Tradie/Services call out fees

Kylie Matthews investigates call out fees and offers some advice to ensure you avoid any issues:


It tip toes around what is almost a truism if not a truism, that being companies with no call-out fees usually charge higher repair prices. The business is to get in the door and make up the costs/profits at the back end.

Pay $120 call out and $100 for a repair, or possibly no call-out and $300 for the same repair. It works because of human nature and is fairly common IME by businesses who advertise ‘no callout fee’. With the tradie standing there ready to fix something it is tantalising to go with it now rather than ‘screw around’ and I suspect most people will. I no longer call business who advertise no callout. Then there are horror stories as in the Choice report regardless of their charging a high call-out plus, plus.

OTOH individual tradies whose reputations are their credentials are more upfront on the reality of their business needs vis a vis your service needs and how they cover their time.


Thanks for the perspective @PhilT :+1:


Sorry, this ended up longer than I planned!
With regard to any type of ‘in home’ service there is no simple answer to a quite complicated situation, but any consumer considering using a “no callout fee” or “free quote” operator should consider even just this one important factor: put very simplistically, the “no callout fee” operator and the guy who charges a callout fee both want/need the same net profit (let’s call it wage) at the end of the week. Free quotes are often reasonable for jobs whose cost will be in the thousands - it is much easier to absorb the time/cost of the jobs you do not get.

The trader who charges no callout fee must charge more for either labour or parts - there’s no other way to make up the difference between his ‘take home’ money and the other guy who charges a callout fee. I have been involved in the appliance service industry for almost forty years, (now retired!) and I’ve probably seen it all - or at least most of it.

I can tell a story about a fairly simple fridge repair as far back as the early nineties. Let’s say my name is Fred (not really, but it will do for the story!). I had an appliance repair business with a registered business name which was not my name. My son’s soccer coach knew I did appliance repairs, so when his fridge went on the fritz, he told his wife, “Ring Fred to come and fix the fridge.” There happened to be a local sole trader business called “Fred’s Appliance Repairs”. So, when the lady looked up the local paper, she called Fred who came to fix her fridge with no callout fee. When Fred arrived, she realised it wasn’t me, but Fred told her he would fit a new aftermarket thermostat for $40 labour and $120 for the thermostat. Then Fred added that he knew I charged $45 'just to come and look at the job".

The fridge needed to be fixed, Fred was right there and his price didn’t seem outlandish, so she had him fix the fridge. The cost was $160. My callout fee at the time was $45, which included the first 15 minutes. I charged $30 an hour for labour. My callout fee plus labour to do the job would have been $65. The aftermarket thermostat Fred used - the same one I would have used - wholesaled at $18 bought individually, or $12 each in boxes of ten. Even though I purchased lots of ten, I still charged customers $27 for the thermostat. To do exactly the same repair, with callout fee - $45, labour - $20, and thermostat $27, would have cost the customer $92. Not the $160 they were charged. And, I was making enough money on the job to keep the family fed!

I’m certain this sort of thing happens every day. The guy is there at the house - so he gets the job. Customers assume that the parts would be the same price no matter which repairer they got to do the job. I believe that ‘no callout fee’ is merely a ploy to get a foot in the door. One day I told a customer who balked at the callout fee, that she should get the guy giving her a ‘free quote’ to give his price and tell her what he was going to do, then ring me with the job details without telling me his price, and I would give her my price to compare with his. She told me, “that wouldn’t be fair, not after he already came to the house.”
So, with her attitude, he had already won, no matter what he charged - absolutely the point of the exercise.


Must read. Need plumber/ gasfitter

Don’t be sorry ‘Fred’, a good post needs words. Some posts just need more than others.

Thanks for giving us a real example of higher costs with no call out fee. It is a worthy read and I bet you had a customer for life (assuming you told them your standard charge for the same service).


Indeed. Wish you lived near me. I had a brilliant plumber once, he was absolutely 100% honest. He sorted out a leak in my bathroom, and when the time came to reno the bathroom after a bit of an earthquake, I got him to come, instead of using the bathroom people’s plumber, because he was so reliable. When he presented his bill, it was itemised down to the last 50c… every minute he spent on the work, every part required and so forth. Alas, he is now retired, or I would get him again, in a heartbeat.


Further to my last post here: I need a plumber: lots of washers needing replacing and thats something I have never learned to do, a tap needing replacing, a gas stove needing disconnection and removal, and a hot water system needing repair or replacement. I thought I would see about using HiPages to get quotes. Not a single bite. When I checked into my account, the job had been sent to 78 plumbers, of which 2 didnt bother answering and 76 werent interested.

I guess I am going to have to do the washers myself, one way or another, which means I have to buy a special tool to turn off the water because Hunter Water decided to remove all the taps and put something else in their place. Don’t know what I will do about the kitchen tap, its one of those mixer things, and it is leaking and has developed a split in the spout which means it squirts water everywhere whenever I turn it on. I cant seem to get onto the floor anymore to deal with under-sink things and nobody will come to do the job.

I’d be very happy to pay a call out fee if only somebody would actually come.


Have you tried contacting a plumber who advertises/supports your local sporting club(s)? They are often keen to respond to anyone, especially those who saw the ad at the club or sporting field.

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Good lord. No. I dont go to sporting events where I might see such things. LOL. I’ll hit the yellow pages next week, after pension day.

