7 tips for getting a fair price from a tradie

By Emma Norris  |  31 Mar, 2021

Whether you’re doing a full renovation or just need a leaky faucet fixed, there may come a time when you need a professional helping hand. The right tradesperson will bring the know-how to get the job done with speed, precision, and quality.

That said, hiring tradies can be an expensive endeavour – especially if you need multiple jobs done. While most tradies won’t intentionally try to rip you off, it’s important to know how to best approach the situation to avoid overpaying. Read on for our 7 tips for getting a fair price from a tradie.

1. Give a detailed brief to the tradesperson

The better you’re able to describe the task that needs to be performed, the more accurate and fair of a quote you’re going to receive.

This means having a basic understanding of what needs to be done and what doesn’t – otherwise, you risk being charged for unnecessary jobs.

For example, a tradesperson may tell you that you need your entire plumbing system replaced. In reality, you might just need a new showerhead.

In short, knowledge is power.

But, if the world of pipes, parts and PVC feels about as foreign to you as another language, don’t fear. There are some great resources that can help give you an understanding of the issue before speaking to a tradie. On sites like YouTube, Quora, Reddit or Pinterest, you can search for virtually any issue you’re having (ie. ‘door won’t close’) and find beginner-friendly explanations of the potential causes and solutions. Armed with this knowledge, it will be easier to articulate the issue to your tradesperson with confidence.

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tradie working on kitchen plumbing

2. Take your time choosing a tradie

This is one scenario where it pays (literally) to take your time. A rush decision may lead to you going with the first contractor you get a quote from. This would be unlikely to result in you getting the best deal.

Don’t be afraid to get a quote from a few different companies. Shop around and compare your options! This isn’t necessarily about picking the cheapest person for the job, but it will give you a better idea of how much the job will actually cost to perform.

That way, you can weigh up the pros and cons of the various providers and make an informed decision. If one tradie gives you a cheaper quote but you like another supplier better, you may even be able to use it as leverage to get a more competitive deal!

3. Ask the right questions

When you’re getting quotes from potential contractors, you can never ask too many questions! By asking some of the questions below, you’ll be able to make sure you have all the necessary information when making your decision.

  • Do you have a valid contractor licence number in Australia? (You can also check this online with your local Service website).
  • Have you worked on similar projects before?
  • Do you have references from past customers I can look at?
  • What work will be required for this project? (Be sure to get a breakdown of the tasks involved).
  • Will there be any additional costs for materials?
  • What is your predicted timeline for this project?
  • How many contractors will you be sending for this project?
  • How often will I need to make my home available to you?
  • Is this work guaranteed, and for how long?
  • How much will this work cost?
  • Is this the most affordable way to carry out this project and if not, is there an alternative?

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4. Avoid leading with your budget

It may seem like a good idea to tell a tradie your budget in your very first conversation. After all, honestly is always the best policy, right? However, this can actually backfire!  If you’re not familiar with the type of work that needs to be done, you may end up completely overshooting your budget.

For example, if you tell a tradesperson that you only have $10,000 to spend on this project and the job actually costs $5000, chances are they’re going to charge you closer to five digits (unless they happen to be extremely honest!)

So, by all means, be detailed when briefing the tradesperson on the work. – Just wait for them to bring up numbers before you blurt out your budget.

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5. Get a quote on paper

When it comes to getting a fair price, it’s always wise to have a paper trail.

By recording a quote on paper, you will have evidence to fall back on if the scope – and price – creeps up. Getting quotes on paper is also helpful since it allows you to easily compare the prices of different tradespersons.

If possible, get all of your contractors to quote in the same format, so you’re not comparing apples with oranges. You can find examples of construction quote templates online to give you an idea of what type of information to collect.

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6. Negotiate, don’t haggle

No professional likes to be bargained down to a cheaper price. After all, you wouldn’t do it to your doctor, so why do it to a tradesperson? That said, if a contractor comes back with a quote that seems a little steep, there’s no reason you can’t negotiate with them to find a middle ground that works for both of you.

Rather than trying to lower their hourly or project rate, consider asking if there’s a more affordable way the project can be done. Perhaps the tradesperson could use more affordable materials or do only what’s necessary from a functional point of view, rather than aesthetic. By treating it like a collaborative relationship where you’re seeking a win-win, the tradie will likely be far more receptive.

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7. Avoid hourly rates or paying cash

Your tradesperson may offer you discounts for paying in cash or accepting an hourly rate rather than a flat or fixed rate. While this may feel tempting, it can actually end up costing you more in the long run.

Firstly, a contractor asking you to pay cash is often a red-flag, as it can mean they are attempting to avoid taxable income. While charging in cash isn’t illegal per se, and there are some cases where cash is a perfectly legitimate transaction, it’s best to approach this tradesperson with healthy scepticism.

Secondly, paying in cash often means you have less documentation for the work being performed. This can make it difficult for you to claim the work back on tax – for example, if it was for a home office or investment property. It can also make it easier for the tradesperson to hit you with unexpected fees.

In terms of hourly rates, these can also make it more difficult to get an initial idea of how much the project is going to cost. They can also make it more likely for the tradesperson to go over budget. If you do choose to go down the hourly rate path, consider asking the tradesperson to give you an estimate of the job cost. Additionally, ask them to notify you if they are close to going over that cost.

No matter whether you’re preparing to buy, sell or refinance your property, or simply give your current home a makeover, these questions will help you make an informed decision. That way, you can be 100% confident that you’re getting a good deal from your tradie.

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Words by Emma Norris

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