Free plumbing estimates - can they be trusted

Free Estimates for Plumbing (Are They Really Free?)

You’re ready to call around and get some free estimates for plumbing projects around your home. Soon, you find out that not everyone provides them. What gives?

There are plumbing companies who never charge for plumbing estimates and some who do. Why is that? Are free estimates actually free? Are they reliable? I mean, there are costs involved with providing an estimate. Someone is paying for it, right?

Let’s find out how what it really means to get free estimates for plumbing projects.

Why Do Some Plumbers Give Free Estimates?

All in all, there are two main factors that go into a company offering free estimates.

1. Commissions

A lot of companies pay their plumbers a commission. They make money based on the number of jobs they sell and how much they sell them for.

Commission-based plumbers only get paid for the work they sell. Inherently, this is why they have the motivation to sell you the highest-paying job so they can make the most money.

Plumbing companies that use a commission model are not paying their plumbers for their time. Therefore, they lose no money in providing free plumbing estimates. In fact, they can more than make up for it by having their customers pay a premium for their services or selling them on higher-paying solutions then what might they might actually need.

Some commission-based plumbers even require their plumbers to buy and service their own trucks. In those cases, the employee is paying for your free estimate, not the company. Again, the hefty expenses to run his or her own business are an incentive to offset their expenses by selling higher-paying plumbing services or solutions.

2. Trip Charges

Other companies may advertise coming out for a free plumbing estimate but in order to provide you that “free estimate,” your bill includes a trip charge for fuel usage.

Not exactly free, right?

Free estimates for plumbing - cartoon drawing of man with net eagerly chasing money flying away
Commission-based plumbers and surprise costs are ways to promote free plumbing estimates that aren’t truly free. These only incentivize a plumber to sell higher-paying services vs being customer- and solution-focused.

A Consumer-friendly Model for Plumbing Estimates

Let’s take a look at the other side of the coin. There are plumbing companies that pay their employees hourly or salary.

Unlike commission-based shops, hourly- and salary-based plumbers are more focused on operational costs like labor, gas mileage, vehicles, and administrative costs. These companies charge a minimal fee to cover those expenses.

Additionally, with plumbing companies using this model, here’s how you benefit:

  1. If you decide to do the work, they will deduct what you pay for the estimate from your final invoice.
  2. Your plumber now has the motivation to sell you the correct and most-cost efficient solution.

In both cases, the homeowner is the winner.

plumber working on drain underneath sink
Hourly- and salary-based plumbers are more apt to provide the right service for the right price. They are not motivated to “make up for” free plumbing estimates with higher-priced plumbing services or solutions.

Getting Estimates Over the Phone

There are times when it is easy to quote a plumbing or drain job over the phone.

For example, standard and straight-forward jobs like cleaning a drain or replacing an outdoor faucet (hose bib) are relatively easy to estimate. 

However, plumbers often get calls that describe a leak from an unknown source, a bad smell in the home, or a weird noise coming from inside a wall. Those type of jobs require the plumber or drain technician to investigate and diagnose a difficult-to-find problem like Sherlock Holmes. That takes a lot of time and work.

Also, a homeowner often will believe they know what the plumbing problem is, so a plumbing estimate is provided over the phone. However, when the plumber or drain technician arrives and assesses the situation, they discover a completely different issue causing the problem.

All of these situations and more make providing an estimate over the phone extremely difficult. Handling them on-site whenever possible is best.

free plumbing estimates - woman with ceiling water leak calling plumber for estimate
Water leaks are a good example of an extremely difficult-to-estimate plumbing issue over the phone. The source of the problem could be anywhere, so an on-site investigation and analysis needs to be made prior to the estimate.

Plumbing Problems are Not Always Clear Cut

Overall, most of the plumbing in your home hides behind walls, in ceilings, or underground. That makes it difficult, or impossible, to offer a price for any given service.

Every home is unique, and every problem is different.

A plumber often needs to look at many different brands and models for parts to decide a course of action. And they do not always know that in advance.

Additionally, in some cases, it can be nearly impossible to give an accurate free estimate without investigating the situation. But let’s face it, calling in advance to ask your plumber about a situation never hurt anyone.

confused plumber
Sometimes, plumbing problems are not clear cut. And describing them over the phone can be both confusing and misleading of the real problem. In those cases, a plumbing estimate needs to be made on-site.

How Should You Choose a Plumber?

Consequently, free estimates for plumbing jobs can be costly if you hire the wrong plumber. When choosing a qualified plumber, it is important to consider the quality of their work, reviews, and experience. You should think of things like:

  • Is the plumber licensed and insured?
  • Does the plumbing company have a good reputation?
  • Is this a one-man shop with few resources and a small parts inventory, or is it a company with multiple technicians stocked with the materials and equipment to handle your needs quickly, efficiently, and completely on-site?
  • Is the rate hourly or project-based?

Getting answers to these questions will help you decide if you are considering a reputable and dependable plumber who is customer- and solution-focused (rather than sales-focused).

Choosing a plumber requires asking good questions and getting the right answers.

Final Thoughts on Free Plumbing Estimates

In conclusion, free plumbing estimates aren’t always what they seem. And sometimes they are. That makes it hard for consumers to know how to get accurate pricing.

But you can get a number you can trust. More so, these will come from hourly- or salary-based plumbers whose pay model doesn’t motivate them to sell higher-priced services. And ask good questions over the phone before you have them come out.

But keep in mind, there are some jobs that are simply too complex to provide any kind of realistic or accurate estimate before checking them out on site. Listen to your trusted plumber or drain technician. But always ask questions.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber for a Real Plumbing Estimate

At 1-Tom-Plumber, we pride ourselves on honesty, integrity, and 100% customer satisfaction. We want to satisfy our customers and take care of our employees. Our 5-star rating says it all. If you need a plumbing estimate, please contact us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237).

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbingdrain, or water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even holidays.

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