Finding software can be overwhelming. We've helped dozens of contractors choose the right estimating software so they can calculate labor and material costs and produce accurate proposals.
Construction Estimating Software
151 systems found
There are more than 50 construction estimating and takeoff software packages available. They range from Excel add-ons to enterprise-class, multi-user systems. Some cost as little as $99 while others are a six-figure investment. Meanwhile, there are unique systems designed for different industries, trades and divisions.
If you haven't been in the market for some time (or ever), there's a lot to figure out. We've written this guide to help you make sense of the market so you can choose the best construction estimating software. Here's what we’ll cover:
Common Features of Construction Estimating Software
Construction cost estimating software, also known as construction bidding software, helps estimators calculate material and labor costs as well as produce detailed, professional proposals from these estimates. While these systems have always been useful, the proliferation of fixed-bid work and intensifying competition for projects is making them an even more important tool. Below is a breakdown of the functionality included in a typical contractor estimating software package.
In case you aren't familiar with these terms, here is a plain English description of the function of each module.
|Proposal Generator||Takes your cost estimates and creates an accurate and professional-looking bid proposal.|
|Cost database||Stores materials and labor costs to reference when creating an estimate.|
|Visual assemblies||Displays a graphical view of a build assembly to visualize which portion of the project you're estimating.|
|Labor & materials||Automates labor and materials cost estimates based on calculations from your project takeoff.|
|Historical database||Stores all of your past projects with related materials and labor cost estimates in a database.|
|Pre-built templates||Accelerates the process by providing a set of commonly required parts and labor for standard jobs, such as a bathroom remodel.|
|Project reporting||Creates cost breakdown reports using charts and graphs to improve the analysis of project costs.|
|What-if analysis||Models how your bid will change if assumptions (e.g., project completion date) change.|
Many contractors require specialized construction estimate software to handle their trade-specific requirements. As such, specialty contractors should evaluate products designed for their unique needs. For example, a mechanical contractor who needs to estimate custom sheet metal work for HVAC ducts would benefit from a specialized application such as Wendes Systems WenDuct.
Or, a residential contractor who is performing his own project estimates might want a straightforward, affordable residential estimating solution where ease of use trumps depth of functionality and sophistication. Other contractors that we often find have unique needs include electrical, flooring and earthwork contractors.
Benefits of This Application
Last year, we surveyed contractors, estimators, building owners and other construction professionals about their estimating processes. In our survey, we asked industry professionals about their top priorities for 2013 and beyond, and the benefits of using technology to support these processes.
The top priorities of construction firms (improved process standardization, accuracy and speed) mapped closely to the benefits firms say they noticed after deploying construction estimator software.
To gain more insights into industry benchmarks and best practices, check out our 2012 Benchmark Report.
How Estimating and Takeoff Differ
We find that buyers sometimes confuse estimating software with takeoff software. The confusion stems partly from the fact that these two programs are often deployed in conjunction, as both are critical to developing accurate bids. But they perform two distinct functions. To simplify it:
- Takeoff systems help measure plans and blueprints to estimate the amount of materials and labor needed to complete a project.
- Construction estimating systems determine how much the estimated materials and labor will cost, and then produces a complete bid in a professional format.
This table will help you determine if you need takeoff or construction estimating software (or both):
|If you...||Then You Need...|
|Spend too much time measuring plans and blueprints||Takeoff|
|Often incorrectly estimate labor/materials quantities||Takeoff|
|Spend too much time calculating labor/materials costs||Estimating|
|Often incorrectly estimate labor/materials costs||Estimating|
|Have trouble creating professional-looking bid proposals||Estimating|
|Need one system to estimate labor/materials quantities & costs||Both|
If, after reviewing our table of common pain points, you realize that a takeoff program is what you need, head over to our takeoff systems buyer's guide to better understand this market.
Market Trends to Understand
These pre-construction application market trends should be considered when evaluating a new system and reading construction estimating software reviews.
Digital takeoff. Digital takeoff has matured and it provides many efficiencies. It reduces the cost, time and hassle of printing paper plans. It also costs less than a plotter or reprographic service. Most systems can measure .pdf, .tiff, .dwg, AutoCAD and other digital file formats. Buyers should strongly consider (and trial) digital takeoff before investing in another digitizer board.
Increased competition for jobs. The sluggish economy means that contractors are competing for fewer jobs. GCs and project sponsors are running more intense selection processes with shorter bid turnaround times. Contractors need to produce bids faster and more accurately to compete for more jobs, win and make a profit.
Geographic migration. Some companies are now bidding on jobs outside their traditional territory. The availability of electronic plan files via online plan rooms, as well as data from BIM files, makes it easier to identify projects and get the data necessary to produce a bid. To compete, contractors need an efficient infrastructure that will allow them to access these online plan rooms.
Multi-user estimation. Many contractors are seeing a need to involve more employees in the process. In some cases, this results from growth. In other cases it results from a reaction to turnover of seasoned estimators and the resulting skills gap. And other times it results from a desire to gain consensus on estimates. Regardless, demand for multi-user systems is growing and if this is an important consideration you should evaluate the best vendors that support many users.
