How much should a new water heater cost?

rivkadrOctober 19, 2007

Last Sunday night, our 20 year old hot water heater went kaput -- started pouring water all over the place. We immediately called a plumber, and he came out and looked it. Told us it was a goner, and we needed a new one, and that he had one in stock, and could install it the next morning. That sounded good to us (we didn't want to go very long without a hot water heater). He informed us that the price would be about $1500.

The work was done, the final bill came out to about $1600, and we now have a hot water heater.

We then did some research (yes, we should have done it before, but the timing was tight, and we just wanted hot water), and discovered that a new 30 gallon hot water heater generally runs $300 - $500. So where did the rest of that money go that we spent? Granted, some should go to labor (it took them a couple of hours to install it), and carting away of the old heater, but come on.

Did we get ripped off?

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    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 3:57PM
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Emergency labor. Opportunistic plumber. Classic recipe for rip off. If it makes you feel better---that sort of thing happens daily.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 4:40PM
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Do we have any recourse, or do we just have to eat the cost? My husband has called the guy and demanded an itemized bill, but I'm not sure what that will do for us.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 4:50PM
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Local conditions make a big difference in labor rates. If you live in a location that is expensive, then you could expect to pay more than other who live in less expensive areas.

You didn't say how large the water heater was that was installed, or whether it is gas or electric. Can you ID the make model and size?

Also, the plumber came out on a Sunday. The sunday visit was several hundred dollars right there.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 7:12PM
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It's a 30 gallon gas heater. I've priced out our water heater online, and it comes in around $350.

He originally came on Sunday, and wasn't able to get us the water heater immediately. He apologized, and told us that he wouldn't charge us for that visit (which he told us would have been only $65 anyway). He installed the water heater on Monday morning.

He arrived at about 10am, and did 2 hours of work. I may live in Southern California, but expecting to pay $600 an hour for labor seems a little extreme.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 7:40PM
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Ripped off is when they steal your money, he told you upfront how much it would cost and you said ok. Shopping around for a better price would have got you hot water on wednesday instead of monday, that has to be figured into the price.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 10:36PM
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I think you were ripped off. I bought a top of the line 40 gallon gas water heater for $369 plus tax at Home Depot, and even got a $50 rebate from the gas company because the water heater was energy star rated. I also bought some new plumbing parts like ball valve cutoff valves and flex tubing and an earthquake strapdown kit that added another maybe $40 to the cost. I installed it myself in about half a day. The only help I needed was for maybe five minutes to have someone help me lift the new water heater into the heater enclosure. Even if I had no tools I could have bought the tools to do the job for less than a hundred dollars. I put the old water heater out with the trash and the city took it away for free.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 7:05PM
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Even the bandits at HD only charge an extra $150 for "emergency" response on a weekend or holiday---and the basic install is $200. This wasn't a weekend or holiday install---even though the guy came out on a Sunday. He waited until Monday to do the work. So, an extra trip charge at $55, maybe, but anyone who has to come out in person to tell someone their 20 year old water heater that is pouring out water needs to be replaced instead of being repaired is a hopeless dunce or racking up trips to gouge on price. So, even if miscellaneous parts and pieces needed to be redone for the install to happen, and the labor was $500, that's still $1100 cheaper than what was paid. And big boxes are notorious for being rather high priced on home install services.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 10:22PM
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That is a very reasonable price.The owner of the plumbing company has to pay for the plumber,the truck,insurance,workmens comp.,insurance bond with the city,work permits,and material costs not to mention advertising,plumbing shop,utilities,secretary,and shop personal.Just the plumber is $60 bucks and hour,he does ok,but let take a closer look at his wage.He clears 30-35 a hour after health care,union dues,pension,and etc,no paid holidays,no paid sick days,lay offs are common. And if you think he is overpaid,ask your boss how much you cost. A plumber busts his you know what,and is cripped-up by the time he retires,if he makes it that far.If you think I,m joking you try it.5 year appenticeship (college degree)People that do they're own plumbing are indanger of contaminating the public water,but they're to stupid to know that.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 11:54AM
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"Do we have any recourse, or do we just have to eat the cost? "

On what grounds?

The $100 over the estimate?

He gave you a price and you approved the installation.

You might argue over the $100 over the estimate, especially considering the overall excessive cost.

Maybe he was mad because you interrupted his football game.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 2:29PM
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And a 40 gallon gas heater costs less than does a 30 gallon hater

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 6:12PM
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What? A resurrected post after 3 years with no segue?

I just did my own water heater replacement along with about half of my supply lines and I'd have been happy to pay $600 to not have been lying under the house at 10pm in a mud puddle with a bucket catching the flood I'd created with a bad solder joint. Really, soldering copper pipe isn't rocket science but a pro wouldn't have made that mistake. (Probably, I didn't have the pipes perfectly dry when I did the first solder.)


    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 10:31PM
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Oh I forgot to add: 3 days of cold showers is actually kind of fun. It's like a little adventure. I know I married well because my wife took it all in stride.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 10:35PM
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How much would it cost you to shop around for a water heater at your local big box stores?
How much would have it cost you to buy all the tools you need to do the job? Please include torches, wrenches, all the copper fittings for any situations that might arise, flue piping, hose to drain the old water heater (which may or not have been needed), solder, teflon...
How much would have it cost you to learn how to replace a water heater. Please figure in classroom cost and hours spent.
How much would have it cost you to have a vehicle to transport it to where it needed to be? Please include insurance, gas, travel time.
How much would it cost you to back your own work for a year?

Unless you already have all the above - I think it makes sense to spend that when hiring a professional.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 3:47PM
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fourn4fun registers on the same day he posts an inflammatory response to a three year old thread.

