I started requesting estimates last November. The town is a smidge remote, but the first guy took 6 weeks and came back with a stunning estimate of $13,000. Having had similar work done before, I knew that was at least 400% too high. The next guy provided a $1200 estimate for the same work. Probably too low, but if the final bill was twice that, it was still a deal. SOLD.
Went to the location a few days ahead of their arrival date to prepare the yard for the impending trauma. Got a message that they were having equipment problems and would be a day late. A day turned into a week, but they finally arrived. The crew was great. They worked neatly and efficiently, one man in the air with a chainsaw (bucket truck on a 60 foot boom) and the other 2 hauled the trimmings for a chipper/shredder. They were careful to check with me re: which branches to cut, where I wanted the mulch piles, etc.. The man in the bucket was nice about not dropping chunks of tree on other trees or structure roofs.
Overall I was very pleased with the work, despite getting the unplanned extra week of 'vacation.' There are a few things that I will pass a long:1. Decide what your potential liabilities are before you make the decision to do it yourself or pay someone else to do work. The more dangerous the job, the wiser it is to hire experts.
2. If the problem requiring the work potentially endangers the lives of others, start early to get the problem taken care of.
3. Where possible, ask for several estimates from different providers at the same time. The first guy I asked for an estimate knew I wanted the work done in February and dragged his feet thinking I'd accept his insane price because he had me in some time crunch. I really didn't want to wait until April, but wasn't willing to pay a 95% premium to the bum.
4. Hire licensed, bonded companies for dangerous work. If not, YOU are the employer and may end up paying for worker's compensation or the neighbor's house if YOUR employee goofs up. It may cost you an extra few hundred, but it may save you tens of thousands.
Bottom line: It is always more frugal to pay a bit more to get something done right than to lose everything to save a few bucks.