It’s simple to compare apples to apples with some products. For example, the same Toyota Camry, identically configured at two competing dealerships is a safe bet to compare prices. The two vehicles were manufactured by the same people at the same plant in exactly the same manner and were possibly even delivered to the two competing dealerships on the same day by the same truck!

But when you’re hiring a contractor to perform work on your house, it can be very different.

Imagine if you purchased a car in the same way you must purchase contracting services. What would it look like?

Possibly you could purchase all the parts for the Camry from the Toyota dealership, but then you’d have to find a “Car Assembly Contractor” to come to your home and put your Camry together for you.

No doubt you’d be advised to get “THREE ESTIMATES”. Sounds like good advice. How would that go?

Well, you’d probably ask friends for referrals, you might Google “local car assembly contractor” but eventually, if it’s anything like the home improvement contracting business, you’d end up having to schedule appointments with about five different Car Assembly Contractors to get three estimates, because two just wouldn’t show up when they said they would.

Of the three estimates, here’s what you might get:

1. the First contractor works out of his truck and has no permanent place of business. You got his name and number because it was written on a yard sign. He fixes all kinds of mechanical things from lawnmowers to dishwashers. Has put together quite a few cars in his day. Hasn’t actually ever assembled a Toyota Camry, but a car is a car, really.

2. the Second contractor came recommended by a friend who “knew a guy”. He has a crew. All they do is put together cars for people: all makes and models. Some go together easier than others, oftentimes they’ll even have parts left over that you get to keep! They’ve put together Toyotas, even a few Camrys. They haven’t actually put together this year’s models, but they’re not really concerned about it because the Camry is a pretty consistent model.

3. the Third contractor was listed on Toyota’s website. He has been factory trained by Toyota and has to re-certify each year with Toyota. Toyota will only warranty the performance of the car if a factory-certified Toyota Camry contractor puts it together. He explains that with the other contractors, Toyota will only warranty their parts, not the performance of the car – due to the fact that Toyota has no control over who you’re hiring to put the car together. He has put together many Toyota Camrys and has assembled this year’s model many times.

Now, being the savvy consumer that you are, two questions:

1. Who would you expect to have the lowest price?

2. Who would you use?