All told, we received three estimates from local A/C installers. The first estimate came from the folks who'd always handled our maintenance contract on the old A/C system. They're a Lennox dealer, and wanted almost $8k for the job.
The second estimate came in at $6,600. This dealer specialized in Luxaire system, but priced me a Carrier system also. I had a bit of a preference for Carrier anyway, and the price difference between the two was only about $400. (Luxaire being cheaper, but not really a brand I was considering.)
The third estimate came from a smaller, newer (6+ years old) company based in OKC. They're a factory-authorized Carrier dealer, and their estimator quoted us just under $6,100. On a personal note, I felt much more at ease with this guy — no "Just trust me: Our brand is way better than all the others!" stuff. And he simply seemed much more down-to-earth and practical. Additionally, he picked up on two not-up-to-code electrical items that the other guys missed (or just didn't bother telling me about). I definitely got the feeling that he'd had a great deal of hands-on experience in the field. About the only thing that he didn't have, which I would've liked to see, were some photographs of previous A/C system installs that his company had done.
In the end, the third, smaller company earned our business. The installation took most of a day for the two-man team. (One of which, it turns out, was the guy who'd given us the estimate; he apparently had to fill in for someone else.)
The new Carrier system has been up and running for four days now. I never realized how noisy our old system was until I heard the new one — both the indoor and outdoor components are much MUCH quieter. Visually, at least, the quality of the new installation is worlds better than what was done for our old Comfortmaker: Now I won't open the door to our gas furnace and cringe. Nor will I need to use two intertwined wire coathangers to hold down the air filter. (Which isn't terribly effective, by the way. It never ceases to amaze me just how cheaply and half-assed people can do jobs, especially very important jobs, when they really want to.)
So, in the end, our household savings are now $6,100 lighter ... for a start. That, plus the four new tires required by my Nissan truck ($366), means that August has been an awfully expensive month for us. Thank goodness for savings, right?
Follow-up on my "Dave Ramsey and Car Payments" post:
I also think it's worth noting here that had we followed strict Dave Ramsey advice and used all but $1k of our savings to pay down our auto loan (@ ~4%) back in June, we'd be in a more difficult position right now. Obviously, if we'd thrown all our savings at the loan, then we wouldn't have had the liquid funds available to pay for the A/C system. Most likely, I'd have been forced to use one of the handful of 3-4% limited-time credit card offers which currently resides in my "To Be Shredded" pile of paperwork. I'm paying interest one way or another, but in my feeble little brain, having the cash available to pay for the A/C system outright feels much better.