High fuel prices hurting contractors and consumers

No one wants to pay more at the gas pump, but for contractors who have to spend a lot of time in the truck, fuel spikes can carry a double whammy: they're paying more now just like everyone else, and if they pass those higher costs on, they might lose new jobs.

Angie's List, the nation's premiere provider of consumer reviews on local service companies, surveyed construction trade companies, lawn care specialists and others whose jobs require a lot of driving about how they're reacting to the higher fuel prices.

More than 60 percent of the contractors said they are already responding to the higher costs, with 27 percent passing on the higher gas costs through surcharges or in base rates. Nearly 30 percent of contractors are also passing along increases in the cost of petroleum-based products like paint and asphalt.

"Two years ago when gas prices spiked to more than $4 a gallon, companies said they'd cut back in other areas, operate smarter and even add fuel surcharges," said Angie's List Founder Angie Hicks. "This year, all those things are back on the table, and some contractors are thinking about charging for estimates if the drive to the potential job is a long one."

Hicks advised companies that decide to add service fees or adjust transportation costs to be upfront about it.

"Consumers are paying those same prices at the pump. Most of them will understand," she said. "What they won't like is if you increase prices without explanation."

Angie's List Tips to Save when Gas Prices Peak:

* Know what you're paying for: Insist on itemized charges related to fuel costs so you know exactly what you are paying for.

* Don't get tripped up: 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.

* Be creative: If your contractor – lawn service, dog walker, errand service, housekeeper, or tutor – has more than one customer in your neighborhood, see if you can coordinate service calls to cut down on your contractor's fuel costs, and minimize the pass-through.

* Prioritize: 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.

* Comparison shop: If you're just getting started on your project, add fuel cost questions to your list of things to ask about, and don't be afraid to negotiate.

Angie's List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than one million consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie's List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie's List magazine and help from the Angie's List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie's List and view the latest Angie's List news .

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