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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.

What's A Mechanic Worth?

Feb 08, 2009
President Obama has proposed a cap on salaries to executives at companies that accept bail-out money. Many folks are arguing whether or not top-level executives are worth the millions of dollars per year they are sometimes paid. Which raises a question more relevant to my and your world: What is a good farm machinery mechanic worth?

A recent discussion on a farm equipment manufacturer's website noted that dealership shop rates vary across North America, from $60 to nearly $100 per hour. A quick survey shows that non-agricultural car, truck and heavy equipment shop rates range from $70 to more than $100 per hour. Considering that individual mechanics receive only 10 to 20 percent of the gross shop rate, they're looking at $8 to $20 per hour before taxes and withholding gnaw away 30 percent of their paycheck. Along with taxes, medical insurance, uniforms and other deductions, mechanics also are responsible for purchasing, maintaining and replacing their own tools. That's generally in the $1000 to $5000 per year range, depending on situations and circumstances.

Most mechanics would welcome a raise, but acknowledge their incomes are appropriate (middle income) for the economic climate of their immediate area. Beginning mechanics or low-skilled individuals are at the low end of the spectrum, less than $20,000 per year. Most mechanics make $25,000 to $45,000 per year. Skilled mechanics can use commissions and bonuses to bump their annual incomes to the $50,000 range, but they bust their butts to do it. A few legendary wildmen who sacrifice their health and family time to work ungodly hours are rumored to make $80,000 or $90,000 per year, especially in areas of the country where fruits, vegetables and perishable crops make 24/7 machinery repairs critical.

Some of you are already reaching for your keyboards to complain about high shop rates and overpaid mechanics. Be careful to check what your accountant listed as your personal income for the past two or three years, before you step on your own foot. Personally, I'm tickled pink that ag prices in the past few years have enabled farmers to finally enjoy the prosperity the rest of our country enjoyed--at least until the economy went into the dumpster. I hope that agriculture will continue to be a bright spot in an otherwise dismal economic picture.

But as the economy tightens up, it will be interesting to watch as all sectors of the economy analyze and try to determine exactly how much a person is worth, considering the job they perform.


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