Why Do Electricians Charge So Much? (And How To Keep Costs Down)

Let’s be honest for a minute. No one relishes the thought of getting an electrician in to do some work as they know it is most likely going to be a costly affair. Similar to when I take the car to a garage for some work I always internally wince when I ask what the work is likely to cost. Many people feel the same when it comes to hiring an electrician.

So, why do electricians charge so much? Is it that electricians are making loads of money by overcharging for work or are there big expenses and other less obvious factors that need to be taken into account? This post will hopefully provide readers with some answers so that even if we don’t relish the bill coming, at least we understand the charges a little more.

An electrician's invoice after doing completing the work
An electrician’s invoice after completing the work

Why Do Electricians Charge So Much?

Electricians charge so much because there are many hidden costs to running an electrical business. As well as the multitude of unknown variables to consider when quoting a job, there are also insurance costs, governing body memberships, and equipment costs to take into consideration.

Electricians may use an hourly rate for work completed in shorter amounts of time. Other prices can be per project that is predetermined based on project cost estimates, the scope or scale of the work, if works are needed outside of traditional working hours, and the level of experience of the electrician. An apprentice will cost less than a journeyman or master, just as a master electrician will cost more than a journeyman or apprentice. 

Training costs to the electrician also play a vital part in how and why they charge what they do for services provided. Whether an electrician chooses to attend a vocational or trade school or apply for an apprenticeship, training costs do not necessarily come cheap. A trade school typically has a set price charged per course, with each class taking roughly one to two years. Also, apprentice wages are notoriously badly paid so taking on an apprenticeship requires a view of the long game for the learner.

There are many mandatory costs to being an electrician and operating as a business that are often not known to customers. Electricians are responsible for maintaining and renewing work licenses, registering for work permits, filing the proper paperwork and tests forms for completed projects, work evaluations, answering service calls, maintaining premium insurance costs, purchasing parts, and driving from location to location.

How Do Electricians Charge?

Electricians will typically charge either by the hour, by the half-day or full-day rate, or quote for the complete job price including the materials. A quote gives the customer peace of mind of having a fixed price in advance but doesn’t always represent the best value as the electrician will have to allow extra for unknown variables.

Whether it is hourly work or a project total, the costs for electrical work generally start at the base of the call-out fee and add up from there, with some costs factored in for travel time. Price differences also play a role in residential vs. commercial work as extra time has to be allowed in commercial work for work permits, safety inductions and access limitations. 

Electricians will usually require payment after the job is completed. Sometimes they may request money in advance to purchase the materials. Customers should be very careful about handing over any payments before the work has been completed. In my opinion, all work should be paid for after the customer is satisfied with the work.

If an electrician is insisting on payment in advance I would consider the following two strategies.

  • Look for a different electrician. There are plenty out there who do not require payment in advance as they have a line of credit with their electrical wholesaler.
  • Suggest that if they give you a list, or better yet order the materials themselves, you as the customer will pay and collect the materials. Any genuine electrician should be more than happy with this situation as they have been saved a trip to the wholesalers!

Do Electricians Charge More On Weekends?

Electricians will generally charge more on weekends and urgent and emergency calls that cannot be scheduled for a later date will usually cost more than scheduled weekend work. Weekends, holidays and urgent calls can cost twice as much or more than the standard hourly rate.

Current rates for emergency calls average $150 an hour with a minimum of a $75 call-out fee. Some electricians have established flat rates they use in place of hourly fees that can range from $200 to $450. Flat rate fees are different than hourly rates since the cost is a single cost no matter how long the call takes rather than charging per hour of work done. 

This is where having an electrical you have used before and know comes in handy. As an electrician, I am far more likely to attend an emergency call out to a customer I have previously worked for as I want to maintain a good working relationship with them. Getting a call from someone out of the blue means that it has to be more financially beneficial to sacrifice time with family and loved ones.

Although people often think call out fees are extremely high imagine what it would cost the average office worker to be willing to get out of bed in the middle of the night and attend an emergency within the office!

Also see: Do Electricians Work Weekends?

How To Know If Your Electrician Is Charging Too Much

The best way to determine if your electrician is charging too much is to get multiple quotes from local electricians in your area. If the electrical work needing to be done is not on a time crunch or under urgent circumstances, it is good to get at least 3 estimates to compare.

Online sites, such as mybuilder, that allow customers to post jobs and receive quotes from interested tradesmen almost instantly have been a great help in ensuring customers get fair value for money.

Read reviews left by other people who have had work completed by the business being considered to verify the cost of the service provided. When customer reviews compliment workmanship and mention the price being worthwhile, that should speak for itself. If references are available, call or message them. 

It is also essential to be cautious about an electrician who charges too little. Just like verifying the validity of higher costs, the same steps are vital to validating lower prices to ensure you are not stuck with more problems than what you started with. 

Do You Get Quotes From Electricians?

Electricians can provide quotes just as easily as they do estimates. The main thing to remember is that a quote is a fixed price with the potential to be included in a contract, while an estimate is just an educated guess on charges that may occur based on the initial evaluation or inspection. 

Quotes are offered for free when requested, but if a customer accepts a quote, there is typically a fee for the quote added to the final project costs. On the other hand, if the electrician is not accepted for the job, the customer will not be charged for the quote. 

Can You Negotiate With Electricians?

Negotiating with electricians is something anyone can do if they choose to. However, negotiating must be done in advance of any work taking place and it is important to have your information ready before trying to start a negotiation conversation. 

First, request quotes from multiple electricians. Compare the quotes and pick the top ones you are considering for the job. Request a cost breakdown of any quote that you need more information about. Next, research average electrician prices in your area, as well as material costs that are necessary for the project. 

When you are ready to negotiate, be polite. If you have more than one project that needs to be completed, ask if any discounts are available for bundling. Inquire about work guarantees. Ask for a price reduction if you could purchase the materials yourself rather than the electrician. Use the other quotes as a comparison point when applicable. 

More times than not, an electrician will be open-minded and understand the desire to save money when and where possible. Stay reasonable but friendly and use your negotiating skills to get the best deal. Electricians are more than happy when a customer says they will purchase the materials themselves as it saves a lot of hassle.

By researching materials ourselves customers often discover that the cost of materials is far greater than they imagined. Also worth remembering that electricians have lots of specialist tools, such as a test meter, which are extremely expensive to buy and all eat away at any potential profit the electrician can make.

See Also: Do Electricians Plaster After a Rewire?

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has helped to answer the common question of why electricians charge so much but also helped readers find ways that they can save on the costs of hiring a tradesman.

If I could give a final piece of advice it is to make sure when comparing quotes from tradesmen that we are comparing apples with apples. Often if a price is too good to be true it is because they are reducing the price to win the job and then will bill for all the ‘extras’ after the work. Getting multiple quotes from local electricians or using one recommended by family and friends is the safest way forward.

Dave Nicholas

I have worked as a professional electrician for many years and like to use my experience to help others in any little way I can.

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