Buying A Furnace Is Like Buying A Car, Best Unit at the Lowest Price, Right?
The above question is one always encountered in this industry. Many people equate getting the “best furnace at the lowest price” as getting the best “value”. Another way to look at the question is “What is more important, the furnace brand or the dealer?” The reality is that, unlike buying a car, choosing the furnace dealer is a much more critical factor than choosing the furnace brand.
The above question is one always encountered in this industry. Many people equate getting the “best furnace at the lowest price” as getting the best “value”. Another way to look at the question is “What is more important, the furnace brand or the dealer?”
The reality is that, unlike buying a car, choosing the furnace dealer is a much more critical factor than choosing the furnace brand. There are three reasons for this:
Reason #1 – Buying a car requires virtually no installation, and the car itself is 95% of the initial purchase price (the 5% being for dealer prep, etc.) Conversely, buying a furnace requires a very critical installation, and the system itself is only 20-50% of the initial purchase price. In other words, a low bidder can make more money than the most competent dealer by taking a few shortcuts. As a matter of fact it would be better to buy an inferior furnace with a superior installation, than a name-brand furnace with an inferior installation. What problems can an inferior installation cause? To name a few, they are: homeowner safety (gas leaks, electrocution); mold and indoor air quality issues; shortened system lifespan; excessive warranty and repairs; excessive energy consumption; excessive noise; poor airflow, temperature control and other comfort issues; an ugly eyesore in the garage, basement; etc. The reality is with every new system a multitude of things can go wrong in addition to poor workmanship: incorrect system sizing and design; poor venting; poor supply ducting; poor return air; poor combustion air; poor system charging or inlet pressure setting; etc.
Reason #2 – After the car sale you can have any dealer do warranty or service work. Conversely, after the furnace installation you are married to the dealer for 20 years or as long as you stay in the home (whichever comes first). Auto manufacturers will reimburse any licensed dealer for reasonable parts and labor warranty costs because of the economics of the sale (a car costs 10-20 times the price of a furnace) and the fact that the manufacturer does not depend on the dealer for installation. Furnace dealers are pretty much on their own, and even the 10-year parts and labor extended warranties are money losers for the dealer (who are never reimbursed for the full costs of repair). The reality is that service and warranty work done by a different dealer is either a money-losing proposition, or the dealer needs to bulk up a repair estimate to cover lost costs. Because of the overhead costs to keep service trucks on the road, and high incidence of warranty on older systems, service departments are usually money losers. The primary function of a service department is to reward and keep loyal customers, not profit.
Reason #3 – All car dealers are well capitalized so they can afford to hire the best technicians to do excellent warranty and repair work in a timely manner. Low budget furnace dealers typically pay less (and get less) from their technicians. Low budget dealers usually have only 1 (maybe 2) technician to handle the multitude of calls that come in when it gets cold. That means their inferior installations, which have a much higher “no heat” incidence, will have to wait in the cold for up to a week (or the customer must pay overtime rates for priority).
Before you choose the “best furnace at the lowest price” please do your research!
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