How to Save Money on Repairs: Ask for Estimate before Hiring & Ultimately Save on Repairs

Overview of content:

  • We recommend: You should ask for several quotes over the phone before you have someone show up at your door  
  • When you call our hotline you can easily connect with 3 local contractors with one call. This is an efficient way of getting multiple estimates. 
  • It is a good idea to ask for a quote for a specific type of repair: ” How much is it to replace … (fill in the blank) on my … appliance. Asking for a quote on a specific repair enables you to compare prices and get a sense of pricing. We have found that some repair companies want to be vague. Every situation is different, and a repairman will not want to make a solid price commitment by phone, however, asking for a quote is essential, and the response given could provide useful insight into the people you might be hiring!
  •  Important-Note: In certain types of repairs- namely renovation and construction Free estimates and quotes are common.  With appliance and HVAC repairs typically there are no free estimates. The logic is that for large remodeling or new HVAC installation where there is a large price tag, businesses are more willing to show up for a free estimate in hope of a large revenue.


When it comes to calling down a service-man (or woman) to do a type of repair that one hopes that will be done on-the-spot such as plumbing, appliance repair, HVAC repair, Plumbing the standard is that there is a ‘service charge’. Some advertise “free estimate” but often there is a ‘catch’ such as the ‘estimate is “free” only with repair. This often sounds good, but in reality the price point of the repair covers the travel, service visit and estimate time. This is based on years of close familiarity with the field.

“Free -Estimates” on appliance or HVAC repairs could be misleading and are not a good indicator of the ultimate repair cost:

I would be cautious with “low service charge rates” or a “free -estimate” offers on appliance and heating/A.C repairs. I would rather ask for a quote for the estimated total of repair + parts for very specific type of likely repair. The reason  is that if I get quotes for specific likely/common repair issues because this provides a tangible measure of how a company charges at the end of the day. I then have specific measurable parameters with which I can compare relative rates between companies if they would be providing the same service.

Our experience has shown that often companies that have offers “too good to be true” such as “free estimate” or “no service charge” or provide a ‘free’ diagnostic rate may charge significantly more than companies that charge the typical average service rates. We We have determined that “free -estimates” or low cost estimate rates are  weak predictors of the ultimate  total cost of service. Companies that are up-front
and above board find themselves out-bided by  “Free Estimate” or similar offers which some competitors use as means to lower a customers defenses with  a “foot in the door” technique that masks the undisclosed ultimate rate.

Consider who is motivated to provide a discount on repair and why

  • Of course saving is a great thing. At the same time, if an offer sounds ‘too good to be true’ it is worth considering what might be the motivating factors.
  • Try to be mindful of who and why a company is offering a “Free Estimate” or “free estimate with repair” or “discount”.There are ways of finding inexpensive repair pro’s and these are discussed further at the bottom of this page

Note regarding asking for and getting Appliance and HVAC estimates over the phone:

I know that some companies will try and avoid doing this. Non-the-less, as a former repairman I know that I was able to provide an “estimate overview” over the phone describing the most likely product malfunctions and the associated costs in repairing them.


Note: You can call the number below to request 3 to 4 quotes/estimates. Please inquire about whether the contractor will provide a free estimate

 Call for 3 estimates Now:  (888) 349-6694 (888) Fix-Now-4  [US]


How to Save Money on Repairs: Ask for Phone Estimates before Hiring

These motivations of those offering a discount can help assess the potential cost/risk vs.  benefits when seeking a lower cost service/repair provider

Strategies & Advice to consumers on “How to” “comparison -shop”  Avoid Paying too much for service. 

Related page

A review of what motivates repair companies and individuals to provide discounts

Now, if someone is in a panic, which sometimes happens, it may be more difficult to be selective. One time tested method is to ask for a referral from neighbors, but this is not always possible.


Tips for saving money on repairs

  • How to Shop for Discounts & How to seek Ultimate Savings in Repairs
  • Who is willing to provide discounts and why
  • Why you should ask for a quote before you hire someone
  • Why I don’t trust a tech who tells me that he ” can’t know what’s wrong with my device or machine (what-so-ever) until he sees it and that he is “unable to provide any sort of estimate in advance”. (One exception to the above stated distrust, would be if he is willing to give me a truly free-estimate).

A review of what motivates repair companies and individuals to provide discounts. These motivations can help assess the potential costs vs.  benefits in the repair business.

