What Is the Cost to Replace an Alternator In 2023?
Gasoline-powered internal combustion engine cars count for over 90% of global vehicle sales1 in the US, and every single one of those cars has an alternator. The main job of an alternator is to convert mechanical energy into electrical one. Without it, you won’t be able to operate the windows, turn the light on, or hear what’s on the radio. Now, alternators are quite reliable and long-lasting.
But they do break down eventually. So, how much will you have to pay to have it replaced? How much do different auto shops charge for the labor? Does the car/brand matter? What’s the average lifespan of an alternator? These are just some of the questions we’ll cover in this guide. So, let’s get to it!
The Importance of an Alternator
The alternator isn’t particularly big or expensive. However, when it starts to malfunction, you’ll instantly feel that. Dimming lights, inability to control the power windows, no radio/navigation, and, most importantly, engine stalling and sudden stops—that’s what happens when the alternator fails. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of the alternator in a modern-day vehicle because it is, indeed, a vital component.
A bad alternator can lead to all kinds of trouble and even kill the battery. That’s right: malfunctioning alternators tend to overcharge the battery unit, often leading to failure. A flat battery, in turn, breaks down much sooner than a charged one. And if you keep driving with a failing alternator, that can have a negative impact on the engine as well!
How Much Does a Professional Alternator Replacement Cost?
Mechanics in the US charge $300–$1,200 for a complete alternator replacement, with most drivers paying $450–$650 for it. That includes both the part(s) and the labor cost. On average, a brand-new alternator will cost you $200–$1,000. If it’s an aftermarket part, it will be much cheaper ($100–500). As for OEM alternators, they’re usually sold for $270–$1,000.
And one more thing: if you’re driving a foreign vehicle, expect to pay more both for the alternator and the labor. We’re talking about $800–$1,400. The location of the alternator also matters. If it sits near the engine, it will cost you $230–$1,200 to replace it ($230–$600 for an aftermarket part and $300–$1,200 for an OEM unit).
And if it’s located far from the motor, the auto shop will charge $400–$1,700 ($400–$770 for an aftermarket alternator and $580–$1,700 for an OEM part). Now, some experts recommend using remanufactured alternators instead of buying new ones. They’re much cheaper and quite reliable. With that said, if you have an extra $100–$200 to spare, we’d say go for it, as new parts perform better and serve longer.
How Much Do Mechanics Charge for Alternator Replacement?
The average hourly rate in the US is $50–$120 if it’s a small garage. A full-fledged auto shop or dealership, in turn, will charge $120–$180, or even more. On average, the installation takes an experienced mechanic 2–3 hours. That includes removing the old unit and installing a brand-new alternator. However, if it’s located deep inside the engine, that’s going to be 5–8 hours of work.
Alternator Replacement Cost by Different Regions
When it comes to repairs, replacement, insurance, and general car prices, the East Coast is the most expensive part of the country. The West Coast is the close second, while the Midwestern areas are usually the cheapest ones. This greatly depends on the state, the city, auto shop, and mechanic, of course. Still, here are the average prices for alternator replacement in different regions:
- The East Coast: $700–$1,100
- The West Coast: $600–$900
- The Midwest: $450–$800
Alternator Replacement Cost by Popular Car Models
Ford’s F-Series, Toyota’s Camry, and Honda’s CR-V are some of the best-selling and fan-favored vehicles in the US. Here’s how much you’ll have to pay for the part and the labor if you’re driving one of these cars:
- Ford Focus: $400–$600
- Ford Fusion: $350–$500
- Ford F-Series: $550–$900
- Toyota Corolla: $250–$720
- Toyota Camry: $370–$760
- Honda Civic: $360–$630
- Honda CR-V: $400–$1,100
- Honda Accord: $320–$540
- Chevy Silverado: $350–$520
Alternator Replacement Cost by Popular Auto Shops
And here’s a quick look at three widely known, US-based auto shops and how much they charge for alternator replacement (parts plus labor):
- NAPA: $270–$1,100
- Your Mechanic: $300–$850
- Midas: $180–$970
A quick note: all these companies include a 12-months warranty.
