While not the most vital accessory in your car, a working AC is still a must have in those sweltering summer months. But if you’re in the market for a new AC, how much should you expect to pay? The answer isn’t quite as simple as some might think—nor is your AC for that matter. Most car AC systems have five components, namely; the refrigerant, the compressor, condenser, an expansion valve and finally the drier/evaporator. What this means for those of us not fluent in ‘gear-speak’, is that fixing your AC involves enough variables to prevent a blanket estimate. But it’s still very possible to have an idea of what to pay to get your AC up and running.
Many technicians charge anywhere between $100-300 to inspect and evaluate the air conditioner. This should include all hoses, belts and other connectors that comprise the AC. Be sure to ask if your technician will refill your AC with fresh refrigerant, possibly with dye included to check for leaks, or simply recharge it with a complete refill. Most shops charge a flat fee for topping off or recharging, but be sure to ask about additional charges, some shops include everything in one price, others have a fee for the labor and a separate fee for a set amount of refrigerant regardless of the actual amount used.
If your system requires more than a routine check-up, and leaks are detected, expect to pay anywhere from $150-$800 for minor repairs to a vehicle's air conditioning system. If you’re driving a luxury foreign vehicle, you will more than likely have to pay a bit more—whether from parts needing to be shipped in or because a there might be few technicians with the know-how to service your vehicle. Whatever the cost, the final amount quotes should include replacing a few parts like hoses, sensors, or either the compressor or condenser.
More extensive repairs range $1,000-$4,000 or more, depending on make and model. Cars built before 1995, will need the refrigerant drained and replaced with a type in line with current environmental regulations.
There might be extreme cases but AC repair doesn’t always cost an arm and a leg! Be sure to get a couple of quotes from repair shops in your area. It’s also a good idea to bring a friend along if you’re not sure what to expect.
Written by Dara Greaney