Angie's List: The cost of a free estimate - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Angie's List: The cost of a free estimate

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Many service companies offer free estimates. But sometimes free isn't really free.

"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. 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," said Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks.
 
Brian Ashpaugh says when it comes to electrical work, his company offers free estimates on new installations.

"The reason why we can't always provide a free estimate is based upon service. 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. Electricity is an invisible force. You can't tell like with other work," said electrical contractor, Brian Ashpaugh.

Every company has a different definition, so always ask what the estimate entails and how they plan to deliver it to you.

"Typically we always offer free estimates. 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. If they feel more comfortable with us coming out and giving an estimate, we can certainly do that," said Mike Angle, window cleaning company owner.

"Make sure you understand any type of charge that might occur with an estimate. 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. One Angie's List member reported she thought she was getting a free estimate from a company, but when the company was there they presented her with a bill for $45, for a trip charge. So don't get tripped up by the terms that can be used for these charges," said Hicks.

Angie's List says service providers might charge for an estimate if you decide not to hire them. Some contractors have a fee if you request a detailed bid that includes a line-by-line breakdown of the work. You should also ask if you'll receive an estimate on the spot or if you'll have to wait a few days.
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