If you need repairs, the info reported on our Ratings Tables will help you find good contractors. They will also help you identify reasonably priced ones.

Our Ratings Tables report our price comparison scores, which show how surveyed companies compared on price for four jobs our undercover shoppers checked. The scores show how each company’s prices compared to the average price for all companies that quoted on the same jobs. We adjusted the price comparison scores so that the average for all the companies is $100. If a company’s score is $110, for example, this means that the company’s prices were, on average, 10 percent higher than the average prices for the same jobs.

The price comparison scores range from $58 to $176, which means some companies charge more than twice as much as their competitors for the same work. For example, to replace the control board for a Rheem gas furnace, our undercover shoppers were quoted prices ranging from $362 to $1,078. To replace the dual-run capacitor for a Trane central air conditioner, prices ranged from $145 to $667.

If you need repairs and you know what’s wrong, ask at least three highly rated outfits for price quotes.

If you don’t know why your system isn’t working, the company will need to come over to diagnose the problem. Most companies charge hefty minimum fees for this. In addition to relying on our price comparison scores, ask companies for details on minimum fees and hourly labor rates. Because most repair work is performed on a time-and-materials basis, you can use this information to get a rough idea of which companies are likely to be least expensive.

If the initial repair estimate is no more than a few hundred dollars, you may as well go ahead and do it. If the estimate exceeds $500 or so, consider getting additional quotes.

Other tips for getting good repairs at a reasonable cost:

  • When you call, describe problems in as much detail as possible.
  • Ask the company to explain how it calculates service charges.
  • If the repair will be expensive, have the company provide a written description of needed work and total price before it begins work.
  • Stay at home—but don’t get in the way—as work proceeds.
  • Get a detailed invoice that includes the date, company name and license number, a description of the issues that precipitated the repair call, parts replaced, charges for labor, and warranty.
  • Pay with a credit card. If you are dissatisfied with the work, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company.

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