Estimates and Quotes  

What is the difference between an estimate and a quote?

An estimate is what the trader thinks the work will cost based on past experience. It is not a firm offer to do the job at that price, but it should be a realistic guess. An estimate can be useful if you just want a rough idea of cost. Once you get an estimate and decide to use that trader you should then get a proper quote in writing. 

A quote is an offer to do a job at a certain price, if you accept a quote than the trader can’t charge you more than the quoted price. Make sure you ask for a quote in writing so if a problem arises you have a record of your agreement with the seller.

A written quote should include what work is to be done, the hourly rate for labour and how long it will take, and the cost of materials. It should also say how long the quote is good for. Make sure you check whether the quote includes GST.

If the quote does not include GST this must be stated, otherwise you would be entitled to assume GST is included in the amount quoted.

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What should I know about getting a quote?

Make sure you are clear about what work needs to be done and when you need it to be done. It’s a good idea to get quotes from at least 3 different traders so that you can compare a range of prices and materials. If they vary a lot in quoted price it’s worth asking them about this so you know why – one trader might quote more than another because they will be using higher-quality materials, or are more realistic about how long it will take to do the work.

Make sure that you get the quote in writing. There is no obligation for you to make a deposit once you’ve accepted a quote, and it’s best to try to avoid this. Definitely don’t pay the full price up front.

It’s worth noting that you may be charged for a quote, as it does take time and effort to do one. The trader must tell you beforehand if they charge for quotes, but you can always ask them just to be sure.

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My plumber quoted me a price for a job but now says there is extra work that needs to be done. What can I do?

It’s not uncommon to find that work is required in addition to what you had originally agreed, especially with work on older buildings.

Your plumber has to check with you before doing any extra work as this may mean you have to pay more than the quoted price. You always have the right to refuse extra work. If you decide to get the extra work done it is a good idea to shop around and check that the costs for this work are fair and reasonable. 

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Am I entitled to an itemised invoice?

If you didn’t receive a quote from the trader then you can ask for an itemised account or invoice for work that has been done. Service providers don’t legally have to provide an itemised invoice but most will if asked. If you need further information, you can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

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What are my rights if the amount on the invoice is more than what was quoted?

Unless you had agreed for additional work to be done after you received the quote, you do not have to pay more than the amount in the quote.

However, if the trader is in possession of your goods (e.g. a computer which they are repairing for you) then refusing to pay them will mean you may not be able to get your goods back.

If you are unable to come to an agreement with the trader, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment suggests that it might be worth paying the amount you’ve been invoiced just so that you can retrieve your goods - and then make a claim through the Disputes Tribunal to get your money back. You can read our information about complaints and disputes processes.

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What can I do if I didn’t ask for a quote or estimate before work started, and now think I’ve been overcharged?

The Consumer Guarantees Act says that the trader must charge you a fair and reasonable price for the work they have done. You can get a good idea of what a “fair and reasonable” price is by asking other traders to estimate how much they think it would cost.

If you and the trader can’t agree on the cost of the work, either party can take the matter to the Disputes Tribunal. You can read our information about complaints and disputes processes.

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The bill I  received for work done was a lot more than what was estimated. What are my rights?

An estimate is just that, and there is always a chance that the work you want done will take longer or require more materials (for example) once it has begun.  However the final cost shouldn’t be too much more than the estimate.

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act the trader must be fair and reasonable in how much they charge you for the work done. 

Also, they must not mislead you by giving you a low estimate when they know it is likely to cost a lot more - this is a breach of the Fair Trading Act. If you believe the trader is misleading their clients by giving intentionally low estimates you could report them to the Commerce Commission.

If you and the trader can’t agree on the cost of the work, either party can take the matter to the Disputes Tribunal. You can read our information about complaints and disputes processes.