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What Is the Cost to Pump a Septic Tank?

Pumping a septic tank costs homeowners an average of $400 but typically ranges from $225–$600. See which factors will impact your total cost.

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Septic tank cover underground waste treatment system

Author Image Written by Brenda Woods + 1 other Reviewer Icon Reviewed by: Mark Howey Updated 07/10/2024

If your home isn’t connected to a municipal sewer system, there’s a good chance your wastewater is collected and filtered by a septic tank. To ensure this tank continues to work properly, you’ll need to have it pumped to clear out solid waste from time to time. This isn’t a DIY job, so you’ll need to hire a professional. Prepare your budget by learning about the average costs for septic tank pumping below.

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Typical Price Range: $225 – $600
Emptying household septic tank. Cleaning sludge from septic system.
Septic Tank Pumping

The average cost to pump a septic tank ranges between $225 and $600.

Septic tank cover underground waste treatment system
Septic Tank Inspection

Septic tank inspections range from $150–$450.

septic tank installation cost
Septic Tank Repairs

Depending on the type of repair, you can expect to pay $600–$3,000.


What Are Signs a Septic Tank Is Full?

While your regular inspection should indicate whether it’s time to pump your septic tank, you should contact a septic tank contractor if you notice the following signs:

  • Foul odors are coming from the tank itself or your home’s drains.
  • There’s standing water in your yard.
  • You notice clogs or slow-draining sinks or toilets.
  • Grass over the drain field is growing more quickly than in surrounding areas.
  • The scum level in the tank is within six inches of the bottom of the outlet pipe.

Septic tank inspections can be done regularly, but it’s usually more cost-effective to simply have them pumped every three to five years. Basic inspections, after all, cost only marginally less than having the service performed in full.

How Much Does It Cost to Pump a Septic Tank?

The average cost to pump a septic tank is about $400, though the price can range between $225–$600 for most residential tanks. You’ll have the following factors to consider when determining your overall septic tank pumping cost:

  • Size of the tank: Residential septic tanks range in capacity from 750–1,500 gallons.
  • Location: Where you live affects the cost of home services, including septic tank pumping. Both the distance traveled to your house and the number of miles to the nearest sewage treatment facility will play a role.
  • Amount of labor: Expect to pay more if multiple workers are required to properly service your septic tank.

Cost to Pump a Septic Tank Per Gallon

As you might expect, larger septic tanks hold more waste and take longer to clear. You won’t need to have them pumped as often, though. Overall, septic tank pumping tends to cost between $0.23 and $0.40 per gallon.

Cost to Pump a Septic Tank by Size

The minimum recommended tank size for a home is usually 1,000 gallons, though you might occasionally come across a 750-gallon tank for a one-bedroom home. Likewise, a 1,500-gallon tank is usually big enough for a large home with up to five bedrooms, so it’s rare, but possible, to find a tank larger than that. Most homes use a 1,000- or 1,250-gallon tank.

Tank Size (gallons)Cost











Cost to Pump a Septic Tank by Location

As with most home services, costs will vary depending on where you live. If the cost of living is high in your ZIP code, it’ll cost more to pump your septic tank. Here are some estimates for septic tank pumping in several cities across the country.


Boise, ID


Concord, NH


Denver, CO


Jacksonville, FL


Little Rock, AR


Long Island, NY


Milwaukee, WI


Minneapolis, MN


Phoenix, AZ


Portland, OR


Cost to Pump Septic Tank by Frequency

It’s usually most cost-effective to wait until your septic tank is almost full to pump it. Ideally, you’ll have a septic company perform an inspection on the tank at least once every three years. The technician will gauge the tank’s scum and sludge levels and tell you if it’s time to hire a pumping service.

To increase the amount of time before your septic tank needs to be pumped, seek out biodegradable cleaners listed as “septic safe.”

DIY Cost to Pump Septic Tank

You won’t find much information about DIY septic tank pumping, as it would require pumping, waste storage, and transportation equipment that isn’t available to rent. You would also need to properly dispose of the waste or risk significant fines. It’s easier, cheaper, and safer to hire a professional septic service.

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How Does a Septic Tank Work?

If your home has a conventional septic tank, all the wastewater from your fixtures and appliances flows through your pipes and into the tank. Solids, called sludge, settle at the bottom of the tank, while oil and grease, called scum, rise to the top. Bacteria in the tank slowly break down some of this waste over time. The rest of the liquids, called effluent, flow out of pipes and into your yard’s drain field. There, effluent gets filtered through gravel and dirt, which eventually cleans it enough to safely join the rest of the groundwater.

When the system is working normally, the bacteria will break down some of the sludge and scum, but eventually, buildup will fill the tank. This is the solid waste that must be pumped out. There are alternative septic systems that break down or distribute the effluent differently—for example, aerobic systems or chamber systems—but they all have tanks that must eventually be pumped.

What Are the Main Cost Factors to Pumping a Septic Tank?

The main factors that contribute to septic tank pumping costs are related to how much wastewater and solid waste is in the tank and how well you maintain the system. The following factors affect the overall cost:

  • Usage: The more people who live in your home, the more often you’ll need the septic tank pumped. Additionally, the more often you entertain, do laundry or use the garbage disposal, the faster your tank will fill up.
  • Efficiency: Activities like parking your car on your leach field—aka your septic tank draining field—and putting grease down the sink can clog or reduce the efficiency of the system.
  • Maintenance: A well-maintained system will be more efficient and take longer to fill up, meaning it will need to be pumped less frequently.

