Find out how much a job will cost before you agree to it by asking for a written quote or an estimate.

Quotes are more exact than estimates

Estimates

An estimate is roughly how much the tradesperson or professional thinks the job will cost. They must use their skill and experience to make the estimate. The actual price may be more or less, but it shouldn’t be too much more – it should be within 10 to 15 percent.

Quotes

A quote is an offer to do a job for an exact price. If you accept the quote, the contractor can’t charge you more than the agreed price. Make sure the quote states if it includes GST. Since the cost of materials and hourly rates changes over time, the quote will only be valid for a certain time period.

Make sure the companies or individuals you deal with are well established. Check whether they are a member of a trade association. This may give you a free and independent dispute resolution process to resolve problems or extra warranties if the work is not done properly. Also check their references from previous clients.

See Tenders and quotes(external link) on the Building Performance website to find out more information on payment, terms, materials and subcontractors for building work.

Process for getting a quote or estimate

  • Shop around and choose at least three businesses. Give them the same information and ask for a written quote. Check if the business is charging a fee to prepare a quote.
  • Compare quotes – look at the total price and whether GST is inclusive or exclusive, hourly rate, quality and cost of materials, start and finish dates and how long the job will take.
  • You can always negotiate with the successful business on price.
  • Try not to pay a deposit; if you have to, pay only up to 10% of the total cost as a deposit, and don’t pay the whole amount before the job is finished.
  • Keep all the paperwork – quotes, invoices, receipts.

Use the same process for an estimate but remember that the actual price may be more or less. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), the seller should use their skill and experience when estimating the cost. The actual cost should not be too much more than the amount estimated.

Agree in writing beforehand that the seller will contact you if the final price is going to be higher than the estimate. Then you can choose to stop the work before it gets too expensive. Read Forming contracts and agreements to find out more.

A quote is a contract

A quote is a contract between you and the tradesperson or professional. Both of you must do what you have agreed to do in the contract.
That’s why it’s best to have it in writing and get a detailed breakdown of the work and materials.

It is best to get a written quote so there is no dispute about price later.

You don’t have to pay more than the quoted amount, even if the tradesperson or professional asks for more.  You can pay just the amount quoted, with a note to explain why. You may want to add ‘Banking this payment will be considered full and final settlement of the bill’.

You can get a refund and compensation under the Fair Trading Act if a service provider misleads you by claiming:

  • work needs to be done when it is unnecessary
  • they belong to a trade association or have some industry approval and this is untrue.

Read False and misleading advertising or trading to find out more.

Repairs and extra work

If you can’t agree on a fair price, it might be best to pay the full amount to get your items back. You can go to the Disputes Tribunal to try to get the extra money back later.

You must agree to extra work before a tradesperson or service provider carries it out. Find out how much the extra work will cost before you agree. Contact others in the same industry to find out if the price is fair. This will be need to be agreed as a variation to the quote and put in writing.

Price not agreed beforehand

Under the CGA guarantees for services, the tradesperson or professional must complete the work:

  • with reasonable care and skill
  • within a reasonable time
  • at a reasonable price.

You can find out what is reasonable by asking other tradespeople or professionals how much the work should cost, and how long it should take. 

Contact the service provider

Try to sort out the problem with the tradesperson or professional first. If it is fixable, you need to give them a chance to fix it at no cost to you, under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

See also:


Next steps

If you are unable to resolve your issue directly with the retailer, manufacturer or service provider, our Resolve It tool has information to help you take the next steps. These may include going to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.

Resolve it: Contracts


Need more help?

Contact us for more guidance.

Common situations

Car repairs

Jenny hears a faint noise in her car engine that is new. She takes the car to her local garage and asks them to give her an estimate for any work that needs doing. The mechanic inspects the engine and advises Jenny that she needs a new automatic transmission. He estimates the cost of repairs will be about $2,000. Jenny agrees to the work being done. When she picks up the car, she gets a bill closer to $3,000. Jenny queries the bill and finds out the mechanic did not include some of the repairs in the original estimate. She disputes the bill as it is vastly different to his estimate. If they can’t agree on a revised bill, she will have to pay the bill without prejudice and dispute the amount in the Disputes Tribunal.

Quotes for painting

Jimmy gets three painters to quote for painting the exterior of his weatherboard home. He chooses the cheapest painter to do the job. When he gets the bill, the painter has added an extra margin to cover travel costs. As this was not agreed in the quote, Jimmy does not have to pay the extra portion of the bill.