The problem with big companies is they’re overhead costs are so high they resort to trickiness in pricing their services. The average 50 gallon water heater costs anywhere between $400 and $600, so everything above that range is pure labor. This week, I called FAST Water Heaters, a west coast company that uses centralized call centers to coordinate among various onsite delivery vans. The quote? $1,039 plus a 15% discount for being a Yelper.

FAST Water Heaters

So fast they almost stole my money

So the call center guy gets me to commit to having one of their repair guys visit my condo for a quote. He does, and upon “inspection”, rattles off a list of various “city-required” upgrades to the seismic restraints plus a unit-specific reconfiguration because the tank he has in his van is one inch taller than the space allows. The price tag? $2,100.

I tell him and his quiet, almost too quiet, weirdo assistant to be on his way. Immediately, I call a local company called Excalibur, which has won 69 5-star reviews…wow. Baron, the owner, is a bit gruff, but he knows his stuff and we schedule a time for him to visit a few days later. A few days later came, he arrived, spent one hour, and was done with a bill of $1,100, all inclusive. And man does it look spiffy compared to the 20-year old water heaters my neighbors have. Here’s the brand he installed:

Bradford White Water Heaters

My fiance complains I use too much hot water

How was Baron able to save me $1,000? Well, the old water heater I had was 56″ tall and was housed in a space not much bigger. FAST only had a 58″ water heater and said in order to install it, he would have to do significant modifications to the space and the seismic strappings on the water heater itself. Baron, fortunately a resourceful chap, scrounged up a 57″ Bradford White, which he quite easily installed in the space. He had to cut a bit of the pipe at the top off, but nothing too major.

MORAL OF THE BLOG: When the quote is mostly labor-related, get another and find out if there’s a water heater that fits in your space without significant modification. There will almost always be someone out there with the right size and right skill set to get you to where you need to be. $1,000, ka-ching.