How much money does a qualified auto mechanic earn?
Hourly rates vary quite a bit across the country and in different shops. Large corporations may pay as much as $15 per hour, but the typical hourly scenario is usually around $8-10.
In order to make good money as a mechanic, a person needs to: (1) become ASE master certified or better; (2) specialize in automatic transmissions; (3) be a diesel mechanic; (4) find a fleet job; (5) specialize in drivability/engine repair; or (6) stay in one place a long, long, time.
Most mechanics do not receive an hourly wage. Instead, they are paid by a system called flat rate. Every job that can be done from changing oil to rebuilding a transmission is uniformly given a particular amount of time in which the average mechanic can finish the job. For example, an oil change might pay two-tenths of an hour (12 minutes). The mechanic is paid for 12 minutes of work no matter if it takes him/her five minutes or five hours. As mechanics become more experienced and have more tenure at their place of employment, they are often faster than the "average" time, so they have the opportunity to work 40-hour weeks but actually clock more than 40-hours of flat-rate time. It is only in this situation that a mechanic can make more than a decent salary.
Beginning mechanics usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to jobs. They are more likely to spend a whole day doing oil changes because it is really difficult to do an oil change correctly in under 12 minutes. They are also more likely to get the hourly pay rather than the flat-rate pay so that they can be handed some of the other low-end jobs (like sweeping and mopping, which don't count toward flat-rate time).
The problem with the flat rate system is that it forces mechanics to fight each other over the jobs that can be done the fastest compared to their book times. For some mechanics, this increases the drive to find something else to fix on a car, or to line up several cars for themselves to work on, thereby increasing the waiting time per vehicle. This is why there are so many mechanic horror stories. Additionally, if a shop has a slow week, a mechanic may not bring enough money home to pay his/her bills. This makes planning for a family or a vacation or saving money very difficult.
Working in a dealership setting is a good way to gain experience and to get paid to go to school or get formal training. However, unless you have a particular skill that is in demand, the pay is pretty stinky.
Private shops (Joe Schmoe's Auto Service, etc.) usually have better pay and the same benefits but are not as concerned with offering education pay.
Large corporations (Goodyear, Midas, etc.) offer the best benefits, low pay, and little interest in continuing education.
A full service mechanic (someone that does everything) can make anywhere from $55-$75 per hour. However, I am not sure what the pay rates are for someone who works for a business such as Pep Boys or Goodyear. If you owned your shop you could charge that much because that's what the median rate is for a mechanic.