Hazardous material fee for an alignment? Yes

Dear Johnnie: I recently had a four-wheel alignment done on my car at a local repair shop. The cost was $49.95.

When I paid the bill, there was a $2.50 hazardous material fee on the invoice, even though no hazardous materials were used in the job.

A friend told me he also had a four-wheel alignment done on his car at a different repair shop. The cost was $79.95 plus a $7.50 disposal fee, even though no parts were replaced and nothing was disposed of.

My question is, why do we pay hazardous material and disposal fees when this is strictly an adjustment job?

Does the county mandate these fees or do the repair shops pad the bill to make some extra profit? — Tired of Fees

Dear Tired of Fees: What matters here is the definition of “hazardous materials.”

I checked with a couple of local auto repair shops to get a better understanding of the situation you described. Steve Powers, of Steve’s Automotive, put it succinctly.

“Hazmat generally covers getting rid of waste oil, antifreeze, rags, that kind of stuff,” he said.

On an alignment job, for instance, the shop might use penetrating grease to loosen bolts. It’s likely that shop rags are used, as well. Both can be considered hazardous materials. It’s likely that your friend’s disposal fee was a hazardous materials fee, Powers said.

Powers told me that for hazardous materials disposal, most shops charge “a certain percentage, up to $10.” The fee itself is not mandated by the county or by any other government, but dealing with hazardous materials is. They can’t just toss old, oily rags into the trash. So the shop passes on the cost to the customer.

The hazardous materials or disposal fees are listed separately on the bill because the service is not taxable.

Scott Nichols, owner of Hitek Automotive, called the hazardous materials fee “a valid fee. It’s not like a $50 luggage fee.”

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