Why You Need More Than 3 Estimates for Contractors

rooferSo I’m in the market for a new roof for my house.  My roof is at the end of its life.  It’s the original roof and made to last 20 years.  It’s about 18 years old and is starting to fall apart.  Also, we plan on staying in this home for decades so we figured we’d get it done now before any damage occurs.

Next step was to begin getting estimates from roofing companies.  I scheduled appointments with 6 contractors to provide me estimates.  I avoided mom-and-pop outfits and went with the larger contractors in the area.  Each contractor came in selling the SAME EXACT SHINGLE SYSTEM!  Its the GAF Timberline HD shingle system.  The system includes the singles, a leak barrier, roof deck protection, attic ventilation, and ridge cap shingles.  They sell it because GAF warranties the product for 50 years and pro-rated for life after 50 years.  The warranty is transferable.  In order to get the warranty, the system has to be installed by a certified GAF installer in the appropriate specifications outlined by GAF.

Like I said, all 6 roofers came in selling the system.  Here are the 6 estimates I received:

  • $10,500
  • $11,400
  • $15,465
  • $15,900
  • $19,300
  • $21,980

As you can see the difference between the cheapest estimate and the most expensive estimate is $12,000!!  They were all bonded, insured, and had references.  The only differences between the estimates were the warranty on the labor, which ranged from 5 years to 10 years.  The other major difference was the history or age of the company.  The youngest company was only 5 years old, while the oldest is over 70 years old.

Right now, I’m leaning towards the $11,400 estimate.  Why not the cheapest estimate you ask?  Well, the company with the $11,400 estimate has been around longer and they’ve done work in our neighborhood.  I also got a good vibe from the representative.  The cheapest estimate was from a company only 5 years old.

So this is why its good to get more than 3 estimates?  Well, had I gotten even 4 estimates from the 4 most expensive contractors, I would’ve spend $4000 more than I otherwise would have.  For any large project, its best to get 5,6 or 7 estimates.  It can save you thousands in the end.

10 Comments

  1. I’m pretty sure that’s the same system we put on our roof a couple of years ago. It’s been great so far. We also didn’t go with the very lowest bidder for similar reasons.

    I’m still a little skeptical that any roof will last 50 years, but we’ll see. I don’t even know if this house will be here by then.

  2. I think the wide variations in price are due to whether the company is trying to make a profit or not. The lowest bid is probably taking a big hit and making a loss on it. I value a lot of companies where the owners feel bad if they don’t give their employees enough work, so they’ll take a large loss on a project just to employ their workers. I would go with the best value: good price and good quality.

    • P.S. When I say value, I mean I am a valuation analyst and value companies for a living. It sounded weird when I just reread my reply.

  3. We had a similar experience when we were looking for a painter. After getting some crazy quotes I ended up buying the paint in doing it myself. It was much cheaper and I’m such a perfectionist, I would have made myself crazy if I paid someone else and they made “mistakes”. At least now if there are imperfections I can blame myself and be thankful I saved all that money hiring someone.

  4. I have been having similar experiences with contractors working on my house. The most recent dealings I had quotes range from $5,000 – $8,000 for the same exact work.

    But, I like the looks of those shingles, especially their Cool Series (I live in the deep south and put a lot of effort into energy conservation on my home since I own a historic home built in the 20’s). My roof was replaced in 2008 and they are already showing wear from storms and my oaks dropping branches.

  5. The thing is, people are often too lazy to ask for 6 or 7 estimates, so they just go with the name they trust and often pay a big premium for it… thanks for the reminder!

  6. I wish I could think of it as a spare $12k! I just think I found the market price of the roof installation while everything else just marked up…

  7. Ask for referrals when searching for a reputable contractor. If you live in an area that has plenty of resources, ask around at your local home improvement store or lumber yard for contractors they have seen buying quality products. Be mindful of contractors that few people have heard of, or haven’t seen where they purchase their building materials. Poor quality building materials can be the beginning of an awful renovation.

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