Before you drop your computer off at a local computer repair service, or call them for in-home or in-business service, there are several very important questions you should ask.
See some of these important questions below, along with the answers you should expect to hear. If you don't get reasonable answers to these questions, it's time to look for another local computer repair service.
"How Much do you Charge per Hour?"
Asking the cost of a service seems like a question you'd be unlikely to forget but I am always amazed by stories of customers in absolute shock at the hourly rate for a particular computer repair service - after the fact.
Don't wait until it's time to pay the bill to find out how much per hour you you'll be paying.
Expected Answer: "We charge [$50 to $70]USD per hour."
Rates vary, and so do charging schemes (some computer repair services are billed per service), but $50 to $70USD per hour is average. Too much higher than that and you're likely getting ripped off. Too much lower and you're probably in for subpar service or a scheme where you're billed for a higher-than-average number of hours.
"Can You Tell Me How Many Billable Hours This Might Take to Fix?"
No one wants to find out that it took 9 hours at $60/hour to fix a particular computer problem when a brand new budget PC might be had for half the final bill. Having at least some idea about how much the grand total will be is important.
Expected Answer: "I can't be totally sure, of course, but these types of problems usually take about [x] hours to fix."
Having yet to take a look under the hood, no computer repair service can tell you with absolute certainty how many billable hours something might take. If all you need is a simple hardware replacement or software installation, you might be quoted a specific amount, but otherwise you should expect a little flexibility on the answer here.
Use your best judgment on the exact answer to this question. Not being an expert, it might be hard for you to determine if the estimation you're given is exaggerated. If in doubt, call around and get some estimates from several computer repair services.
Are you denied even a best-guess estimate on billable hours from a PC repair service? Don't do business with them. You can't be expected to enter into an agreement to have your computer fixed with no idea whatsoever of the likely total cost.
"Do You Have a Minimum Charge?"
Not all computer problems take several hours to repair. A computer repair service might only spend 10 to 15 minutes solving a particular problem. If your problem happens to be one of these "quick fixes" you should be aware of how you'll be charged for it.
Expected Answer: "Yes, our minimum bench charge is one billable hour."
Most computer repair services will charge you 1 hour of labor for any time up to one hour spent working on your PC. This is sometimes called a minimum bench charge and is completely customary.
If you're lucky, your favorite local computer repair service will have a minimum bench charge of only 1/2 of their billable hour, however I don't see this very often anymore.
"Should I Expect Any Charges Other Than the Hourly Rate?"
Many services we pay for in life are rife with hidden fees. That $19USD oil change seems to cost about $35USD when it's all said and done.
Expected Answer: "No."
It is not common practice for a computer repair service to charge extra fees for their standard services. Obviously, if you require replacement hardware or a new piece of software, you should expect to pay for it but you should not expect any sort of hidden fees or surcharges.
If you're told that there are extra fees, be sure to see a list of them in writing for leaving your PC or requesting service in your home or business.