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Obviously, just because someone bids a low price on your system doesn't mean they're a thief and they're going to do shoddy work. There are a lot of differences in the way companies are run that may have a huge impact on the cost of your system.
There are basically 3 kinds of companies you can call to replace your system. The first is the large nationwide company like Sears, Montgomery Ward, or your local utility. With these companies, you know they're stable and they should be around for a long time. Unfortunately, they almost always use the dreaded subcontractors, who are usually chosen because they do the work for the lowest price! Their only real concern on your job is to get done as quickly as possible and move on. These big companies may not be as responsive to your service needs as a local company might be.
The tiny "mom and pop" type company can usually give you a lower price than almost anyone else (they have very little overhead to cover) but what about training, new technologies, and advanced equipment? As with anything, there are exceptions to the rule, but the fact of the matter is that a lot of these companies don't have the necessary equipment to do the job right (like refrigerant reclamation machines) and may not even be licensed or bonded (they work at your risk). You also can't tell where they'll be in a year or two or even in a week or two. If you need service, they're often booked up for days at a time because there's just one or two people running service calls. I wouldn't recommend using one of these companies unless you just absolutely have to have the lowest price and you're willing to take the risk that accompanies that decision.
The third type of company would be a medium to large sized local service company. They usually have anywhere from 5 to 50 service trucks on the road and are geared more toward quick, efficient service and sales. It may cost a little more to do business with this type of company, but if you do your homework (see Choosing the Right Company), you may be better off than you would be with the other two alternatives.
The medium-sized company that's been around for a while can usually provide better, faster service. If they've been in business for 15 or 20 years or more, they're probably pretty stable.
Remember, quick response is everything when it comes to your heating or air conditioning. Make sure whomever you choose can be there when you need them.