Youll save big by doing your own home-improvement work and repairs. But
most of us are justifiably uneasy about fooling around with 110 volts and
15 or 20 amps of electricity. Electrical work is a dangerous taskand not
only because of the shock hazards you can create while doing the job. If
you do it poorly, you can also create potential fire or health hazards.
Fortunately, weve found several good electricians in the area you can
count on for help.
Some area electricians do shockingly bad work, attracting comments that
often include the words incompetent, messy, no-show, overcharged,
and unresponsive. Of course, instances of lousy workmanship among home-repair
services arent exactly headline news. But sloppy work by an electrician
can create dangerousand potentially life-threateningsituations.
Fortunately, weve found several area electricians worthy of your trust.
Our Ratings Table include ratings from area consumers (primarily CHECKBOOK
and Consumer Reports subscribers) for electrical contractors that received
10 or more ratings on our surveys. The table shows the percentage of each
companys surveyed customers who rated it superior (as opposed to adequate
or inferior) on several questions: overall performance quality, doing
work properly, starting and completing work promptly, letting you know
cost early, and advice on service options and costs. As you can see,
there is major company-to-company variation in scores. (Click here for more details on our customer survey and
other research methods.)
For firms that were evaluated in our last full, published article, our
Ratings Table also show counts of complaints we gathered from the
Better Business Bureau (BBB) for a recent three-year period and complaint
rates relative to the volume of work companies do. We also checked for
complaints on file with the Consumer Protection Division of the Illinois
Office of the Attorney General, but none of the companies listed on our
Ratings Table received complaints with that agency during the two-year
period we checked. For more information on reported complaint counts and
rates, click here.
Before authorizing any work, ask the contractor to provide proof that it
carries both liability and workers compensation insurance. Insurance companies
readily issue such certificates. And make sure the company is licensed.
By choosing a licensed contractor, you can use the threat of license cancellation
as one form of leverage in working to resolve a dispute.
To compare companies prices, our mystery shoppers called the companies
listed on our Ratings Table and requested price quotes for four installation
jobs; the ranges of prices quoted are shown on Table 1. We used those prices
to calculate a price comparison score for each company, shown on our Ratings Table. The scores, which are adjusted so that the average for all companies
equals $100, tell you how each companys quotes, on average, compare to
the average price for all companies quoting on the same jobs. Thus, a score
of $110 means a companys quotes average 10 percent above the all-company
average. The price comparison scores can steer you to good candidates for
reasonably priced installation work. But dont rule out companies with
relatively high price comparison scores. In many cases, companies with
high prices on some jobs have low prices on others.
|Replace a ceiling light fixture with a customer-supplied new ceiling fan
|Replace six wall outlet receptacles and one light switch with new outlets and wall plates
|Install a customer-supplied outdoor flood light
|Replace an outdoor outlet with a watertight GFCI outlet, installed inside a new weatherproof box
|1 Some prices were rounded to the nearest whole dollar. For each job, companies were given additional, detailed specifications.
Heres an important fact to keep in mind: You dont have to pay more for
good service. The companies listed on our Ratings Table that receive
our top rating for quality were actually more likely to charge low prices
than the companies with lower ratings.
The key to getting a good price is to obtain several bids. For simple jobs,
youll be able to get bids by phone. For more complex jobs, an estimator
will usually visit your home. Time invested getting at least two or three
bids usually pays off, especially for large jobs. The second bid may be
higher than the first, but as often as not it is lower. For example, getting
two additional bids on the outdoor floodlight installation job we shopped
would have, on average, cut the cost by about $75. For larger jobs, two
more bids may save $250 or more.
Although it is always best to get a fixed-price bid, companies usually
visit homes to provide free price quotes for only relatively large jobs;
you can get bids by phone only when you know exactly what needs to be done.
For many small installation jobs, and most repair jobs, youll have to
pay on a time-and-materials basis.
To give you an idea which companies are likely to be least expensive for
jobs done on a time-and-materials basis, our Ratings Table indicate
each companys hourly labor rate and minimum charge for service calls.
Keep in mind that hourly labor rates dont reflect differences in charges
for parts and materials, and dont account for the speed at which different
When comparing hourly labor rates and minimum charges, check several details
Does the company impose a minimum charge for service calls? If so, how
much? How much time does it cover? Is travel time charged against this
minimum? While most companies charge all customers the same minimum service
fee regardless of where they live, its a point worth checking.
Into what increments does the company divide its billing time (for example,
quarter hours or half hours)?
How much does the company charge per time unit?
How does the company handle fractions of time units? (For example, does
it round to the nearest half houreither up or downor always round up?)
How many electricians does the rate cover?
Does the company ever charge for a service call based on a flat rate rather
than actual hours?