My column in the most recent issue of the Angie's List Magazine.
A recent nationwide poll of Angie’s List members found that 60 percent are scaling back on driving because of rising gas prices by carpooling to work, consolidating errands and riding their bikes instead.
Gas prices are also forcing service companies to take a new look at the way they do business. In addition to fuel costs for service vehicles, material costs are shooting up because petroleum is the main ingredient in many consumer-based products, such as vinyl windows, synthetic lawn fertilizer, paint and asphalt roofing shingles.
In addition to polling members about how they’re responding to gas prices, we surveyed more than 1,800 companies across the country that are rated on Angie’s List. We found that 58 percent are passing along the costs, either as across-the-board price increases or in the form of fuel surcharges. My advice to service companies is to be up-front; most customers will understand why the charge is there because they’re feeling the same pain at the pumps.
For service companies, the pain doesn’t stop there. We talked with dozens of roofers, painters, asphalt driveway installers, and window and lawn care companies across the country who answered our survey, and all are also wrestling with higher costs for materials that have an oil-related component. Prices for asphalt shingles are increasing anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent. Paint costs are increasing by $3 and in some cases as much as $10 — a can. While you may feel like you can’t do much about the cost of oil, collectively we can.
Americans have a reputation for wanting bigger cars and houses, both of which increase demand for oil and oil-related products. But our polling indicates that Angie’s List members are taking actions that, over the long-term, will reduce our reliance on oil, gas and materials that have oil as a component.
In the meantime, talk to your companies about oil-related price increases and any other servicerelated issues on your mind.
Angie’s List members started the year planning to spend $11,250 on home improvement and maintenance projects, up 13 percent over the average in 2007. If you’re among those planning to renovate or expand this year, take the extra time to talk with your suppliers and contractors about how you can work together to minimize oil-related cost increases. You’ll do yourself — and your service companies — a favor.
Here are some tips:
• If you’re just getting started on your project, add fuel and material costs to your list of things to ask about and don’t be afraid to negotiate.
• Insist on itemized charges related to fuel and material costs so you know exactly what you’re paying for.
• If you’ll be charged a trip fee just for the estimate, find out if that cost will be taken off your final bill if you choose that contractor for the job.
• If the company has more than one customer in your neighborhood, see if you can coordinate service calls to minimize fuel costs.
• If you have an emergency service need, be smart in your hiring decision. Getting your issue resolved now — even if you have to pay a fuel surcharge — could still save you money in the long run.
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