Trade workers play an essential role in keeping America running. They manufacture the goods we use every day, operate machinery, and perform many other important tasks that we often take for granted.
Auto mechanics are the perfect example of this. They keep our cars running so we can rely on them to get us where we need to go.
If you’re interested in becoming an auto mechanic, then it might be a good idea to do some research to find out how much you can make in the career before committing to it. We’ve put together this article to help you do that. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how much auto mechanics make.
What factors can influence how much an auto mechanic makes?
Auto mechanics can earn a wide range of salaries. The amount that you earn in this field will likely depend on how each of the following four factors applies to your situation.
AREA OF SPECIALIZATION
Auto mechanics can specialize in many different types of vehicle work. This is a list that includes things like:
- General repairs and maintenance
- Electrical systems
- Certain types of cars
The area of specialization that you pick could influence how much you earn as an auto mechanic. Generally, if you specialize in a complicated type of auto mechanic work that requires lots of additional training, you can make more than someone who does general repairs and maintenance.
But that doesn’t mean specializing will always guarantee you a higher income. Other factors on this list could end up having a bigger impact on your salary than what you specialize in.
An auto mechanic can often earn a higher entry-level salary if they complete some type of training before pursuing the position. This typically involves completing either a certification program or an associate’s degree in a related field.
Auto mechanics that pursue post-secondary training generally take between 6 and 12 months to complete their programs. These people then need less on-the-job training, so employers are often willing to pay them more as entry-level workers.
Your location can also have a big impact on how much you earn as an auto mechanic. The general rule is that auto mechanics who work in areas with high costs of living tend to make more than those who work in areas with lower costs of living.
That means if you want to maximize your salary as an auto mechanic, one option is to look for jobs in areas with higher costs of living. Just keep in mind, your expenses in these areas will also likely go up. So, even if you can earn a higher salary, your purchasing power may not increase.
The amount of experience that an auto mechanic has can also influence how much they earn. The general rule of thumb is the same as it is in most other professions: auto mechanics with more experience tend to command a higher salary than those with less experience.
This makes sense. Employers are willing to pay experienced mechanics more money because they can usually trust them to take on more responsibility. It’s why an auto mechanic’s salary will typically go up as they progress with their career.
How much do auto mechanics make per hour?
Not all auto mechanics get paid a salary, and many work for an hourly rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hourly wage for an auto mechanic is $21.18.
There are some benefits to working as an hourly employee which salaried auto mechanics don’t get to enjoy. The most important one is that hourly auto mechanics usually get paid a higher hourly rate for any overtime work they do. Salaried workers may have to work overtime sometimes without earning anything extra for doing so.
The average yearly salary for an auto mechanic
The BLS says that the average yearly salary for an auto mechanic is $44,050.
This is actually the figure that you get by multiplying the average hourly rate for a mechanic by the number of hours they would work in an average year (assuming 40 hour work weeks).
That means, at least according to the BLS, salaried auto mechanics earn approximately the same as hourly workers in the field.
Here’s where auto mechanics make the most
If you have some geographic flexibility, then you may be interested in moving to a location where you can earn more as an auto mechanic.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks where mechanics make the most and we’ve summarized that for you here:
- District of Columbia – $64,640
- California – $54,540
- Washington – $52,530
- Alaska – $52,490
- Hawaii – $51,920
We can also take a deeper look at the data to discover the metropolitan areas where auto mechanics earn the most. Here’s that list:
- Fairbanks, AK – $66,060
- San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA – $64,630
- California-Lexington Park, MD – $64,420
- Ann Arbor, MI – $63,920
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA – $63,500
Rural vs. urban salaries for auto mechanics
Another thing that you might think about is whether you want to look for auto mechanic jobs in rural or urban areas.
We showed the top-paying metropolitan areas for auto mechanics in the previous section. So now let’s take a look at the highest-paying nonmetropolitan areas for auto mechanics, according to the BLS:
- Nevada nonmetropolitan area – $58,680
- Alaska nonmetropolitan area – $56,670
- Northwest Colorado nonmetropolitan area – $54,170
- Coastal Plains Region of Texas – $53,520
- North Valley-Northern Mountains Region of California – $52,090
As a reminder, average salaries for auto mechanics in the top-paying metropolitan areas range from $63,500 – $66,060. This data shows that your top-end earning potential as an auto mechanic is higher in cities than it is in rural regions.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that working in a city will be the right decision for you. Rural areas typically cost less to live in, so your purchasing power in one of these locations could be higher than what it would be if you lived and worked in a city.
How to become an auto mechanic
If these salary figures look appealing to you, then you may be ready to commit to becoming a mechanic. That will typically mean completing a three-step process. Here’s what it looks like.
Get your high school diploma or GED
The first step towards becoming an auto mechanic is making sure that you have either your diploma or GED.
Auto mechanic jobs can be competitive, and one of the first ways that an employer will shrink their stack of applicants is often removing any candidates that don’t possess either of these qualifications.
So start by making sure that you finish your high school education. Otherwise, it could be difficult for you to find job opportunities as an aspiring auto mechanic.
Attend a trade school, technical college, or community college
It’s technically possible to get hired as an apprentice-level auto mechanic without completing one of these types of post-secondary education. However, the vast majority of new mechanics choose to attend one of these types of schools where they complete either a certification or a degree program.
Trade schools, technical colleges, and community colleges offer hands-on programs that give you real-world experience doing the types of tasks that you’ll be asked to do as an auto mechanic. This is a list that includes things like:
- Replacing brake pads
- Doing oil changes
- Performing diagnostics
- Making A/C repairs
- And other basic repair and maintenance tasks
Getting the chance to work on these things in a scholastic environment is typically a very good thing for your development as a mechanic. Employers will usually favor candidates who have taken the time to complete one of these types of programs.
Find an entry-level job that offers employer training
Now you’re ready to start looking for employment opportunities. If you can, try to find a position that will offer you some on-the-job training.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to accept a lower-paying job as an entry-level mechanic–especially if you’ve completed post-secondary training. However, getting a job that will offer you the opportunity to train may help you become a more skilled mechanic faster.
How to earn more as an auto mechanic
Earning more as an auto mechanic is all about finding the right opportunities and taking advantage of them as they present themselves. To do that, you will need to have a fast way to find the auto mechanic job opportunities that are the best fit for your skills.
That’s why you should seriously consider using Rock the Trades. Our app will automatically connect you with employers who are searching for auto mechanics with your qualifications. And we add over 50,000 industrial jobs to the app every month, so there are plenty of opportunities to go around.
So why wait? Take the first step towards finding your next job as an auto mechanic by downloading the RTT app today.