True story: A homeowner, ready to build their country dream home, hired the contractor that came in with the lowest bid. As preparations for move-in day were being made, the homeowner asked when they would see their 225-foot concrete driveway constructed. "Oh, you'd like us to build the driveway also?" replied their contractor, "Our original estimate was only to build your house."
Like every industry, the A/V business has plenty of wanna-be's and start-ups who will price your A/V work at bargain prices just so they can turn a dollar. I've been in this business long enough to have to go behind their work later when frustrated homeowners call us because they can't find their original installer. In short, they're hoping we can make the substandard workmanship sparkle. Mostly, it can't be done--not without making considerable changes to get them the performance they originally envisioned.
To save yourself an unexpected "hit" in the future, here are some guidelines to help you get the best value for your money at the outset of your A/V installation.
1. Strictly define the scope of work. In nearly every case, the real difference in pricing is in what different A/V companies are proposing the scope of work should entail. Have everyone stick with the original scope of work so you can compare apples with apples. Then, if an audio-video integrator recommends additional work to better round out your system, have them present that as a separate proposal.
2. What is being left out? There is a significant difference between being priced a stripped-down version of what you think you want versus a version that may offer better equipment with perhaps better warranties AND capacity for future expansion. Growing your system later need not require the future expense of replacing perfectly good components when you could have gone with something more than the "just enough" model.