Last week, Greg was forced to take a cold shower.

But before you start feeling sorry for him, you should know that it isn’t what you think.

Here’s what happened: Basically, our water heater died sometime during the night without our knowledge. My lucky husband just happened to be the person who learned this knowledge firsthand when he entered the shower for his morning rinse. {Better him than me. LOL}

But our water heater didn’t just “quit.” It started leaking.  And by the time we realized there was a problem, it had leaked all over the furnace room in our garage and out onto the garage floor. The first thing we did was turn off the water. Then Greg attempted to drain the water heater into the yard with some sort of hose. {Epic Fail} After that, we called the local plumbing/furnace people to take a look.

As we waited, I browsed online for similar water heaters and found plenty of 40 gallon gas water heaters in the $300-$450 range. “This shouldn’t be so bad,” I thought.

Of course I was wrong. When the plumbing people showed up, they quoted me $1,100 for their cheapest water heater. Never one to accept a ridiculous price without doing some research, I asked a few questions.

“Why so much?” I asked. “I was just browsing online and found several water heaters at Lowe’s and Home Depot for $300-$400.”

“Is Lowe’s here?” he asked in a condescending tone.


I probably looked like my head was about to explode, so he went on to explain their pricing further. “Lowe’s will probably take a few days to get here,” he said. “You don’t have any hot water. Our price will get your water heater in here today.”

I laughed because this guy obviously doesn’t know me very well. Not only am I willing to go without a shower for a day or two if needed, but we also have plenty of friends on the block who would gladly let us use their facilities.  Plus, it’s just the principal of the thing, you know?!?

Nope. Not gonna happen.

It Always Pays to Shop Around

Here’s where it pays to shop around. After the plumbing guy left, I called Lowe’s and inquired about their installation timeline. Despite everything the plumbing guy said, Lowe’s promised to install our new water heater the same day as long as we could get in there to pay before noon.

So that’s exactly what we did. After a little bit of browsing, we settled on a $500 energy efficient water heater that was very much like the one we had that had just died. We went back and forth about installing it ourselves, but ultimately chose to pay $250 for installation because we were short on time and already had a boatload of work to do. The final price: $750

Is It Possible to Continue Bargaining Further?

My $100 Water Heater Dent

My $100 Water Heater Dent

But shopping around isn’t always enough. Over time, I’ve learned that you can continue bargaining even after the purchase has been made.

Case in point: When we received our new water heater from Lowe’s, it had a huge dent in the top. It wasn’t enough to affect the structural integrity of the water heater, but it still wasn’t cool since I had just paid $500 for it!

After calling Lowe’s, they refunded $100 off of my purchase and put it back on my credit card. I still feel a little bit guilty about that part, but I didn’t want to pay full price for a scratch and dent model!

The Bottom Line

I always get the feeling the contractors are trying to pull one over on me. Unfortunately, I am right almost 100% of the time.

The good news is, shopping around can usually inform you about whether the quote you’re getting from a contractor is even close to reasonable. The bad news is, taking the time to shop around can sometimes mean being inconvenienced, and yes, even going without hot water for a few days.

Either way, I’m happy about my new water heater purchase and glad I didn’t get scammed or ripped off. At the end of the day, all I want my water to do is heat water so we don’t have to take cold showers or baths. It doesn’t take an $1,100 water heater to do that.

Have you ever saved a ton of money by shopping around? Do you ever feel like contractors are trying to get as money from you as they can?

Additional reading: