We all know that calling an emergency plumber isn’t cheap.

But it could be even worse than you think, with research revealing that plumbers are upping their hourly rate by an average of 117% for a call out.

And some are quoting as much as £300 plus VAT just to turn up – before any parts and materials are needed, the research from Direct Line Home Insurance found.

Escape of water is the highest claimed peril by value that insurers cover, which gives an indication of the extent of damage it can cause

Morgan Simpson, home emergency response manager, Direct Line
An atom of type quote lives here

Direct Line, which polled 102 plumbers across the country, said with a burst pipe leading to a potential 30 gallons of water escaping in as little as two minutes, water issues need a lightning quick response.

But homeowners could find themselves stung if they haven’t checked a plumber’s prices before they call them out.

According to Direct Line, four in 10 (42%) plumbers have a minimum charge that can be up to 500% higher than their quoted hourly rate.

One plumber in Caterham had an hourly rate of just £25+VAT, but a minimum charge of £150+VAT for each job attended, no matter what the job.

The research found it’s not just emergency call-outs that could hit the bank balance, with almost half (48%) of plumbers upping their hourly rate during unsociable hours to an average of 112% of their normal rate.

Nearly half of plumbers were found to have upped their hourly rate during unsociable hours to 112% of their normal rate. Image by Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com

Morgan Simpson, Direct Line home emergency response manager, said: “Escaping water can cause huge damage to a home and neighbouring properties extremely quickly.

“A burst pipe or leaking water tank can cause thousands of pounds of damage in a short space of time.

“Escape of water is the highest claimed peril by value that insurers cover, which gives an indication of the extent of damage it can cause.

“If you don’t have emergency cover with your insurer there is the temptation to call the first plumber you can find, but you may discover even if the hourly rate quoted is low they have an expensive minimum call out rate or emergency call out surcharge.”

Direct Line said consumers can expect to pay an average of £101 for a burst pipe and £133 for a leaking water tank, but that’s before VAT and any extra costs like travel that they might get charged.

The company said its Home Plus service, which includes emergency plumber cover, could help people save money.

The service, which has no excess, makes sure a plumber attends a customer’s property within three hours. Direct Line will pay up to £500 (including VAT) for emergency assistance to cover the cost of the call-out, labour and parts.