Specialists in protective suits do disinfection or pest control in the apartment.

Pest Control vs. Exterminators – Differences and When to Hire (2022)

By Sarah Horvath

What is the difference between pest control professionals and exterminators? When it comes to pest control versus exterminators, there are more differences than you might think. We have grown familiar with the idea that they are one and the same and we even tend to use the two terms interchangeably. However, while the goal (eradicating pests in the home or property) of both types of professionals is the same, the method and the results are often very different.

Not sure if you need a pest control company or an exterminator in your home? Before you spend any of your hard-earned money, be sure that you’re getting the right service with our guide to pest control vs. exterminators.

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What’s the Difference Between Pest Control and Exterminators?

When you call an exterminator, chances are you have a serious infestation of some sort of pest in your home, be that bed bugs, cockroaches, wasps, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, or even termites. These companies come to your home with the goal and intention of simply eradicating all unwanted life in your home.

When it comes to using an exterminator, they don’t usually address the root of the problem, and the overwhelming insecticides used to eliminate unwanted pests are usually a temporary solution to the overarching problem. They may use techniques that completely kill off all unwanted pests, rather than ones that find ways to remove them safely and humanely or by using pesticides that are safe for your home. As a general rule, when you hire an exterminator, it’s because you’ve got an active pest infestation that’s already causing serious damage to your home or affecting your life in some major way.

On the other hand, when you hire a company that specializes in pest control services, begin with a cursory inspection to see what type of pest you have in your home. This helps the pest control service determine the specific breed or type of pest on the property to determine the best route to remove it or kill it. From here, they will use pest control products that will provide long-term solutions to your pest issues and be safe for you and your family and take preventive measures to make sure that the pest problem does not return. Even if you don’t have an active pest problem in your home, pest control companies can help create a perimeter treatment to prevent common pests in your area from entering your home. 

What Pest Control Services Include

Many pest control experts offer a multi-faceted approach to eliminating pests for concerned homeowners. For pest control specialists, the approach is all about cutting off pest infestation at the source, eradicating or humanely removing what pests are currently inhabiting your home, and then taking preventive measures so that you don’t have to worry about your pest problem returning. You also won’t have to worry about other types of pests taking up residence in your home in the first place if you have multiple hazardous species lurking near your house.  

Pest control companies also often provide subscriptions to certain services, like quarterly inspections for termites, termite control, rodent inspections, and cockroach prevention. You can sign up for quarterly inspections and treatments with most pest control companies, but you can also book on a monthly basis for more serious pest problems. During these services, pest control specialists will often seal up entry points for pests, look for maintenance issues that need repair (for example, standing water on your property that might be attracting animals), and stop any pest infestation before it starts.

Along with treating the root cause of the issue, pest control services use more environmentally friendly materials to treat homes for pest infestations. The materials used are also better for the health and safety of kids and pets, as they may not intend to always kill the animals they’re targeting. These natural methods can include pesticides made from chrysanthemums or diatomaceous earth, each of which is harmless to humans. If you’re concerned about the use of harsh chemicals in your yard or you’re looking for a more humane way to get rid of pests, you might want to contact a pest control service over an exterminator. 

This is all part of an initiative that’s been around for decades called “integrated pest management,” or IPM. IPM is all about using less environmentally harmful chemicals as well as techniques of pest management and pest removal that are in line with protecting nature and species that are essential to our communities.

What Exterminator Services Include

It’s all in the name: exterminators provide pest extermination and pest elimination services. When you hire an extermination company, you can expect intense measures of pest removal, such as fumigation. For these types of services, you and your family must vacate your home while these processes take place due to the chemical nature of the pesticides used for fumigation and roach bombing. As a result, these methods are usually more damaging and more expensive when compared to the services and options offered by pest control services. However, once your home infestation reaches a certain level of severity, you might have no option but to choose extermination. 

