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Guide to Alternator Repair & Replacement Costs

Guide to Alternator Repair & Replacement Costs
Austin Kilham
Austin KilhamUpdated September 15, 2023
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Your alternator helps provide power to your car’s battery and to other electrical systems within your vehicle. If it’s not functioning properly, it can cause issues with your car and can make driving your vehicle dangerous. Minor repairs to your alternator can cost less than $100, but if you need to replace your alternator entirely, you’re looking at a price somewhere between $625 and $800, on average. Costs may be higher or lower depending on the parts you use, the mechanic you choose, and the type of vehicle you drive. Here’s a closer look at what an alternator is, the factors that contribute to cost of repair and replacement, and options to cover those costs. 

Alternator Replacement Cost Breakdown

The two biggest factors that go into the cost of repairing or replacing your alternator are the price of parts and labor. On average, you can expect to pay a mechanic between $75 and $130 per hour. Mechanic rates will vary depending on where you live, and they tend to be higher in bigger cities.It will likely take two hours to replace your alternator, which could cost you about $260 on the higher end. In some cases, it may be more complicated and need specialized knowledge, which could end up pushing the price of labor higher. The rest of the cost mostly comprises the price of parts. On average, these will cost between $500 and $650. Here, the price will depend on your car’s individual needs. For example, the amperage (the amount of electricity the alternator has to generate), the mounting style, and the types of electrical connections all have to match the specs of your engine. The make and model of your car will also contribute to cost. If you have a relatively common vehicle, parts will likely cost you less. However, if you have a high-performance luxury vehicle, you may end up paying thousands of dollars to replace your alternator. Recommended: The Cost of a Replacement Engine

Getting an Estimate

Before shelling out for a repair or replacement, do your homework. Research the average price of repair, and consider using online resources such as Kelley Blue Book’s Repair Pricing tool or Consumer Report’s Car Repair Estimate to find out what a repair or replacement for the make and model of your car should cost in your area. Next, contact local mechanics to get a quote. Compare quotes to the average cost you found to understand whether you’re being offered a fair price. If you haven’t worked with a mechanic before, look up reviews of the shop to see if customers have ever had major issues with them. You can also research them on the Better Business Bureau to see if the shop has had any complaints lodged against them. 

What Does an Alternator Do?

Your alternator generates most of the electricity in your vehicle. Here’s how it works: Your engine spins the serpentine belt, also known as the drive belt, which is attached to the alternator with a pulley system. The pulley system, in turn, rotates the alternator’s rotor shaft and a set of magnets situated around a coil. As it turns, this system generates an alternating current (AC). This then passes through your vehicle’s rectifier and is converted into direct current (DC), which can be used to recharge your vehicle’s battery and run the electrical systems throughout your car.  Examples of some of the electrical systems the alternator provides power to include power windows, power locks, the sun roof, the sound system, and the various sensors that monitor the functioning of your engine and other moving parts.Your battery stores excess electricity for times when you need power and your engine isn’t running, like when you start up your vehicle. 

Why Do Alternators Fail? 

Alternators fail for a variety of reasons, including simple wear and tear from using your vehicle. Other reasons include leaking fluids that have put extra pressure on your vehicle, the serpentine belt slipping, or improper use of your jumper cables, which can unfortunately lead to damage. 

Signs of Alternator Problems

Look out for the following signs that your alternator isn’t functioning properly. 
  • A dead battery. An alternator that’s not working will not charge your battery properly. 
  • Battery light is on. You may have a dashboard light that reads “charge” or shows a symbol of a battery. This may not mean your battery is dead, but may signal that there’s an issue with the charging system. 
  • Strange sounds. Grinding or whirring sounds may be a sign that something is broken or beginning to fail in your alternator. 
  • Weak power. Your alternator provides power to a number of car systems, including your power windows, headlights, and windshield wipers. If any of these are operating weakly or slower than usual, it may be a sign that they’re not receiving enough power. 
If you notice any of these issues, have a mechanic perform a proper inspection to diagnose whether you’re having alternator problems or you’re having another issue with your car. 

How to Finance the Cost of Alternator Repairs & Replacements

Depending on what kind of car you drive, the cost of an alternator can be over $2,000, so it’s worth strategizing about how you will cover repair and replacements costs.


Cash is the least expensive way to pay for an alternator replacement as it doesn’t involve any fees or interest payments. In fact, it is a good idea to maintain a cash savings account or an emergency fund equal to three to six months worth of expenses. You can dip into this fund when things like unexpected car repairs crop up.

Credit Card 

If you don’t have cash on hand, you may consider using a credit card. However, if you carry a balance, you will owe interest on your purchases, which can be 20% or higher. If you carry a balance for more than one month, your interest will begin to compound. In other words, you’ll start to owe interest on your interest. As a result, using credit cards is best done when you know you’ll be able to pay them off at the end of the cycle. 

Personal Loan

Personal loans for car repairs are a cheaper option to consider, with interest rates averaging 11.5%, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve. Personal loans allow individuals to borrow a lump sum of cash, which can be used for most reasons, including car repair. The borrower then agrees to repay the loan in regular monthly installments with interest. 

Auto Loan Refinance

Finally, you may consider refinancing your auto loan with a new loan with a lower interest rate. Use interest rate savings to help cover the cost of auto repair. A car loan refinancing calculator can help you determine how much you might save. Carefully weigh the cost of refinancing a car against the potential savings.  

The Takeaway

If you notice your alternator isn’t working properly, it’s best to have it assessed as soon as possible. Signs of a faulty alternator include the battery light coming on, hearing strange sounds from the engine, and weaker power when using power windows or your headlights.To pay for an alternator repair or replacement, you can pay with cash or use financing. One option is a cash-out auto refinance which gives you cash back when you get your new auto loan. You can then use the money to pay for the car repair.If you’re considering refinancing your car, consider Lantern by SoFi. Lantern allows you to compare multiple lenders online, including rates and terms, with just a single application and no obligation to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I drive my car with a faulty alternator?
Are there different types of alternators for different car models?
Can an alternator be repaired, or does it need to be replaced entirely?
How long does it take to repair or replace an alternator?
Can I replace the alternator myself to save money?
Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

About the Author

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. He focuses on personal finance, retirement, business, and health care with an eye toward helping others understand complex topics.
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