What is the true cost of a free quote?

“Free quote!”


It’s one of the selling points that resonates with customers isn’t it? The fact that we can hop on the phone, laptop or device and book a tradie to come out and give their opinion on a job and — of course — let you know what price you will be looking at paying. It’s usually quick, convenient and one of the key selling points that allows your local tradies to compete with the big guys. The fact that they are in the neighbourhood (or close by) and can pop by and deliver the asked quote is a big factor in drawing clients.



However let’s look at it from the other point of view: a free quote is only free for the customer. It does cost the tradie a great deal in time and money. Tradies — in the vast majority of cases — offer free quotes, ignoring the fact that this creates an ethical dilemma for them. The fact that they are providing their labour free of charge. After all, none of us like to work for free!

Preparing a detailed quote is time-consuming and can be extensive depending on the work that needs to be done. But how exactly does a free quote impact on a tradies’ business?


As with all business people, time means money for the tradie. The ability to juggle clients and jobs in the hours available can be the difference between failure and success. Not only the time taken to travel to your home and check the job but also drawing up the quote. Depending on the complexity of the work involved, this may take hours to prepare. While verbal quotes for the smallest of jobs is considered fine, anything above that needs to be listed in the estimate.

The following items may be Included in the quote: materials, labour, hire costs of equipment, changes to timetable and transport costs of materials. The quotes may also include a range of costs depending on the brand name of material requested by the customer, as well as weekend or public holiday rates if applicable.

For example, drawing up a quote for a house extension is not as easy as simply plucking numbers out of the air and putting them to paper. While your tradie will have an idea of labour and apprentice costs, building materials and travel to your place, there are a number of factors they wouldn’t be able to detail.

For each renovation is different, there are a number of characteristics that may need to be taken into account. Is the place old or newly-built? Are there significant deposits of asbestos to be removed that need to be factored in? There are also other variables that may need to be written into the quote, depending on changes that may need to be done during the course of the work. An example may be poor original workmanship, which needs to be fixed before renovation work can be completed.

These extras will need to be added to the detailed quote.

Family time


Not all costs can be quantified by money. Time taken away from the tradies’ home life is also a major factor. The extra time taken to give and produce free quotes may also impact on family life. This may mean missing important school events for the kids, or being unable to attend sporting fixtures, or art shows and other important milestones for the children.


The fact that many free quotes are worked on after hours by tradies means that family time may suffer. This may put pressure on other members of the family.


This is an obvious expense and one the tradesperson tries to factor into the working day if a quote is required. Normally the tradie will do a quote when they are next passing in the area. However this isn’t always possible and petrol costs may be a big cost to the tradies when travelling to houses to do the research for quotes. A quote for a big job may well take more than one trip. With petrol prices rising significantly in the last few years — and no signs of any falls — petrol must be a key cost that must be absorbed by the tradies’ business and extra trips required to give free quotes will add significant costs to the balance sheet.

Vehicle costs

Driving between jobs will always have an impact on the tradies’ vehicle. This is factored in depreciation costs and tax deduction however the extra trips needed to get to houses for free quotes add up to significant vehicle expenses.But if we say on average a client could live anywhere from 10 – 35km away, a return trip could cost in the region of $10-$15.

The verdict

The vast majority of tradies are hard-working, helpful, competitively-priced and would love the opportunity to head out to your place and give you a free quote. However spare a thought for them! Make sure you are serious about getting a quote and not getting out tradespeople “just for their opinion”. After all, time taken to get to your place and checking out the job means time away from their family.

If we break this down to dollars and cents we can probably say factoring in travel, time, wear and tear on vehicle and general expenses, a free quote could actually cost the tradesman upwards of $200.

By all means use the famous free quote that tradies use. It’s a major selling point for them. However only do so when you are serious about a project, after all frivolous calls will only take time and money away from your local tradesman.


Credit chief copy writer Rich Bowden

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