One thing that exterminator services lack that pest control services almost always offer is a satisfaction guarantee. Normally when you pay for extermination services, if you notice more pest activity at your home, they are not obligated to come back free of charge to provide more services. It’s typically a one-size-fits-all pest elimination, and if pests return, even a short time after the exterminator provides their services, there are no strings attached saying that they need to come back to perform another treatment.

When Should You Use an Exterminator vs. Pest Control?

If you need an immediate and powerful fix to your pest problem, call an exterminator. However, be aware that once the extermination services are completed, exterminators are under no contractual obligation whatsoever to make sure that the pests stay eliminated. This means that even if you receive a termite or cockroach elimination service, within a few months to a few years, those troublesome insects can come back. Be sure to take preventive measures after you get your extermination services to prevent the need for an additional house call.

It’s usually a good idea to immediately choose an exterminator when you’re dealing with a pest that’s causing active damage to your property. For example, in the case of amazingly destructive pest infestations like subterranean or drywood termites, exterminators can be your best option. Termites need to be dealt with quickly and efficiently as soon as you find out you have a problem, or they can cause continued structural damage to your property. This means that your best course of action is to take drastic measures proportional to the destruction the pests are causing. 

If you do find yourself needing a major and immediate solution to your severe pest infestation, you could use an exterminator to eradicate all or most of the pests first. You could then hire a pest control company to determine the cause of the infestation, prevent the insects (or rodents) from returning, and help you come up with preventive techniques and solutions to stay pest-free. It can be a team effort and a long-term solution to an annoying in-home problem. 

When your pest problem is not severe but simply a nuisance, or you know that it’s currently a small issue but has the potential to turn into a big one, a pest control service is your best bet. They will do a comprehensive inspection of your home and property and come up with a customized plan to best fit your pest control needs. Not all vermin and not all homes are the same, and different families have different needs as well, so you might want to talk with multiple pest control companies before you make your choice and book service. 

What is the Cost Difference Between Pest Control and Exterminators?

An exterminator typically visits only once per service, and these visits can range from $300 to $700, depending on the type of pest and the intensity of the infestation. For example, rat or termite extermination is on the pricier end of the spectrum. If you have a severe rat infestation, you might pay more than $1,000 for extermination services. Pests that are easier to eradicate, like fruit flies or mosquitoes, are less expensive to remove. You might pay less than $100 for a quick fruit fly treatment from a nationwide extermination company like Terminix.   

Because most pest control services are subscription-based, they can range from $100 to $300 per visit, and these visits are performed about once every four months. Pest control companies will send professionals back out to your home free of charge if the pests come back quickly after the treatment. They usually come with a satisfaction guarantee that provides continuous, year-round protection so long as your plan is active. This can make pest control services a more economic option if you have multiple stubborn pests plaguing your property. 

Both exterminators and pest control companies should provide you with free quotes; you should only have to pay when you sign a service agreement. However, some pest control companies have a consultation fee for the first visit or discussion, but this is waived should you sign up for a subscription. You should expect single-visit exterminators to provide you with pricing before any treatments or services are applied. 

Final Thoughts

Though both pest control services and exterminators help you enjoy a safer and more livable home environment, these companies use different treatment methods to reach this shared goal. If you have a pest problem that’s making your home inhabitable (like a severe termite or rat and rodent infestation) or seriously putting your health in jeopardy, don’t hesitate to contact an extermination service. Exterminators use harsh chemicals to clear out your home, but they work quickly — a key consideration when your health is at risk.

If the pests in your home are more of a nuisance than a health hazard, you’ll typically want to choose a pest control service. Pest control services are more affordable than exterminators, and they focus on finding long-term solutions to recurring mild or moderate pest problems. Instead of the harsh chemicals used by fumigation companies and exterminators, pest control services might employ natural methods and substances to discourage pest activity. Though these natural solutions often take longer to go into effect, they’re better in the long term for both your health and the health of your lawn. 

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