5 Common Plumbing Upsells (and if They’re Worth the Money)

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated September 30, 2021
A bright bathoom with a wooden vanity
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Plumbers commonly try to upsell customers on new showerheads, replacing a toilet, or purchasing an energy-efficient tankless water heater

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When a homeowner hires a plumber, it’s usually for a specific problem or routine plumbing maintenance. However, the plumber might suggest some additional services.

This is called an “upsell,” and it's one of the oldest sales tactics that you’ll find in just about any industry. But although you might be wary of upsells in general, that doesn't mean you should turn down one of these offerings. 

Instead, you should understand the benefits of these upsells and whether they make sense for you. Learn some of the most common upsells and if they're worth the money.

Are Plumbing Upsells Worth the Money?

Whether or not a plumbing upsell is worth the money depends on the situation. There’s no reason to automatically bristle at every upsell. Sometimes, a plumber is doing you a favor by offering a service you weren’t even aware you needed. If the upsell isn’t right for you, you can always politely turn it down. And they might have some useful plumbing maintenance tips to go along with it.

Allow the plumber to explain the additional service. Ask questions to determine if it’s right for you. If it’s a low price and the plumber can do the job quickly, consider accepting their expertise and just get it done. 

If it’s a larger upsell and a big project, thank the plumber for the suggestion and ask for some time so you can do your research, as well as figure out if the benefits outweigh the price tag.

5 Most Common Plumbing Upsells

Upsells come in all shapes and sizes, but these are the five most common upsells you can expect from a plumber.

1. Installing Galvanized Pipes

A plumber’s hands in gloves fixing a bathroom’s sink pipes
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Galvanized pipes are better at preventing the buildup of rust, so if you've recently replaced damaged pipes, your plumber might suggest this. It’s an expensive proposal but could save you money in the long run. After all, if you've discovered one bad pipe, you may have to deal with one after another in the coming years.

How to make sure this upsell is worth it: Ask the plumber to show you how extensive the damage is. If they can demonstrate that you're looking at more replacements in the near future, it might be wise to take the plumber's advice.

2. Upgrade to an Energy-Efficient Water Heater

Energy-efficient systems are a big upsell in field services like plumbing. If you have a plumber come take a look at your water heater, don't be surprised if they suggest an energy-efficient model to replace your aging system. This can cost about $1,000 for a standard model, and several thousand dollars for a tankless system.

How to make sure this upsell is worth it: Saving money each year with a tankless water heating system sounds tempting, but even the most generous estimates from Energy Star put annual energy savings at only about $100. This means it could take you decades to recoup your investment.

Still, energy-efficient systems are more environmentally friendly, so if that's your motivation, it could still be worth the investment.

3. Replacing Small Items (Showerheads, Toilet Seats, Etc.)

This might be the most common upsell you're going to get when a plumber pays you a visit. Got an old showerhead? The plumber will have a couple shiny new ones on hand that offer better flow and overall performance (and look nicer). Is your toilet seat broken? The plumber will have spares. Want a sleek new faucet? Plenty of those are available as well.

How to make sure this upsell is worth it: This one's a pretty easy call, as it doesn't take any special knowledge on your part, and it's a pretty low-dollar decision. If you'd like a new showerhead, it's your call on whether it's worth the money. Ask the plumber to show you a few options so you can choose one that most appeals to you.

4. Replacing Large Items (Toilets or Sinks)

The interior of a bathroom with a ceramic toilet
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Sometimes, a plumber will try to upsell you on replacing a large item, such as your toilet. This is pretty common if they come over to fix a persistent problem, like poor flow. Of course, this can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the item.

It may be unavoidable, and you've probably been considering it before the plumber even suggested it. But that doesn't mean you have to agree to a big expenditure like this. You may want a second opinion to see if there could be a more affordable fix, so you can at least delay opening your checkbook until another time.

How to make sure this upsell is worth it: Ask about other options, such as replacing a pipe or making another tweak to fix your issue. Or, if the problem isn't bothering you that much, just turn down the upsell.

However, if the issue has been bothering you and the plumber insists this is the only way to fix it, ask for time to consider the proposal and get a second opinion.

5. Gadgets

Plumbers may try to upsell you on the latest and greatest gadgets, like showerheads that can play music via Bluetooth, or a deodorizing system for your toilet. These generally aren't that expensive and they can be a fun upgrade to your bathroom. 

Obviously, they aren't necessary and just come down to individual preference, so this is a decision you can make on the spot in most cases.

Fix Minor Issues Before They Become Big Problems

If you’ve got a plumbing issue that’s bugging you, don’t hesitate to contact a plumber in your area. What seems to you like a pointless upsell may actually be an advance warning of another major plumbing issue down the road. So listen carefully to your plumber’s expertise, do your own research, and get a second (or third!) opinion to decide what’s best for your home.

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