When it comes time to update, repair, or replace your roof, there are a lot of very important steps along the journey, and every one of them is equally important. One of the biggest and most delicate steps in this process is the comparison of contractor quotes. However, this is something where a lot of mistakes are made, as people misinterpret quotes and estimates, and don’t know how to evaluate, accurately, a good quote versus a less than an excellent one.

Today, we’re going to talk about the difference between an estimate and a quote, factors to consider when evaluating them, and various factors that can impact a quote. Information is crucial when evaluating something like this, and can save you a lot of money, or prevent you from missing out on a quality contractor in an effort to save money you shouldn’t necessarily save, on such a crucial project as your roof.

Quotes Vs. Estimates

First, let’s clarify the terms of quotes and estimates. The first thing you tend to get is a cursory estimate on a project. This is a rough calculation which skilled contractors will make, based on experience, on what a given thing will cost. This is not a guaranteed price nor offer, but a preliminary estimation.

A quote is a bid for the job, at the price given. It does not become a contract until everything is signed, at which point it is no longer negotiable, and all things are set in stone. Bids for projects are a good thing, as competition prevents complacency, and tends to keep prices relatively fair.

Basic Quote Evaluation

Before you begin evaluating any quote(s) too closely, be sure to get multiple quotes from different contractors. Settling for the first quote, or one of the first few quotes you get, is an unwise idea, as you’ll miss out on better prices, or a better contractor by jumping the shark.

Once you’ve acquired multiple quotes (try for at least five or six if not more), you can begin to analyze and compare them. A good quote is very clear in where all costs are coming from and why, including skilled labor, materials, tools, additional overhead, and utilitarian concerns like dumpsters and other refuse disposal means that may be involved.

Such a quote is called itemization. All the listed individual numbers should add up to no more or less than the total quoted price. If these add up to a number lower than the total, there are hidden costs, which warrant questioning and further investigation.

Competent, skilled contractors know how to provide a clear, organized quote, but if it’s not up to standards, you should never feel bad or out of turn for asking it to be revised and redrafted.


You can expect quotes to vary from one contractor to another, no matter what. Extremely high bids are probably negotiable, while bids that are exceedingly low (and too good to be true) probably are just that – a scam that’s too good to be true.

Variables for Higher Bids

  • The better the contractor, the higher the bid will probably be due to better equipment, and higher overhead.
  • Warranties can impact total cost.
  • Shingles vary wildly in price, higher end ones obviously driving the total price up exponentially. However, before discounting this as a problematic cost, research your shingles’ lifespans.
  • Always check for those hidden costs, and ask they be explained in clear English.

Variables for Lower Bids

  • A lack of appropriate insurance can lower bids, but this is a trap, as injuries that occur are then your problem as the property’s owner.
  • Recent weather phenomena and other disasters can lower costs.
  • Desperation for work can cause under-bidding, but that’s a sign of problems.

Due Diligence

Always research your contractors, and find out what their history is. Today, with the internet as it is, nobody can outrun bad PR and disgruntled customers. If you feel unsure about a contractor, listen to your hunch, you have better business sense than you probably think.

Finally, remember that an initial bid is not a final offer unless that’s explicitly stated. Homeowners can always negotiate and haggle prices down, and most contractors will aim high in an anticipation of being haggled as such.

One last, very important thing, is to always keep your paperwork, for quick reference, and to back up any complaints or concerns you may have during and after the work is done. To learn more about roofing contractors, bids, and much more, fill out our contact form today.