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Angie’s List: Is a Free Estimate Really Free?

AngiesWEB(WGGB) — We’ve all heard the expression, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” but what about a free estimate? Many service companies offer them, but how do you know that bid won’t come with a price tag?

The answer may depend on your project.

“When it comes to free estimates, the general rule of thumb is small jobs that don’t require a lot of investigation work to figure out the problem will typically be free estimates,” says Angie Hicks of Angie’s List. “If it’s a more involved job or something that is going to require figuring out what the problem is, that’s when you typically see a charge.”

“The reason why we can’t always provide a free estimate is based upon service,” says Brian Ashpaugh, an electrical contractor. “Say, in your home you have two bedrooms that the outlets don’t work. You checked the breaker panel and all the breakers appear to be on and working but the outlets are no longer functioning properly — that we can’t give a free estimate on because we have to come into the home, we actually have to do some physical electrical testing.”

Every company has a different definition, so always ask what the estimate entails.

“Typically we always offer free estimates,” says Mike Angle, the owner of a window cleaning company. “Sometimes we can talk to a couple of customers about the price on the phone by giving them a price of per window of what we charge and the type of windows they have.”

Angle adds, “If they feel more comfortable with us coming out and giving an estimate, we can certainly do that.”

“Make sure you understand any type of charge that might occur with an estimate,” says Hicks. “Some companies might offer a free estimate, but make sure they don’t have a trip charge or a fuel surcharge that you’ll be hit with instead.”

Hicks says some service providers charge for an estimate if you decide not to hire them. Others will charge for a detailed bid that includes a line-by-line breakdown of the work.


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