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Just walk around the sports field where the ads are often posted. You don’t need to got to an event :wink:

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LOL! No thanks. I havent the physical capacity to “just walk around the sports field” I live in the outer burbs of Newcastle, and theres no notable advertising on the outside of the McDonald Jones Stadium and I’m not going in there if I can avoid it. Its a longish drive for an old lady with limited mobility. The yellow pages will do fine :slight_smile: Thanks anyway :slight_smile:

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It is relatively easy to do if one has the right tools. Also look on youtube for step by step videos on how to change the washer and/or spindle o-ring.

This is one example…how-to-change-a-tap-washer-in-four-easy-steps

This one can be very easy (standard brass faucet like those used outdoors) to difficult (mixer taps in kitchen/bathroom). A plumber may be needed especially for difficult ones to ensure it it fitted properly and leak free.

Both need plumbers, with the stove needing,one which can also do gas works. Not all plumbers do gas as well and something to ask when making enquiries. An electrician may also be needed to disconnect and reconnect a system which relies on main power.

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Thanks for all those suggestions :slight_smile: There are some things I’ll have to get a plumber/gasfitter for, but will look into the washer thing, for sure. Youtube has nearly everything, doesnt it. It just never occurs to me to look there for howtos


Our M-in-Law used a plumber from Mayfield (small family run business, not mine of course) for similar work last year to service Shortland. Not sure which direction you are in. You can message me separately if it is useful. It wasn’t cheap, however we did have an estimate.

Aside from living in another state, I would have done the washers, however several of the taps were very old and had other issues. Eg leaking spindles or frozen bodies and likely also needed reseating given how long several had been leaking for. There is a point where the tool kit and skill set required increases. YouTube is great, providing accept many examples are simply that. Play acted with new fittings and no major defects. And do they show the out-takes? If you are game look for examples with the exact same style of tap body and handle fixing for each one you have. Also look for hints on how to remove stuck handles or bodies without destroying them. There are also spindle seals (o-rings) and body washers (seals). And one size does not fit all, although the local hardware may supply multi part kits. Use two and throw the rest away? It may be worthwhile looking at how to reseat a tap assuming the eyesight or phone camera can get a good look at the condition. And always remember that if it does not work out, you may need to leave the water to your property turned off until you can sort out a reliable fix. Otherwise it is an emergency call out for the plumber and an even bigger bill. My experience is older tap ware often needs a plan B. Worst case I can replace the whole fitting or cap/plug the outlet until there is a proper fix and not need to bucket water from the tank to the cistern.

There is a legal line here between changing a tap washer and more advanced work being prescribed by legislation. P.s. we are not on mains, tank only.

Mixer taps can be a difficult to replace including the need for special spanners. The better quality ones can have a repair done with a new cartridge, if that is the major fault, otherwise it is a replacement. Not an Aldi stock item if you need a replacement mixer tap complete and not cheap. A decent plumber can help with that decision if you are looking to the future.

The last electric HW service we replaced, the service person who did the install was able to do both the electrics and plumbing fittings on a restricted license. It is worth asking rather than paying for two different trades.

Not all plumbers have gas fitters licenses, although we have not had issues finding suitably accredited tradies.


Not a worry as that is your preference, and no intention to become argumentative, but you might find the yellow pages to be less efficacious than you hoped for as businesses come and go. And for clarity re

Pro teams are not what I meant. Local clubs (amateur, junior) sport fields are often in or adjacent to reserves. Here is a snippet from the Eltham rugby club’s field. Some of the sponsor’s signs are visible to the left. They go part way around the oval.

If you google for these clubs they often have a list of sponsors on their web sites so no footwork required.


Yes, there are a few local clubs, but they are so tiny they dont have websites nor advertising around the perimeter (unless they put it up on match day). Seriously, thats a dead end for me.

[Edit] in the mail today, stuck to the outside of the white/yellow pages (yes, it was jammed into my mailbox) which I have cancelled three times now, there was a magnet advert for a plumber. So I’ll add them to my short list.

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I am installing airconditioning to my unit and two electricians/installers wanted a call out fee to do the quote! I am talking $95 and $65 a pop. They informed me that the fee was credited to the bill if i go ahead with their company. As I still subscribe to the ‘3 quotes to then compare’ philosophy I am being penalised for being careful with my money. I explained to both phone receptionists, I am effectively being penalised for doing due diligence before spending my money. Is this becoming the ‘norm’ for tradesmen or is it just in this trade? Not unexpectedly I did not go any further with these companies and found 3 other local tradesmen who each came out and gave me an old-fashioned obligation and free quote for the work I require.

Has this happened to anyone else recently?

Is is even legal under consumer rights?


Glad to hear you were able to source some no obligation quotes in the end. While the article is a little dated, there is some advice on call-out fees that can help keep you out of trouble:

Interested to hear any other recent experiences people are willing to share.


Since 2018 we bought 4 split systems and a new water heater over 4 installs. In no case did any of the A/C or plumbing companies want payment for quotes.

A value of getting multiple quotes is not just the price, but what they bid. The last 2 splits were installed at the same time. The quotes varied by 20% mostly because some of the companies both over specified the capacity required as well as what we confirmed were unnecessary installation expenses.

A family member recently had reblocking and tried to get 3 bids. One was a no show. The other two were instructive as one claimed no council permit was required and the other was emphatic a permit was required. The council confirmed it was as well as attended before and after to tick off a new certificate of occupancy. The bids also had different work specified re some new stumps - one added 10 the other 15. The all up cost difference was +25% for what we assessed as a better plan as well as a legal one.

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