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How To Spot the Cowboy Driveway Companies

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 11 Jan 2017 | comments*Discuss
Cowboys Driveway Professional Drive Home

In a previous article, we went through the process that should ensure you find a contractor who is reputable and can offer guarantees that are worth the paper they are written on (see Using Professionals For Work On Your Driveway. In this article, we focus more on the ways that you can spot the cowboys – the people who will do a poor quality job and don't rectify it when you discover the faults.

Don't Deal on the Doorstep

Never deal with anyone who just knocks on the door and offers to do your drive, just because they just happen to have some spare tarmac or concrete left over from a job down the road. This is a sure sign of cowboys, and even if they're telling the truth about the work down the road, there'll be no comeback if the job isn't done well, because it will have been unofficial.

It's more likely that it's a ruse and they will have moved on before your drive has set properly, leaving you a mobile phone number that rings unobtainable and a driveway headache. You can usually get rid of these people by asking for written quotes, If they are reluctant, then you've probably identified some cowboys.

Beware of Scant Details

Speaking of mobile numbers, beware of people who will only give out a mobile number and seem reluctant to give out a landline number or an address. This means that they don't have an office or a depot and, although many companies can be run from home perfectly legitimately, it's unlikely that a competent driveway professional would be able to do so.

Keep an Eye Out

Keep an eye on the local press and local news websites as well. If there are gangs of cowboys in the area, then this is often reported. Some Trading Standards divisions will put notices in papers and on their own websites if there is something fishy going on in the area, but many others do not. Some will comment on names of firms who are under scrutiny, but again others will not. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be consistency across the UK.

If you are interested in a particular driveway product, ask the manufacturer or distributor for some recommendations. At the same time ask them what amount of effort they put into vetting members, and what guarantees they can offer if there are problems.

In our article about using professionals to do this work we stress that (as with any other job on the home) you should Get At Least Three Written Quotes and immediately dismiss any companies who won't provide one. They're cowboys or they aren't interested in doing the work, and either way you don't want them anywhere near your home.

Getting Quotes: Ask Difficult Questions

Assuming you've got to the point of seeing companies on your short list to get quotes and assess them, it's time to ask the tricky questions. Are they members of any professional organisation? There isn’t any regulation of companies involved in controlling driveways and path building, but membership of a professional body at least means they have been in the same place for a while.

Real cowboys simply won't bother with enrolling or they will say they have when they haven't. So check with the trade body that they are actually registered, how long they have been members, and how stringent their vetting process is.

Ask about insurance and guarantees, too. They should have a minimum of one million pounds worth of public liability insurance. If you are asked to pay a deposit, it should be no more than 10% of the total quoted price and you should get a receipt.

Keep On Asking the Questions

Let's face it, if cowboys really want to rip you off, there's a lot they can do to make themselves and their business look genuine. But if you follow the advice in this article and our other one on selecting a professional driveway company, then the cowboys are more likely to be put off and go in search of easier prey.

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Hi, Me and my neighbour are looking to have our driveways done together, we have decided to go with one company but they want 25% deposit from both me and my neighbour to book the work in. The combined total of the two two driveways is circa £9k. What do you think the level of the deposit?
saf - 11-Jan-17 @ 10:54 PM
My tarmac driveway is 37years old and is still reasonably OK but has lots of loose stones from the tarmac. I want it refurbished and several contactors have said that it only needs a layover of new tarmac. Does this mean just placing a layer of new tarmac over the old one? Should the old tarmac be removed and then new tarmac placed on top of the base to get a good result?
Billconnor - 14-Oct-16 @ 4:07 PM
I have been completely duped by what I thought was a reputable company.I agreed with them to widen my driveway and lay the same square pavers.I agreed a price of £2000.They dug up my lawn at the front of the house and took out the large edging pavers and I thought everything was going well.Then one of the owners of the company suddenly arrived and said that the pavers were no longer available.He said that my only option was to stop the work or pay £5500 to have a new driveway laid. He was threatening to move his men on to a new job.The driveway was in a complete mess at this time and I hurriedly agreed to what he said.He showed me some picture of driveways he had laid and I chose one.However, since it has been laid there are problems with the driveway.For the first few days the driveway appeared OK.However 5 months on it appears to me that bricks have been used that are cracking and breaking.The colour of the bricks is no where near the colour I originally chose and they show a lot of white particularly were they are breaking. After the driveway was completed the owner of the company talked me into letting him renovate my garage.I am pleased to say that I realised this was a mistake as he had no idea about how to put the roof on and I stopped him doing the work and got someone else to do it.My problem now is the driveway.What can I do I am reluctant to get back in touch with the company on my own without some form of independent appraisal of the work.
millie - 25-Aug-16 @ 10:30 AM
I think you need to update your article on spotting a cowboy.For example there are hundreds of travellers around who pick up homeless/vulnerable people promise them the world and work them like slaves on there paving and Tarmac scams.These people are members of trustatrader,rated people,my builder,checkatrade.Also a lot of them are ltd companies which anyone can become.They advertise on yell have there own websites and some are members of Marshall,Brett,bradstone so the point is the public need to be made aware that these cowboys who are interested in taking money of the customer not the quality of the job they are doing nor the health and saftey of there workforce/slaves or how much they pay/give back into society via tax are becoming more sophisticated at scamming us Regards Public be aware
horse - 24-Dec-15 @ 9:20 AM
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