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Old 12-30-2010, 10:41 AM   #1
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Another question about contractor fees


I recently had my standby generator serviced. The technician did two service calls, the first one he did not diagnose the problem. For what turned out to be a bad battery, I was charged nearly $350. When I balked, he pointed out that my bill might be higher as I am 21 miles from his house, and he charges time and mileage ($.64 per mile) to and from the job. Has anyone ever heard of any sort of contractor charging time and mileage and their hourly rate to and from the site?

What's more I find his costs for parts around double the prices I find on line.

How do I handle this? I trust the guy as I know him fairly well. When I asked about a price before he came, he said, "Don't worry, it won't be too bad." I certainly did not expect to pay 25% of what I originally paid for the generator as the result of a bad battery, which incidentally was less than three years old. Do I just say sue me?

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Old 12-30-2010, 10:57 AM   #2
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Another question about contractor fees


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Originally Posted by Shrdlu View Post
How do I handle this? I trust the guy as I know him fairly well. When I asked about a price before he came, he said, "Don't worry, it won't be too bad." I certainly did not expect to pay 25% of what I originally paid for the generator as the result of a bad battery, which incidentally was less than three years old. Do I just say sue me?
You needed to get a definite cost setup & be aware of hourly charges ahead of time before hiring him
Whats "not too bad" for one person is bad for another

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Old 12-30-2010, 11:16 AM   #3
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Another question about contractor fees


Usually it goes something like this. You need to get this info up front or pay what he charges.
XXX dollars to show up and XXX dollars per hour after first 1/2 hour. If further than xxx miles then more dollars. + parts + tax
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:25 AM   #4
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Another question about contractor fees


I knew his hourly charges and had no problem with that. What I could not account for was him charging me for time to and from his shop plus mileage. I do not think a reasonable person would expect this.
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:28 AM   #5
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Another question about contractor fees


I suppose one should press if a contractor is evasive about a estimate, but I really liked and trusted this guy. All the same, I've never heard of anyone charging full rate for travel time plus mileage to and from a job.
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:34 AM   #6
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Another question about contractor fees


Person I work with charges mileage
Its a big box truck.....so mileage charge is added on to each job
But the travel time is not charged....but that differs by person/company
Jobs that are too far away are usually turned down/declined to bid
I have heard of a flat rate charged for travel time - lower then normal rate
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Old 12-30-2010, 01:05 PM   #7
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Another question about contractor fees


IMHO, he should be charging for either travel time or mileage, not both. That's double-dipping.
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Old 12-30-2010, 01:08 PM   #8
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It's not double dipping if that's how you charge
If one company charges a flat $75 an hour travel
And another company charges $30 an hour travel time time + "x" per mile which is better ?
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Old 12-30-2010, 01:40 PM   #9
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You have a point, but whatever the case two roundtrips of 42 miles added up significantly more money than for time spent on site.

What's more 64 per mile to operate a Toyota Tacoma more than covers his costs, especially when he's depreciating the vehicle, and that fuel, motor oil, and lubricants are allowable tax deductions.

Here's another way to look at it: I'm paying a high hourly rate for the expertise of knowing how to drive a pickup truck, and I'm far more than covering his expenses.
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Old 12-30-2010, 01:41 PM   #10
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Another question about contractor fees


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Originally Posted by operagost View Post
IMHO, he should be charging for either travel time or mileage, not both. That's double-dipping.
I agree completely, and if you figure in his milage allowance he's writing off on his taxes, an argument could be made that's he's borderline "triple dipping".
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Old 12-30-2010, 01:50 PM   #11
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Another question about contractor fees


if he is charging mileage AND deducting his mileage on taxes, he is likely committing tax fraud. Obviously there is no way to determine if he is though.


Charging hourly for travel is typical because the tech is earning his wage. There is nothing inherently wrong with charging for mileage as that is no different that charging for materials to do a job. It is a unique cost specific to that job and not a typical overhead cost since driving isn't part of the actual work.

Most places I have worked don't charge for mileage for something as close as 20 miles. They have charged mileage if I had to run 50+miles or so. When mileage starts getting charged would vary with the customer. A big customer gets charged less often for mileage while a one time customer often got charged.
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Old 12-30-2010, 02:15 PM   #12
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Another question about contractor fees


This is nowhere near as complex as some of the posts suggest. A contractor is free to estimate a job anyway they choose, and they are free to charge using any formula they want to Hows they pay their taxes is totally irrelevant, unless you are the IRS. As the customer, you are entitled to ask for a full, complete and satisfactory BID prior to signing the contract. Whatever terms are in the contract are subject to negotiation. Once you accept the bid, whether verbally or in writing, you are both bound by the terms and conditions of the contract.

If the terms include mileage, that is neither illegal, immoral or fattening. Ditto for travel time, ditto for time on site, ditto for parts. If the contractor fails to live up to his agreement, then you have a case. The only issue I see here is whether the contractor failed to meet ordinary standards of care in diagnosing and correcting the problem. If the terms in his contract state that you will only be charged for correct diagnosis, then there is no reason to pay for the original misdiagnosis. If the terms say you pay regardless of whether he correctly diagnosed the problem, you owe the whole nut.
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Old 12-30-2010, 02:43 PM   #13
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Another question about contractor fees


The first trip, he did not diagnose the problem: a failed battery. According to the manufacturer of the battery, "If while cranking the engine if it drops below 9 Volts of continuous current, then you undoubtedly have a bad battery." He said it might be the charging unit, and he did not have one in stock. He would have to return. The problem could have easily been diagnosed at the time. This is either padding the bill or incompetency. To cover himself, he wrote on the invoice "Customer asked to wait on repair." This was not the case.

And while you might say that a contractor should be remunerated for any expense he puts forth, I've dealt with literally dozens of contractors and technicians over the past five years in the wake of a house fire. Some have come from more than 100 miles away. Never have I been charged for anything but a mileage fee, and only in one direction. This is not standard practice by any means.

I'm imagining my attorney billing me his full hourly rate and mileage to show up in court without disclosing a fee like that upfront. I would be writing a strongly worded letter to the bar association posthaste.
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Old 12-30-2010, 02:54 PM   #14
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Would you hire a lawyer without knowing what it was going to cost you up front ??
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Old 12-30-2010, 03:11 PM   #15
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Yes, indeed. Always. Usually with a retainer to boot. They follow strict ethical guidelines, and bill me for hours worked, nothing more.

I guess when one trust lawyers more than contractors, that says something.

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