If you own a car for long enough, you’re sure to need to replace the brakes. Unfortunately, that is a hard cost to predict, especially if you need to rely on a garage for labor. There are a lot of reasons why even experienced drivers find themselves puzzled when asked how much do brakes cost, and it’s because the industry’s pricing is volatile and sometimes hard to predict. Individually, the costs for the same pad from the same manufacturer don’t tend to change much outside of sales. Unfortunately, depending on the make, model, and age of your car and the level of performance you’re seeking, the answer to the cost can change a lot. When you add in the fact that brake jobs can mean a simple pad replacement or a full system overhaul, it’s easy to see how it can be confusing.
Pad Replacement at a Garage
If you’re proactive about brake inspections and replacement according to the factory’s recommended schedule, you’re more likely to be able to replace the pads while leaving the brakes and rotors you already had. That’s not universally true because sometimes an aggressive driving style will wear them down, and if they’ve been passed over during a previous brake pad replacement they may now be worn enough to be replaced. Assuming you only need pads, the cost can be as low as $35 without waiting for a sale, or it can be as high as $80, and that’s only looking at widely available performance parts. In truth, if you’re dedicated to finding the top of the market you can almost always pay more. If you need to do one axle, that’s between $70 and $160 in parts. Labor is also usually one to two hours per axle, which typically means between $80 and $120. That means you’re looking at anywhere between $150 and $280 per axle out the door, without needing replacement rotors or calipers. Of course, there are often sales run on brake pads, and the cost can be significantly lower if you are getting a buy one, get one deal or something like it.
Factoring in Rotors and Calipers
Replacement brake pads are usually the least expensive part of the system. Calipers can cost up to $130 for mainstream brands, and the rotors themselves are between $35 and $70. If you need to replace these parts, it usually increases the labor cost per axle a bit, so you can expect to be on the high end of the estimate above if not over it. That means the total cost for a full brake replacement across all four wheels can be over $1000 in some cases, but it can also be around $600. There’s too much individual variance between vehicles to say for sure. There are ways to lower the cost, though:
- Wait for sales
- Do the work yourself
- Shop around for lower labor rates
If you’re trying to decide between a DIY project and a trip to the garage, you can help yourself out to a better cost estimate by using a site that has a fast, free VIN lookup in the part search. That way, you only see the cost for parts that will work on your vehicle.