Pros and cons of Flat rate, Fixed rate or Time and Material.

By Zach Shaw, Zebra Electric Inc


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You have a project that needs to be done and you are trying to decide on a contractor. Besides picking out a contractor, do you want to pay a flat rate, fixed rate or time and material? What are the pros and  cons? That all depends on what is important to you and what kind of project you are looking to get completed. Here is a quick breakdown:

Flat Rate Companies

They are known to be the most expensive option. Besides the price, are there any pros?

Pros  :  Quick service. These companies generally have a 24 hour emergency service. Although emergency calls are twice as expensive, if you truly have a problem that needs to be addressed NOW; sometimes the price isn’t as important as getting your issue fixed.

Everything has a set price. Need a fan installed? The company will have a set price. With a flat rate, you usually know exactly what are going to be paying for, which makes some people feel secure.

CONS : The price. A flat rate is usually the most expensive. You are paying top dollar for your service.

No free estimates. A flat rate company will charge a fee to come out to take a look and give you a quote.

Sales. You are basically invited a salesman to your house when you request a quote. The person looking at the project is trained to be like a salesman. They will up sell you and try to get you to agree to more services. If you have trouble standing your ground and saying no, a flat rate company isn’t for you. However, some people like to here the suggestions and other options that they can consider.

Fixed rate (AKA Estimates and Quotes)

Pros : Free estimates. Not all companies give out free estimates, but many will offer them. If they are a small company, you will most likely get a free estimate.

You can budget. After you received your fixed rate, you will know exactly what you are paying. You will have the security of knowing what the project will cost. You will still have a clear price like a flat rate, but it should be much cheaper. A flat rate company already has a set price in mind. A fixed rate is when the contractor estimates how much time the project will take and bases his quote on that information.

Motivation. The contractors will have to complete the job within the fixed rate. this gives them motivation to finish the job in a timely matter. they don’t want to lose money on wasteful hours.

Cons  : Can’t add extras. I have seen it many times. I have started the project and a customer will say: “While you are here, I was thinking about it. Can you add another light in my dinning room?” I am glad to do it for them, but they must know the newly added project isn’t included in the original fixed rate. If you add extras after a fixed rate has been settled, be prepared to get charged for the extra changes.

Time and Material

Pros : Can be the cheapest.  Time and material is usually the cheapest. you only pay for the hours that took to complete the job as well as the materials. Simple enough.

You can add extras. You can ask to add extra lights, etc if it inspires you. There is no fixed rate, you are just paying for the time and materials. This options creates a lot of flexibility.

Cons  : Might not be the cheapest. Just make sure you know the contractor, he is recommended and has good reviews. Do your homework. Some time and material contractors may draw out the project so they can get more money. They won’t be motivated to complete the project quickly, because you will be paying them for every hour on the job. Find a reputable contractor before you choose to use time and material. It can save you a lot of money. Also, if the project has complications and the contractor doesn’t know what he is getting into; time and material may cost a lot also.

Can’t budget. You will not be getting a solid quote. If you absolutely need to budget, time and materiel may not be for you even though it may be cheaper. Although the contractor may be able to give you a general ballpark.


If you are in an emergency: Call your friendly contractor first.  If he can’t get out on time, a flat rate company may the way to go.

If you need a budget: a fixed rate will be the best. It will be cheaper than a flat rate, but you will know how much you are expected to pay.

If your project is complicated: such as: I brought an investment property and it is a mess. I am not sure what I will find. A fixed rate will probably be better than time and material.

If have the money, and just want the best price: Time and material will be a great fit, if the contractor is reputable. And time and material is great for small projects like replacing an outlet and a light.


Here at Zebra Electric, we offer fixed rates and also time and material. We do not offer flat rates. Our goal is to give our customers the best price and we do not up sell them. We also give out free estimates. During that time, we will go over the projects and discuss options that will best fit the needs of our customer. We offer fixed rates for budget concerns as well as time and material. Check us out, Google us. Look us up on Facebook 🙂

As always, feel free to give us a call for any residential electrical needs.

Call Zebra Electrical Inc at 267-371-3193