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Which? finds huge variation in builders’ quotes

Consumers must be detectives to get best value

builder on site

If your builder doesn’t have the right insurance cover, you can purchase this yourself

Getting plenty of builders’ quotes pays off – Which? research has shown a massive gap between lowest and highest quotes for a building job.

Which? asked builders and bricklayers to quote for a wheelie-bin shelter. The differences were startling, especially so as we removed the top and bottom 10% quotes to get rid of extremes.

The biggest gap was nearly three quarters of the highest quote itself. That was in the south east of England, where the lowest quote was £235 and the highest £850. 

Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said: ‘The difference between the highest and lowest quotes we got for this straightforward building job was astounding. It really does hammer home the fact that you should always shop around for the best quote – you could save hundreds of pounds.’

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Builders’ quotes across the UK

The table below shows the difference between the highest and lowest quotes we received in six UK regions. 

Quotes for building a wheelie-bin shelter
Region Lowest quote Highest quote Difference
Northern Ireland £209 £555 £346
The North and Scotland £138 £733 £595
Midlands and Wales £169 £667 £498
Eastern £200 £452 £252
South East £235 £850 £615
South West £297 £823 £526

Endorsement schemes 

It’s not just when getting quotes from builders that consumers must act like detectives. Research for the Building confidence report in the April 2010 issue of Which? magazine found that endorsement schemes are not to be taken at face value either. 

Consumers should check the credentials of endorsement schemes, including:

  • How thoroughly do they audit their members?
  • Do they invite customer feedback?
  • What is the complaints procedure if things go wrong?
  • If there is an adjudication process, what does it involve for you? 

The better schemes are likely to be not-for-profit ones in the public sector. The best we found was Buy with confidence, but this only covers 26 local authorities, mainly in southern England. It is one of the schemes on the Local Authority Assured Trader Scheme Network.

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