"FREE" estimates...really?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by GarPA, Mar 21, 2004.

  1. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Messages: 2,585

    We have never advertised "FREE" estimates"

    Many of us do free estimates and that's up to each business owner.

    In our proposals, we build 1 hour in each one for the estimate. Of course if the customer does not accept our bid, then we've done it for "free".

    Just had a carpet installer and a door installer, each charge us $25 up front, to come up and measure for 2 different jobs at our home and I have no problem at all with that. If we accept their bids, the estimate is subtracted from the final bill. I;m not suggesting charging an upfront fee to provide an estimate, rather, I'm just curious how many of you, build the estimate fee into your bid?
  2. mtdman

    mtdman LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,143

    Nope. Free Estimates, and I advertise it as well. I do the majority of my estimates in the spring, and those that I do don't take long to do. I look at it as a cost of doing business, and I don't believe anyone else charges for them around here either. I'd rather have the estimates to do for free than not.

    Just mo.

  3. bcx400

    bcx400 LawnSite Member
    from PA
    Messages: 77

    I do not charge for estimates and I do not build a fee into my estimates to cover costs. I do however, qualify all potential clients over the phone. I try to avoid going on appointments to those people who request 'free estimates.' These are usually the people who get my name out of the phone book. Their top concern/priority is, usually, PRICE. I tell these 'shoppers' that I am not going to give them the best price in town.

    I would rather spend my time on appointments with people who are interested in a top-quality, properly designed job. I try to emphasize VALUE when price becomes an issue.
  4. Randy Scott

    Randy Scott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,915

    Well, if any of you really did the math on your operational costs and what your hourly rate is and so on, none of your estimates are actually free. Somebody, at sometime, is paying for your truck, fuel, paper, and your time. Basically the jobs you get are the ones to cover ALL of your estimates. So in a sense, everybody charges for estimates.

    Do we bill in extra time when doing a larger estimate, small landscaping projects, walls, patios, etc.. Yes, that we try to get an hour or so back for. So if we land the job, it's a little bonus money in relation to our original costs.

    None of you spend a month in spring before the season starts doing all this work for free, it's covered at one time or another throughout the year. Whether you made the money six months ago that's in the bank getting you through winter, or it's plowing money, but it comes from somewhere.
  5. specialtylc

    specialtylc LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,656

    Its called overhead. And I have never paid for an estimate on anything. Not auto repair,carpet cleaning, house painting,driveway paving,or house remodeling, or hospital care. And I sure wouldn't pay a charge to a lawn guy like us.
  6. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,697

    Randy - I think GarPa was referring to free as in free to the customer, not to the LCO. I don't charge my customers for an estimate.
  7. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Messages: 2,585

    sorry I wasn't clear in the ?. No I dont charge for a new customer estimate. However, what I was referring to, is that if I spend 20 hours a week running here and there and then preparing plans or estimates, for those that accept the proposal (usually its a landscape job, not mowing) the time I spent with the plan/proposal, is built into the total fee for the job.

    For mowing, I do not try to recover the estimate time...sorry I was not clear
  8. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Messages: 1,578

    Ya and what part of Randys post didnt you understand ?... ITS OVL and it is in you hourly rate so Randy is right ... indirectly every customer you have better be paying part of your estimate.

    Do we directly charge for each Maintenance quote we do ...no.

    But rest assured we recover our overhead.
  9. Lawn Services Plus

    Lawn Services Plus LawnSite Member
    Messages: 29

    "free" estimates on lawn care is the norm I think.Would like to
    weed out the bargain shoppers.I have found more of them in
    the high end neighborhoods than anywhere else.some of my
    best customers live in starter homes in a cluster neighborhood.
    go figure...
  10. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Messages: 2,585

    yep...if I had to choose one "group" of customers that has pulled my chain more than any other, its the high end neighborhoods.

    Give me small to med commercial properties any day where I deal directly with the business owner over the "wealthy" residentials. I know some guys do well with these but I find them in general to be a pita.

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