Do Plumbers Give Free Estimates? 6 Things You Should Know

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We often don’t call plumbers unless an emergency arises. In such cases, we don’t take time to get an estimate. In emergencies, we want someone to fix the problem. However, when planning plumbing work, getting a price quote can save you money. Various factors will come into play and determine the availability of free quotes.

Most plumbers will give free estimates. However, there is no guarantee that they will do so. Some of the factors that determine whether plumbers can provide you free quotes include:

  • Whether a plumber comes to the site
  • How far the plumber will travel
  • The demand for plumbing services
  • What kind of plumbing problems you have
  • The size of the job available
  • The level of emergency

While it’s tempting to hire plumbers that promise free quotes, doing so could end up being a huge mistake. That is because the factors that come into play could result in hidden charges later on. And you will be the one to pay them.

This article discusses the various factors that determine your ability to get free quotes and why they matter.

Do You Get Free Quotes From Plumbers?

Some plumbers do give you free quotes, while some don’t. Here are the factors that affect a plumber’s decision to provide free quotes:

1.  Whether A Plumber Comes To The Site

While most people use the terms “quotes” and “estimates” interchangeably, their meanings differ.

An estimate is educated guesswork. Typically, when you contact a plumber and request pricing details for a plumbing job, you will receive an estimate. The value depends on what the plumber thinks it will cost to fix the problem that you have described. However, with minimal details, estimates are subject to change.

On the other hand, a quote is a more accurate cost analysis of what it will take to fix your plumbing issues. Often it is based on what plumbers learn about your problem once they come to your site.

If the quote is within the contract you have with your plumber, it can be legally binding. However, if the problem is outside the scope of the agreement or you end up changing the job terms, you may need to pay more than the price stated in the quote.

Therefore, your ability to get a free quote depends on whether plumbers come to your site or not. Since they have taken the time to show up and give you a more detailed cost breakdown, some may charge you for their services.

So expect anywhere from $175 to $250 for consultation services if your plumber does not offer free quotes and visits your site in person. See our article How Much Do Plumbers Charge: 6 Helpful Tips When Hiring A Licensed Plumber.

2.  How Far The Plumber Will Travel

Most plumbers tend to service a specified area. Whether their quotes are free or not will depend on how far they travel for work. And some professionals opt to include a trip fee to cover their transportation costs, including vehicle maintenance, gas, and insurance. That may make it impossible for them to give you a free quote, especially outside their service area.

Usually, plumbers opt for several ways of including travel costs within the quote. These include the following:

  • Some plumbers will charge you an average of $50 to $300 as trip fees
  • Other plumbers will charge you a service fee of $150 on average
  • Some plumbing professionals will bill you a high first-hour flat rate of anywhere from $100 to $350.

3.  The Demand For Plumbing Services

If you live in an area with low demand for plumbers or need their services during off-peak seasons when there is less work for them, you are more likely to get a free quote. That is because most plumbers will be scrambling for the few job opportunities available.

During those slow times, most of them engage in other activities to try and stay busy. So, for them, offering a free quote for a chance to get a paying job is probably worth it.

The general recommendation is that you get three quotes from qualified plumbing professionals. So, if there is a low demand for plumbers in your locale, you should take advantage of that to get multiple quotes. Doing so will enable you to find the best deal possible and save money.

4.  What Kind Of Plumbing Problems You Have

It is much easier for plumbers to give you free quotes if the job that needs doing is straightforward. For example, if you intend to install new piping in the entire home, you can invite several reputable plumbers to take a look at your home and give you quotes. You can also do the same for issues such as boiler installation.

However, if the plumbing issues are complex, it is pretty unlikely that you will get free quotes. Typically, anything that requires plumbers to use their equipment and spend time and energy troubleshooting will cost you money. That is because plumbers have skills you don’t have, and they need the payment for using them to diagnose your problem.

Usually, troubleshooting carries an inspection, diagnostic, or service fee. The value ranges depending on the plumbing diagnosis and the complexity of the plumbing problem. Generally, the more complex a problem is, the more challenging it will be to diagnose. As a result, it will cost you more because the plumber will spend more time and use more advanced equipment to find the issue.

For example, diagnosing pipe leak locations can cost an average of $100. On the other hand, a visual inspection of your plumbing could cost you $175. But if you opt for a video inspection, that price may rise to $510. Typically, plumbing inspections are usually done by home inspectors. But if you request these services from plumbers, expect similar costs.

5.  The Size Of The Job Available

How big is the plumbing job you are offering to the plumbers from who you request quotes?

Bundling is a popular negotiation strategy because it helps to reduce costs by getting you discounts. So, if you have a large plumbing job or multiple jobs to offer, you can use that as an enticement to receive free quotes. Your plumber may be willing to waive the fees for smaller jobs, provided you also hire them to do the larger jobs.

But bear in mind that small jobs may not come with free quotes. Instead, plumbers will charge you upfront for fixing the issues. So, expect to spend $75 to $250 for smaller plumbing repair jobs, such as unclogging the sink or cleaning your drains.

6.  The Level Of Emergency

Common plumbing emergencies include sewer backups, burst pipes, sump pump failure, clocked toilets, and the lack of hot water. When these problems happen, you cannot wait to solve them. Instead, you must contact a plumber to come and fix them immediately or risk dealing with extensive water damage to your home that may cost you thousands of dollars to fix.

Plumbers are well aware that you cannot do without their services when you are desperate. In any case, if they take the time to attend to your problems during holidays, weekends, at night, and after working hours, they deserve some payment for that.

And on average, you should expect to pay anywhere from $70 to $400 per hour for their services. In addition, some plumbers will charge you a trip or flat fee of $100 to $350. Therefore, since you have no choice but to call a plumber during an emergency, never expect free quotes.

Final Thoughts

While you may get lucky to get free quotes from plumbers, it would help if you never expect them to be available all the time. Some circumstances are such that free quotes are impossible due to the plumbing jobs’ unpredictable nature. And if you get these quotes, it is because the plumbers in question intend to hit you with hidden charges later on to recover their costs.

Remember, cheap can be expensive. You are better off dealing with upfront service costs, provided they accurately reflect the situation you are dealing with accurately. That way, you won’t have to pay for unexpected expenses later on.


Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.