We had three bids to repair the wall that the termites had eviscerated. All three of the contractors we called are registered with the Better Business Bureau with no complaints, and we knew people who had used all three of them for one thing or another. We were both pleased and disappointed with their bids. The highest bid was about what we had expected the lowest bid to be, but there was still quite a bit of price differential. We didn't want to go with the lowest bid on price alone. (Well, we did, but we were a little scared to.) At the same time, we didn't want to go with the high bid and assume that the quality of work would be equally high.
Because of the radical price difference, we felt certain that a couple of the contractors were leaving something out, so we started comparing the quotes and asking questions. Two of the companies went into great detail to tell us how much work was actually involved and what problems they expected to encounter along the way. The third seemed to be fairly confident about the whole job. When we brought up the problems the other two had postulated, he proposed a very workable solution for each one that made the problem seem like much less of an ordeal. These issues were not matters of building code or safety, but cosmetics and simplicity.
Two of the contractors were reacting to what they initially saw and what their immediate thoughts were about the situation. They weren't really putting themselves out to find a different way to address the issues; their first impulse about the way to solve the problem was good enough. Maybe that's because they wouldn't be paying for them. The third contractor was a little more savvy. The challenges that would go along with this job had simple solutions, they just required a little creativity and a willingness to think about the possibilities before relegating oneself to a single answer. His attitude assured us that, if unforeseen problems arose, this guy would take a step back and figure out a reasonable way to address them. The other two could spend a lot of time and money trying to make things work the way they thought things had to work.
In the end, we decided to go with the cheapest of the bids we received, but it had little to do with money. We could afford any of the bids, truth be told. The bottom line was that we trusted in a particular contractor's creativity.