They are often called “garage mechanics” or “Johnny one-trucks.” In layman’s terms, these are the men who moonlight from their regular jobs in the mechanical services trades or who set up their own businesses with little or no overhead – to keep costs down.
They are the perfect people to call if you want a job done cheaply. True, many are qualified and do good work. But many more are simply looking for work and will do almost anything to underbid or “lowball” their competition. And why not? They can afford lower prices because they don’t have the fixed costs like larger, more established contractors. Unfortunately, some of these fixed costs include training and licensing, which are a necessity for any contractor.
Here are some things to look for when bidding out a service/replacement job or a new installation. The bidder you hire will answer yes to most of these questions (except the obvious). The lowball bidder likely will not.
- Can the bidders give you references from former customers and show details of work they have done?
- Can the bidders verify if they are licensed to do their work or have any certifications?
- Do the bidders include the cost of pulling permits and paying for inspections for their work?
- Are the bidders members of any professional organizations and can they show credentials?
- Do the bidders belong to any local Chambers or other civic organizations?
- Are the bidders rated favorably by the local Better Business Bureau?
- Do the bidders offer an option of products and services to choose from, rather than just one choice they say “is best for you?”
- Do the bidders take measurements and do mathematical equations to determine what size equipment you need (called load calculations or heat loss/heat gain measurements to determine the proper sized furnace or air conditioner, for example).
- Do the bidders listen and ask questions?
- Do the bidders require a large deposit or all of the money up front?
- Do the bidders have a neat appearance, i.e. well-groomed and clean clothes?
- Are the bidders’ vehicles clean and free from obvious rust or body damage?
There are likely several other considerations but the point is, the bidders should be professional and businesslike. They should “act like they’ve done this before.” The low bidders may appear to put on a good face, but dig below the surface and ask a lot of questions. The low bidders may quickly lose their happy disposition.
A low bid can sometimes work but the odds are not in your favor. The main things are – you want piece of mind and fewer callbacks because of service or installation problems.