What Are Septic Tank Maintenance Costs?

In addition to pumping, other types of maintenance and repair keep septic systems running smoothly. The first is a regular inspection, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends you have done at least once every three years. These cost $150–$450, and will let you know if further steps are necessary.

In most cases, a properly installed septic tank will have sufficient bacteria to break down scum and sludge. If this changes—for example, if a toxic substance gets into the tank—you may need to add enzymes. Fortunately, this is rare, and research from Kansas State’s Agricultural Extension Program shows that hardware store additives that promise to reduce the amount of necessary pumping are ineffective and potentially harmful. A professional can tell you if additives, which can cost between $20 and $200, are really needed.
Pumping the tank and cleaning it are two different processes. As long as your system is functioning normally, you don’t need to clean the tank. The septic tank filter, on the other hand, does need to be cleaned every three to five years, usually at the same time the tank is pumped. Good filtration prevents blockages and keeps effluent—that is, liquid waste or sewage—moving through the system. Typically, filter cleaning is included in septic tank pumping costs, but it’s a good idea to confirm this with your pumping service. If it’s not included, it typically costs an additional $100–$200.
As with pumping, other cleaning methods are best left to the professionals. Some clogs may necessitate the use of chemical cleaners like sodium hydroxide or sulfuric acid, which can damage the tank if misused. Similarly, complicated problems like tree roots in sewer lines around the tank may require hydrojetting of those pipes, which requires specialized machinery. The cost for hydrojetting is usually around $250–$300.
If the professional conducting your inspection notices a problem with the way your septic tank system is operating, you’ll need to pay to repair it. These repair costs vary significantly depending on the problem. Replacing pipes, lids, or risers may cost less than $100, but something like loosening compacted soil around the drain field can cost thousands of dollars.

Should You DIY vs. Professional Septic Tank Pumping?

DIY septic tank pumping isn’t a viable option. In addition to the equipment you’d need, you’d end up with a large amount of biohazardous waste that would have to be transported and disposed of according to EPA guidelines. Septic tanks also create methane gas, which is both a suffocation and fire hazard.

How To Save Money on Septic Tank Pumping

Since you can’t cut costs by pumping your septic tank yourself, here are some other ways you can save money:

  • Use less water, which will give your septic system more time to break down waste. You can do this by using high-efficiency appliances, fixing leaky faucets promptly, and waiting until you have a full load’s worth of dirty clothes to do laundry.
  • Spread loads of laundry throughout the week instead of using washing machines multiple times in one day.
  • Keep septic tank lids clear and uncover them before the technician arrives to cut down on labor costs. Requiring the work crew to perform this service on their own could in some cases double the price to pump a septic tank.
  • Don’t flush anything other than waste and toilet paper. Put paper towels, cigarette butts, feminine hygiene products, diapers, and dental floss in the trash.
  • Don’t put grease, coffee grounds, cooking oil, toxic cleaners, chemical drain cleaner, bleach, or oil-based solvents down the drain.
  • Limit your use of the garbage disposal or remove it completely.

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How To Hire a Professional to Pump Your Septic Tank

There are plenty of plumbers, roto-rooters, and septic tank services that will pump a full septic tank. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing among them:

  • Get written estimates from at least three different technicians. Make sure you know what is included in the price (e.g., filter cleaning).
  • If you have a septic tank, your neighbors likely do, too, so ask them for recommendations.
  • Check the company’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) page to see how long it’s been in business, whether it’s accredited, and how the BBB rates it.
  • Check online review sites like Yelp, TrustPilot, and Google Reviews to see what previous customers have to say.
  • If you have a home warranty with septic coverage, contact your warranty provider.

Our Conclusion

Pumping your septic tank every three to five years is a necessary part of owning a home with a septic system. It’s not a DIY project, but proper maintenance, including regular pumping, can help prevent more expenses like the cost of a sewer line replacement. You can enter your ZIP code below to be contacted by local providers who work on septic systems.

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Typical Price Range: $225 – $600

FAQ About Septic Tank Pumping Cost

How often should you pump your septic tank?

You should pump your septic tank as often as it gets full, which will depend on how many people live in your home, how often you use your garbage disposal, how well you maintain your septic system, and other factors. Most homeowners need to pump their septic tanks once every three years.

What is the process of pumping a septic tank?

When you hire a professional to pump your septic tank, this is the process they’ll follow:

  • Check the level of liquids in the tank
  • Lower a hose into the tank and pump out solid waste into a holding tank
  • Watch for backflow during pumping
  • Backflush the system
  • Check the tank for damage
  • Clean the filter (if included)

Is it necessary to have my septic tank pumped?

If you have a septic tank, it is necessary to have it pumped at some point. Even large tanks fill up with sludge eventually, and they won’t work properly if they’re not pumped.

What should you do if you have a septic tank overflow?

First, stop using your home’s water. Try to identify if the problem is too much water in the system (from overuse, heavy rain, etc.), a potential blockage, or damage to the drain field. If an excess of wastewater is causing the problem, it may resolve itself in a few days, but for other problems, you should contact a septic tank professional.

How much does a septic tank cost?

Installing a conventional septic tank system typically costs between $2,000 and $7,000. Alternative systems will likely cost more.

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