The Vendor Landscape
The application landscape is highly fragmented and can be confusing. However, we can simplify the market by matching top-rated solutions to our four buyer types.
|If you are a...||Then you should evaluate...|
|Commercial Contractor||ProEst, Maxwell ProContractorMX, OnCenter On-Screen Takeoff, Sage Timberline, QuickMeasure|
|Electrical Contractor||Accubid, ConEst, McCormick, Electrical Bid Manager|
|Mechanical/HVAC Contractor||Accubid, Wendes, QuoteExpress|
|Earthwork Contractor / Heavy Construction Contractor||BID2WIN, Hard Dollar, HCSS, SharpeSoft, WinEx Master|
|Residential Contractor||Clear Estimates, Contractor's Office, GiddyUp, My Project Estimator|
FrontRunners® for Construction Estimating, November 2017
What Is the FrontRunners Quadrant?
A Graphic of the Top-Performing Construction Estimating Products
FrontRunners quadrants highlight the top software products for North American small businesses. All products in the quadrant are top performers. Small businesses can use FrontRunners to make more informed decisions about what software is right for them.
TTo create this quadrant, we evaluated over 230 construction estimating products. Those with the top scores for their capability and value made the quadrant.
Scores are based largely on reviews from real software users, along with other product performance details (e.g., what features they offer, how many customers they have).
Is One Quadrant Better Than the Others?
Nope, Products in Any Quadrant May Fit Your Needs
Every product in this quadrant offers a balance of capability (how much the products can do) and value (whether they’re worth their price/cost) that makes them stand out in the race for small business software success.
FrontRunners has four sub-quadrants:
- Upper Right = Leaders: Leaders are all-around strong products. They offer a wide range of functionality to a wide range of customers. These products are considered highly valuable by customers.
- Upper Left = Masters: Masters may focus more heavily on certain key features or market segments than Leaders do. If you need a more specialized set of functionality without bells and whistles, then a product in the Masters quadrant might be right for you.
- Lower Right = Pacesetters: Pacesetters may offer a strong set of features, but are not rated as highly on value. For example, a Pacesetter might offer greater functionality, but cost more.
- Lower Left = Contenders: Contenders may focus on a more specialized set of capabilities that are priced at a higher point. This makes them ideal for companies willing to pay more for specific features that meet their unique needs.
Depending on the specific needs of a software buyer, a product in any of these sub-quadrants could be a good fit.
Why? To even be considered for this FrontRunners, a product had to meet a minimum user rating score of 3.0 for capability and 3.0 for value. This means that all products that qualify as FrontRunners are top-performing products in their market. They appear in the quadrant in relation to how their peers performed.
For some buyers, a specific FrontRunners sub-quadrant might be best. This is because products in the Pacesetters and Leaders sub-quadrants usually offer more functionality than products in the Contenders or Masters quadrants.
This means that, while all of the products on the quadrant meet our minimum market criteria (in this case, cost estimating, cost database and proposal generator, as well as at least two of the following: visual assemblies, historical database, what-if analysis and/or pre-built templates), products in the Pacesetters and Leaders sub-quadrants will also offer additional functionality (or integrations with these applications), such as building information modeling, takeoff or job costing.
Conversely, products in the Contenders and Masters sub-quadrants focus more exclusively on the core Construction Estimating functionality.
You can download the full FrontRunners for Construction Estimating report. It contains individual scorecards for each product on the Frontrunners quadrant.
How Are FrontRunners Products Selected?
Products Are Scored Based on User Reviews and Other Data
You can find the full FrontRunners methodology here, but the gist is that products are scored in two areas, Capability and Value.
To be considered at all, products must have at least 20 reviews and meet minimum user rating scores. They also have to offer a core set of functionality—for example, cost estimating, cost database and proposal generator, as well as at least two of the following: visual assemblies, historical database, what-if analysis and/or pre-built templates.
From there, user reviews and other product performance details, such as the product's customer base and the features it offers, dictate the Capability and Value scores. Capability is plotted on the x-axis, and Value is plotted on the y-axis.
Got It. But What if I Have More Questions?
Check Out Our Additional Resources!
For more information about FrontRunners, check out the following:
- Check out the "FrontRunners FAQ for Technology Providers," linked at the top of this page, for more detailed answers and information about how it works.
- Check out the complete FrontRunners methodology to understand the scoring.
Have questions about how to choose the right product for you? You’re in luck! Every day, our team of advisors provides (free) customized shortlists of products to hundreds of small businesses.
- Simply take this short questionnaire to help us match you with products that meet your specific needs.
- Or, talk to one of our experienced software advisors about your needs—it’s quick, free, and there’s no-obligation—by calling (844) 687-6771.
One Last Thing—How Do I Reference FrontRunners?
Just Follow Our External Usage Guidelines
Check out the FrontRunners External Usage Guidelines when referencing FrontRunners content. Except in digital media with character limitations, the following disclaimer MUST appear with any/all FrontRunners reference(s) and graphic use:
FrontRunners scores and graphics are derived from individual end-user reviews based on their own experiences, vendor-supplied information and publicly available product information; they do not represent the views of Gartner or its affiliates.