Strategies & Advice to consumers on “How to” “comparison -shop”  Avoid Paying too much for service


Ask the service company for $ rates for specific types of repairs!  For example ask and compare rates for what would the typical cost to customers for replacing a __ motor (fill in the blank depending on the product you are calling about). “Or a quote for total Service-charge+labor+ parts+ refrigerant+travel…?  fees for replacing a compressor on a x brand. Please be prepared
to provide a model number and even a serial number).
Note: It is possible to find “flat rate”quote for a total cost the entire job, rather than an hourly rate+ parts+….
I often feel more comfortable with a flat-rate quote rather than an hourly rate and unknown part and material fees that could add up. If flat rates are available from reputable providers for certain types of jobs, it might feel more predictable and give you peace of mind.
It just depends on the industry norms and the kind of repair/service/or installation performed. For example, I have seen flat rate quotes on compressor replacement, and HVAC installation and also automotive brake, engine and transmission replacements. Sometimes a moonlighting licensed technician (mentioned below) can save you money by having you purchase the materials directly from his supplier (if he can purchase them in discounted trade rates and some of these tech’s are willing to share the savings with you so that they don’t have to hold on to inventory. Then the tech charges for labor only!
 When I have seen prices to be extremely lower than
most providers, these  may fall into one of the following categories:
  • A foot in the door method AKA “bait”and switch
  • An inexperienced tech
  • A skilled & experienced technician who has been employed full time at a service company for 5-10 years,  lives in the area is recommended by neighbors and moonlights after work. Note: This is a kind of situation that I lam most comfortable with.
  • A lone technician or a small company looking for income.
It is important to determine if these have a solid
infrastructure and or reputation. We have heard and
seen several such cases with people who found
technicians at online bulletin boards such as Craiglist.
There is a risk, and sometimes with greater risk come
greater savings too. But you could find highly qualified
and established technicians at reasonable
pricing too.
  • A large local company in “off season” where they have full time technicians on the payroll. In this
context, I would mention that it could save $$ to install or repair AC or heating, way in advance of the time that
it would be needed during the slow season as this would be a time where businesses could be more flexible with pricing.
I have found that  some companies have marked up the parts several  fold in a manner that could create the illusion of “cheap labor”. I have found that some contractors, as a marketing move find it easier to charge consumers excessively for “parts” and then provide an impression of ‘cheap’ labor rates.
This again why I advocate comparing total rates: Not just labor, since part pricing could be manipulated. When a company is up-front and charges what they they need and deserve for the labor, which could appear more expensive than their competitor who gives a ‘low ball’ price for labor and “no service charge” offer, thereby appearing more “affordable”,  but then make up the difference with inflated material costs. With regards to parts,  it is a standard practice to have a certain % of mark-up for parts which is a common practice. There is variability among service companies on how much the mark-up is. Keep in mind that there are costs associated with building inventory, fuel time spent picking up parts and similar overhead costs that businesses need to cover for including vehicle expenses.

If you ask a company to provide you with an “estimate” over the phone, we often are told that most companies typically say that they “can not” diagnose over the phone. While this is true in certain respects, usually there are certain problems that occur in a greater frequency and
there are therefore several likely reasons for any given problem. For example, with refrigeration, “Common Defrost issues” have associated repair rates for the more likely parts that might have failed. (For example: If the customer is unsure if the compressor is running, or if he/she says that it keeps on clicking on and off is often a relay or a control board (especially if it is a GE) as long as the unit is relatively new. If it is an older refrigeration unit, the probability of it being a damaged compressor (or sealed system problem including a refrigerant leak) increases, though it may be  still be less frequent than a relay or a defrost problem (unless the specific brand has known compressor or control board issues)


With any given product failure, statistically there should be 3 most likely causes! This being the case, a knowledgeable repairman than should be able to state them and provide a price range for each of these three most likely causes. In our experience, it is often possible to provide an educated diagnosis and expected price range “estimate” over the phone for most given malfunctions.  Even if you turn out to not have these exact issues, if I (or you) had an opportunity to “interview” your potential service provider. A service technician who took the time to talk to me (or you) and give us an honest appraisal of likely problems and the associated costs, then, I personally would trust, like and feel comfortable with this service person because of his/her honesty, openness, and personal time on the phone with me. I would much rather hire him for service more than that of his competitor who has evade my questions.
If you reach a receptionist when seeking a quote, I personally would ask to speak to the technician or service manager over the phone. There is a lot to be gained from speaking to the people who we might hire ahead of time.

For example if a refrigerator is running but not cooling, a technician can ask you to check if the 2 fans are running, and if the condenser is hot and if the compressor is running. If everything is running it is frequently a “defrost” problem.

The point I am trying to make is that there is a diagnostic process that can be followed so that I feel that it is possible to receive an estimate over the phone for the “several most likely repairs”. You see, if the person you call tells you that he can’t know, then you are at his mercy once he is inside your home.
This is why I advocate asking for quotes before hiring someone and trying to find someone who is willing to discuss with you the realistic possibilities and their likely costs. This is what I would do.


 Call for 3 estimates Now:  (888) 349-6694 (888) Fix-Now-4  [US]