1) everything points to the OP getting burned on the water heater replacement to the tune of approximately $1000.

2) fourn4fun's reply reads to me like a troll trying to excite people on an internet forum.

3) All these fresh replies (likely including mine, too) accomplish what the troll wanted in my point 2.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 11:53AM
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Think that's bad? Try living in MA. I just got a quote from a rip off artist oil co. In MA called Devaney oil for $2500 - just to replace the water heater TANK!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 7:25PM
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FWIW, I do live in MA. I replaced my 40 gallon gas water heater in March 2010 for a total of $850. $650 for a brand new 40 gal. residential gas water heater and $200 to install it.

If you're replacing a tank for $2500 there must be something extraordinary about it.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 2:44PM
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Since March we have had trouble with our water tank. The valve on top was dripping water slowly and we had no hot water. Our neighbor was kind enough to come over and take a look at it. He relit the flame and the next day replaced the valve. I paid him $60 for his time and trouble (he got the valve for a couple of bucks from a place where he does a lot of business). Since then, about every 5 days or so, the hot water tank's flame goes out. He comes over and relights it. I try to watch so that I can do it - but messing with that kind of stuff for the house - especially as a full-time caregiver, just isn't something I want to do in case I do it wrong - so I'd rather have him or a professional come over. I pay him $5.00 each time he comes over to relight it. (Which takes less than a minute). Monday he replaced the thermal coupling. It costs him $9.00 with his discount for the parts (he does maintenance work full-time for a company). He turned the hot water "heat" level up a little bit so that the hot water would be hotter. That was all done on Monday. We paid him $110 - $10 for the part, $25 for the past 5 times he has come here and I didn't have $5 bills, and $75 for fixing it forever! Today is Wednesday. Two days later. The water is cold again. He is going to come over tonight to look at it again. Anyone out there have any ideas? I am a 24/7, live-in, at-home caregiver to a loved one and money is very, very scarce and tight.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 6:42PM
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How old is the waterheater? It may be leaking and the moisture is putting out the pilot light.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 8:42AM
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My advice is to get some bids from local plumbers or heating contractors. Pick the one that best suits your needs and budget. Ask for references. Don't go with the scumbag contractors that hire illegals to work. The work there will be substandard. Homeowners can do it themselves but you have to obtain a building permit to change a water heater. It's cheap insurance to be safe. People need to stop being so cheap and fork out a reasonable amount to maintain your home. It is an investment. I know it hurts to pay for things but it's gonna happen. I work for an HVAC contractor that is very honest and fair with his pricing. He didn't go into business to make the wages we make. He's not a millionaire but does well for himself. Deserving every bit of it. We get medical insurance paid 100% for my whole family, vacation, bonuses for doing good,etc. I make $75K -$85K a year. He couldn't afford to take care of us charging $600 to change a water heater. It cost money to install appliances up to code. Not all contractors are ripping off homeowners. Some are honest.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 4:16PM
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Wow, all these messages saying that it's OK to charge whatever you want if the buyer is not smart around to shop around... I'm going to try to figure out who these people work for and never deal with that company. Charging $1600 for installing a water heater that costs less than $500 is a ripoff no matter how you slice it. And some people want to claim this is 'honest'

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 1:03PM
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I live in a pricey Westchester NY suburb and just paid $2000 to install a new AO Smith hot water tank. I shopped around and all three licensed plumbers came in around the same. The guy we picked wasn't the lowest price but my hubby (a surgeon) liked the white hair on his head (read: experience). He was also the only guy who, upon entering our basement with the small stream of water, confidently declared it was a microscopic leak from an obscure spot under the tank. Sure enough, he pulled out a flexible flashlight and with us leaning down with our cheeks to the floor, there it was: a barely perceptible trickle of water. The other two first asked us to make sure it wasn't leaky
chimney flashings, groundwater swells, etc. They were also much younger than our plumber by about 15 years! The way the hubby sees it, you pick your plumber like you should pick your surgeon: not someone fresh out of residency but not so old as to be unaware of the latest technology or regulations. So we contributed a couple of hundred to our plumber's retirement fund. Hooray for him and we are really happy with the work he did: new copper fittings and piping, soldered neatly with new gas and water valves placed above the tank and easy to function. We shopped around and went with the person we felt most comfortable with. Oh, and he came on Memorial Day morning to install this so we could have hot water for our family! (The other youngster plumbers were like, No Way.) Now isn't that dedication also worth the extra $? We think so!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 10:31PM
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Of course noone wants to get ripped off when they hire someone. Then again noone wants to go to work for free. I am a tradesman and my experience is that its best to give a high estimate and have room for unforseen circumstances. True ideal situation to replace hot water heater is to cut 2 pipes remove tank, slide in new one and sweat 2 slip couplings.. thrifty homeowners that post really low expectaions kind of skew the real picture. I just overbid a heater for a regular customer and good thing I did. They changed the size and warranty they wanted, i had to make 2 extra trips to the box store, stand in line for a return, wait while they searched for the laat 12 yr tank which their computer swore they had... somewhere.. . Then I was able to cut far back into the supply and replace some "m" grade pipe some knucklehead used last time it was done by "the cheap guy" oh and add a ballcock valve AND new vacuum relief valve as well as a pan under it. I was also able to install a new shutoff switch and include the upgraded tank without rocking their world with a much higher price. When you give a lowball price, the client is either surprised by add ons commonly called bait and switch OR WORSE corners get cut as the estimated price is approached. My motto is "people remember a high price for six months but remember a bad job forever"

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 3:57PM
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