major city it’s very probable that you have mobile programming guys grossly under charging for their service, and it might not make sense to buy all this equipment, rather, subletting may be the most profitable option.  If this isn’t the case for you then it’s a different story.  It is the case for us in any car line we’re not doing a minimum of 4 programming instances per month.  We do Ford/Chrysler/GM, some Nissans in house.  Others we sublet to mobile guys ’cause it costs me less than buying the tools and we mark it up 100% just like any other sublet.


    Hope this helps.

  • acoliajja

    January 24, 2020 at 10:55 am

    We have a traveling programmer in our area .  He comes to our shop .  He can do American , Asian , and European . The charge is $160 . We just double it to $320 to the customer .

  • Alan Watkins

    January 24, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    Some really great advice. Thanks to those who replied. I do feel I’m going to charge additionally for programming g maybe based at $100 hr. Versus my shop rate of $80 hr. Plus I would possibly double the charge for the flash. I also feel charging a minimum 1.2 – 1.5 hours is acceptable as well. I feel that $200 mark is very reasonable for the service maybe around half that for keys but this gives me an idea what to charge. My town only has one place programming and their prices are similar to what’s been mentioned here. We do have a few mobile guys but my experience has been they aren’t dependable to show up. Thanks again

  • J. Larry Bloodworth

    January 24, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    We do similar to what ACOLIAJJA does.  We reflash U.S. & Asian units, but hire a mobile reprogramming guy for $150 for the vehicles we don’t reflash like Euros.  We charge a flat $250 fee for reflashing no matter whether we do it, or sub it out.  We have yet to do key FOB reprogramming, but I’m sure our turn is coming.

  • Alan Watkins

    January 24, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    What do you think key fob programming is worth?

  • J. Larry Bloodworth

    January 25, 2020 at 1:39 am

    Q:  >>”What do you think key fob programming is worth?”<<

    A:  At least the amount of a blank key FOB.  Although I’ve never done it, I would charge double the price of the key FOB strictly for the convenience factor.  My wife went into Karl Malone Toyota here in Draper, UT and she sat around for 2 hours in the waiting room for the key FOB programming service.

    Customers don’t know what it costs anyway.  The dealer has the stigma of being high-priced and few rarely check.  What the dealer won’t quote is the wait time.