Additional Costs to Anticipate
There aren’t any extra costs when it comes to replacing the alternator. Again, this is a rather straightforward and hassle-free procedure. Do remember, though, that sometimes, it’s not the entire alternator that’s malfunctioning but separate parts of it. If that’s the case, ask the mechanic to only replace that one component. Here’s how much you can expect to pay:
|Serpentine belt replacement:||$75–$200|
|Idler roller replacement:||$75–$210|
How Often Should I Have the Alternator Replaced?
Alternators have a longer lifespan compared to batteries. While a properly-maintained battery lasts for 3–4 years, an alternator will serve for twice as long (5–8 years, or up to a decade). That equals 60–150,000 miles. The actual lifespan depends on the car you’re driving, how often you hit the road, your driving style, and the area that you live in. Also, the more electronics you’ve got in the vehicle, the sooner the alternator will wear out.
As a general rule, it’s recommended to have the alternator checked when you’re approaching the 5–6 year threshold. The inspection will only take an hour or two, but they’ll tell you whether a replacement or a repair is necessary or not. And it’s always better to pay for regular maintenance and be on top of things instead of ending up with a faulty alternator in the middle of the road.
How Do I Know the Alternator is Going Bad?
A malfunctioning alternator is bad news for any car owner. Here are the most common side effects of a failing alternator:
- The battery doesn’t reach a full charge while you’re driving. So, if you’re having a hard time starting the vehicle after a few stops, that is a clear sign that the alternator is failing.
- Stalling is another common issue. This happens when the fuel injectors don’t get nearly enough energy to work.
- Do you hear any growling and screeching noises coming from the engine bay? The chances are that the alternator’s bearings are worn out, and that’s what’s making all that noise.
- Watch out for the battery-shaped warning on the dashboard. If it’s popping up, that means either the battery or the alternator is malfunctioning.
- Flickering lights and reduced visibility are also common side effects of a faulty alternator.
- Try the stereo: is it working properly?
- What about satellite navigation?
Most electronic components in modern-day cars run on DC (direct current) and are powered by the alternator. The list includes not only the headlights and the dash unit but also the windows, wipers, and heated seats. Thus, even if the engine is running flawlessly, but one of these systems is acting up, have the alternator checked.
Does Car Insurance Cover Alternators? What about the Warranty?
The short answer is no, most insurance companies do not cover the cost of replacing or repairing an alternator. The reason: this part rarely breaks in an accident but rather dies due to wear/tear, and that’s why the insurance won’t pay for it. The same is true for base-level warranties. However, if you have an extended vehicle warranty, and it covers the entire electrical system, the company will fully cover the alternator.
Related Read: How Much Does It Cost To Replace a Tire Pressure Sensor?
Alternators don’t cost tens of thousands of dollars to replace. Instead, you’ll be able to get a brand-new unit for $500–$600, or even less. Plus, there are dozens of auto shops out there: you won’t have to look for hours before you find the right mechanic. More good news: alternators last for a long time, especially when well taken care of.
Still, if you notice any side effects, replace it ASAP. The cost of a replacement/installation depends on the car brand and the location of the alternator in the engine bay, among other things. So, put all the info from our detailed guide together, get a close estimate, and don’t let any scammers charge extra for no reason!
Featured Image Credit: Nordroden, Shutterstock
- 1 The Importance of an Alternator
- 2 How Much Does a Professional Alternator Replacement Cost?
- 3 How Much Do Mechanics Charge for Alternator Replacement?
- 4 Alternator Replacement Cost by Different Regions
- 5 Alternator Replacement Cost by Popular Car Models
- 6 Alternator Replacement Cost by Popular Auto Shops
- 7 Additional Costs to Anticipate
- 8 How Often Should I Have the Alternator Replaced?
- 9 How Do I Know the Alternator is Going Bad?
- 10 Does Car Insurance Cover Alternators? What about the Warranty?
- 11 Conclusion