One of these things is not like the other—getting at least three to five quotes for a window replacement project offers an opportunity to compare costs for your area. But what if those estimates are all over the place? How do you decide what’s what?
Price quotes for windows differ for a number of reasons, and your best defense against price gouging is to know what causes those variations in cost. Here are some common reasons prices may vary on your quotes—and what to do about it.
Compare the Type and Quality of the Windows
Like most things in life, you get what you pay for with windows. High-end models typically cost more than comparable economy products, largely because the manufacturing and joining is of higher quality. For instance, a more expensive window is more likely to contain an airtight seal, which will keep your home warmer and more comfortable.
Window prices for various products can differ by hundreds of dollars—even for products that are technically the same style and made out of the same material. So one reason you might see a price jump in your estimates is due to the windows themselves.
You can verify whether or not this is the case in your estimates by looking at how they break down for materials. Your window installer should provide you with a line item estimate that shows how much you’re paying for materials versus labor—if they don’t, ask for a revised quote.
After you research the prices for your windows, you’ll have to weigh the potential benefits for high quality windows (longer lifespan, better energy efficiency) and see if they’re worth paying the extra price—and if they make sense for your budget.
Verify the Contractor’s Reputation
It’s always tempting to jump at a cutthroat estimate—after all, who doesn’t want to save money? Unfortunately, a low quote doesn’t always mean you’re getting a great deal. Most installers are honest, hardworking professionals, but fly-by-night operations are not unheard of in the business.
When there’s a high demand for new windows in an area—say if there’s just been a hurricane or storm—scammers will set up shop temporarily and sell window installations for as cheap as they can. Then, once demand drops again, they move on to another location.
There are a couple of problems with this. For one thing, they might be getting you a discount by selling a shoddy product—a window that’s been recalled, for instance, or a window insert disguised as a new window. Another potential consequence could be that your installer isn’t carrying insurance, meaning you might be responsible for laborer injuries or damages that occur during the installation.
The best way to check on your contractor’s reputation is to research their work history. Ask the installer for references, and call them. See if they’re accredited through the Better Business Bureau—most quality installers will be. Also look at their contact information. If they list a P.O. box as their address, that means they may not have a local office, which is a warning sign for trouble. Also, follow your instincts. If something feels off with one of your potential installers, don’t take their offer.
See if the Installer Offers Service Repairs
A more legitimate way that installers offer customers discounts is by cutting back on client services and add-ons. However, that kind of bare-bones installation isn’t always to your benefit. It might save you money up front, but you won’t be very happy when you need a repair later on.
Many windows are warrantied for twenty-five years, which is a long time to go without any repairs or maintenance. A window installer with a service department can come to your assistance when something breaks or goes wrong—particularly if the issue occurs just after your installation. And that can save you some frustrating run-around if you have any problems.
Always talk to your installer about their policy for making repairs after the fact. How do you reach their service department to place a service request? Are there representatives available to answer your questions? Services like this may bump up the price of the installation, but they may be worth it in the long run. If you’re the kind of person who likes to leave repairs strictly to the pros, these kinds of bells and whistles are for you.
Check Your Quotes for Errors
Maybe you were thinking about only replacing the windows on the front of the house, but then decided to install new ones in the back, too. Maybe one installer thought you said you wanted the wood windows, when you actually decided to go with a more affordable vinyl set instead.
Your contractor is only human, and administrative errors do happen from time to time. When you initially meet to talk about the project, take notes so you can compare what you discussed to the final estimate. If something looks off, talk to your contractor. It could just be an innocent error or miscommunication.
Gathering quotes can seem like mystifying work, but once you start boiling down price differences, there are really only a few reasons for variations in your estimates. Read into the situation carefully, and you should be able to negotiate any variables that arise—and get your new window replacement off with flying colors.