Charges for Diagnostic Work

Diagnosis is a service that tradespeople ask to be paid for

Why tradespeople charge for diagnosis.
(And why it differs from a call out charge)

By diagnostic work we mean work carried out using tools, skills, experience, qualifications and training to identify the source or cause of a problem. For example; a boiler that is not working, a door entry system that is not releasing, a bathroom that is leaking or a light that is not coming on.

The repair itself is something different and is not included in the above definition.In order to do any repair a tradesperson (anyone) must first find out what the cause of the problem is.

Why, though, do tradespeople charge for diagnosis and not just the repair? 

  • To stay in business
    • If a tradesperson did not charge for diagnostic work and simply provided estimates for repairs once a diagnosis had been done they could spend their entire time traveling around diagnosing faults and never be paid for their work.
  • Diagnosis is a service
    • Any professional providing a service charges for that service; mountain guides, doctors, lawyers, fitness instructors, psychologists, car mechanics and so on.
    • This service comes without a guarantee of results; a lawyer can’t guarantee to win your case, a doctor can’t guarantee to make you better, a fitness instructor can’t guarantee to get you fit, a mountain guide can’t guarantee to get you to the top of a mountain.
    • However, they will all try their best and expect to be paid for the service they provide.
  • Use of skills, tools, experience etc.
    • When calling a tradesperson to repair a fault it is reasonable to expect that they will have skills, tools and qualifications not possessed by a layperson. Otherwise we’d self diagnose and repair
    • Tools, skills, experience and qualifications all have a cost to the tradesperson that needs to be covered when they are used.
  • Repairs are easy, the skill is in diagnosis
    • Most of the time carrying out a repair is proportionally a smaller part of the job than diagnosing the fault.
    • If tradespeople were only to charge for repairs they would not be charging when their skills are most in use and would need to charge exorbitant repair rates to make a living.

Can a tradesperson provide a quote for a repair?


However, they can’t provide a quote to diagnose.  Diagnosis, in any profession, is not an exact science.

We believe that tradespeople should tell you what the potential costs might be for diagnosis. They should also explain how they will approach the diagnosis.

They cannot, however, provide a guaranteed (i.e. quoted) price to make a repair until they have spent time diagnosing the problem.

A fault could simply be a wire in the wrong place or it could be a whole fuse board gone wrong. Each of these will cost different amounts to repair (and potentially to diagnose)

More often than not faults and problems can be diagnosed AND repaired within one hour. When this is the case tradespeople will usually apply their minimum charge. (See “Why tradespeople make a minimum charge”)

How to avoid paying a tradesperson for diagnostic work

  1. Tell the tradesperson exactly what is wrong / causing the malfunction
  2. Specify exactly what needs to be done (including parts required) to resolve it.

A tradesperson will then be able to provide a quote which can be accepted or rejected.

If the repair quote is accepted and the self-diagnosis proves to be wrong payment would still be required for the labour and parts, plus there’d still be an unresolved problem.

There’s a difference between a “Call-out Charge” and a charge for diagnostic work

A call out charge is a charge for time spent travelling to the job. It will usually be charged in addition to any work done.

It is worth knowing that from a legal perspective, a customer need only pay this if they have been told in advance that a call-out charge applies.

What else is worth knowing about diagnostic work & charges?

  • The majority of times diagnostic work and the repair are completed within one hour (See “Why Tradespeople make a minimum charge”)
  • Diagnostic work is a process of elimination. The first thing tried by a tradesperson may not always work. However, as noted above, a service will still have been provided and would have a charge applied.
  • When diagnostic work reveals a significant problem a tradesperson should always – in HomeForce’s opinion – advise the customer of potential costs to make a repair before progressing.
  • ALWAYS ensure you understand a tradesperson’s charging structure before asking them to undertake diagnostic work.
  • Some companies charge a set fee for a “diagnostic / trace and repair” job. Usually this is quite a significant amount. For example, we recently heard of a company charging a £240+VAT set fee for a dishwasher issue. This amount included the diagnostic visit, cost of any part required and of fitting it. Good value if it was a major part to be replaced, not such good value if a fuse needed replacing.
  • Service Agreements – with, for example utilities companies or appliance manufacturers – are one way to avoid charges for diagnostic work. However, over the course of a year, service charges may add up to more than a payment made as and when a fault occurs.
  • Tradespeople will, more often than not, want to carry out their own diagnosis rather than rely on someone else’s. If the fault is not fixed customers usually hold the last tradesperson present liable. Therefore tradespeople would rather rely on their own skills than someone unknown to them.

What about “Free Estimates”?

Not every job requires diagnostic work.

Sometimes what needs to be done is obvious or can be sufficiently explained by a customer.

In these instances there would be no charge for diagnostic work (or a call out fee) and a free estimate would be provided.

Arrange a diagnostic visit from an accredited, reliable tradesperson – who does not make call out charges