Career Corner: Understanding Flat Rate -

Career Corner: Understanding Flat Rate

As you start to explore a career as a transportation technician, you may hear the term "Flat Rate" thrown around quite a bit, but what does it mean?

As you start to explore a career as a transportation technician, you may hear the term “Flat Rate” thrown around quite a bit. Essentially, flat rate is how most automotive and collision shops bill for work, and, essentially, how the technician gets paid for the job. It is similar to a commission pay structure in a sales environment.

The way flat-rate works is that each job has a predetermined amount of hours associated with it, and that is how the job is billed, regardless of how long it actually takes. For example, a shop might bill two hours to replace a radiator. This means that the technician will get paid two hours to complete that job, regardless of how much time it takes to complete on the clock.


  • High pay ceiling since a technician can get paid for more than 8 hours in a day.
  • Gives technicians control over their pay.
  • Proper tools and environment can allow technicians to become even more efficient.
  • Training can have a direct impact on pay because you can learn more efficient methods to complete a job.
  • Repetitive tasks can help technicians build more efficiency into their work.


  • A poor shop environment (disorganized, poorly equipped) can negatively affect one’s pay.
  • External factors can slow down one’s efficiency (waiting for parts, paperwork).
  • Hard to gain efficiency on some jobs (if a job pays half an hour, it may be hard to get it done in less time).
  • No pay during down times (if there’s no work, there’s no compensation).
  • Flat rate is less predictable than an hourly or salary wage.

Other Things to Know:

  • Flat rate is common in automotive and collision, but is less common in diesel, fleet and equipment repair because it is harder to estimate repair times.
  • When you are entering the field, it is probably best to start on an hourly or salary basis, since most entry- level techs will struggle with efficiency and, therefore, not do well on flat rate.
  • In a flat-rate environment, mistakes are closely monitored. The shop doesn’t benefit from a technician completing a job quickly if the vehicle is not fixed properly. A technician is often not compensated for a vehicle that comes back, and too many mistakes can affect job security.

Bottom Line:

Whether or not flat rate is best for you is a personal choice. If you are confident in your skills and prefer a fast-paced environment, there is an opportunity to do well in a flat-rate environment. Some flat-rate environments can also have good teamwork, because pooling skills, tools and hours might be good for technicians. On the other side, if you prefer a methodical work environment, it may be better to be in an hourly or salary position. Work that requires a great deal of craftsmanship, such as vehicle restoration, is often paid hourly since quick work can negatively affect the outcome. Ultimately, a technician needs to consider his/her passion, working style and skills to determine what pay structure is best for them.

Article sponsored by TechForce Foundation.

You May Also Like

Being More Motivated

Set and reach your goals together.

Dennis Goodhue has a great vacation planned for next year, and is looking forward to coming back to his shop with dramatic photos and amazing memories.

Goodhue, owner of Diamond G Repair in Montrose, CO, says he can’t wait to start making his reservations – and he’ll get started just as soon as his employees tell him where he’s going.

March ‘Guess The Car’ Winners Sing In Perfect Harmony

To win, you need to enter the contest and be randomly selected. Don’t mis your chance at the next set of prizes.

MindGames – March Pop Quiz Winners Announced

Winners of a $10 McDonald’s gift card were randomly selected from all correct entries.

We Know Your Students Are Great, Let Us Showcase Them!

The next Student of the Month may be sitting in your classroom right now! Nominate your students today!

Did You Solve The March ‘Guess The Tool’ Puzzle?

Play that funky music, smart boy (and girl). This month’s Guess The Tool may have been a little TOO easy to play.

Other Posts

Crossword Puzzle Winners Announced For March MindGames

Solving this puzzle in one sitting may put food in your belly. Congratulations to our MindGames winners.

‘Guess The Car’ Guesses Hint At Loves Lost

MindGames is a weekly series of interactive puzzles designed to fire the synapses and inspire creativity.

TechForce Announces Winner of FutureTechs Rock Awards 

Taeler Coverdale of Houston honored with $1,000 scholarship and $4,000 in prizes.

ASE, Goodguys Partner to Promote Industry Education, Careers

They are joining forces to showcase the wide array of career paths in the world of hot rodding and automotive service.