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Construction Estimating Software Review

Which Construction Estimating Software is Best?

The top performers in our review are ProContractor Estimating, the Gold Award winner; B2W Estimate, the Silver Award winner; and Sage Estimating, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.

We researched and examined more than 20 products already considered the best pieces of estimating software in the field. We narrowed our list down to 10 based on 4 months of research of research, four online webinars and interviews with five outside experts.

How Can Construction Estimating Software Help Your Company?

Construction Estimating Software will help you calculate the costs of materials, equipment and labor for prospective clients’ projects. The programs compile projected costs and create documents that can serve as formal proposals or bid offers to potential clients. After inputting the needed resources for the project, the software does the calculations for you, saving you time so you present your client your bid quicker. The software can take into account the number of hours for your labor, including any sub-contractors you’ll need to hire.

The best construction estimators can continue to be useful after your client has accepted the bid and the project is underway. They help you keep track of materials and ongoing costs as the project progresses, helping you stay on track and letting you foresee any variations to the original estimate. Many also create reports, so you’ll be able to present a complete record of costs to the client should the final costs exceed the original estimate.

What to Expect From Estimating Software

Databases to Compare Costs
In order to make a fair and accurate bid to a client, you’ll need software that is able to pull the latest prices of materials and equipment through the internet. Many construction estimating software companies have access to wholesale databases for checking the ever-changing costs of building materials, and all the programs we’ve compared here have this essential feature. In addition to pulling data from online databases, the better programs allow you to add items and prices from your own personal suppliers to compare prices. You can make a similar database for subcontractors to compare labor costs.

Instant Takeoffs for Adjusting Estimates
Takeoffs are an important aspect of construction estimating, because they allow you to determine the exact amount of materials you need, estimate a cost for those materials and adjust those factors alongside design plans to offer a better bid to the client. Every program on our list has some form of takeoff that lets you craft a list of everything you’ll need to start construction, not including labor and overhead costs, and each one automatically calculates a price based on the available data of current prices.

Blueprint Viewing & Editing
Alongside digital takeoff features, it’s common for construction estimating software to allow you to upload a blueprint of the proposed project, usually in the form of a CAD or BIM file.

Construction Estimating Software: What We Tested, What We Found

How simple is it to use?
We tested how easy it is to understand and to navigate each program. Top picks in this area, like ProContractor Estimating and PlanSwift, have clean and attractive interfaces that are easy to learn and simple to teach others how to create estimates. We were able to comprehend the best programs with minimal assistance from support guides or tutorials. We took into account how easy it is to import blueprint images and create price books and cost sheets. The best programs on our list let you create scales and takeoffs, and they also help you compose an official bid efficiently so you can get a bid to a potential client as quickly as possible.

How well does it generate an estimate?
When considering each product’s ability to generate an accurate estimate, we looked at the amount and variety of estimate generating tools each program contains. We looked for basic estimating features such as master cost databases, the ability to do instant takeoffs of materials from the estimate and change single item costs to view speculative estimates. Advanced features that boosted their score included the ability to merge multiple bids into a single estimate. We especially favored programs that contained a visual aspect to generating estimates using uploaded blueprints that you could edit alongside the cost of the project.  

How well does it keep track of costs?
After you’ve composed a bid and it’s been accepted by a client, you can continue to use most construction cost estimators to keep track of costs during construction and make sure you stay close to the original estimate. As the project progresses, you can track your stock of material and quickly be alerted if certain aspects of the project are going over the original estimate. The best programs we found track actual costs and compare them to the original estimate in order to better inform the client if the final cost changes. The better programs will also let you track deviations from your subcontractors’ bids and equipment rentals. 

What help is available?
While some of the software is easier to learn than others, construction estimating software can still be complicated to properly operate, so tutorial material should be readily available. Companies that offer 24/7 support through phone or live chat received higher scores in our rankings. Many of the companies house extensive training materials on their websites and even host remote seminars or in-person training classes, which in some cases cost extra.

What Else to Consider When Purchasing Estimating Software

Integrations: Excel, QuickBooks & Construction Management Software
When you add new estimating software to your company’s process, a large factor in your choice should be how well the new program integrates with the rest of your business software. We looked at each product’s compatibility with common programs used by construction companies, such as Intuit QuickBooks for accounting and Microsoft Excel for various spreadsheets. If you had been using Excel spreadsheets to do your estimating, then you’ll want a program that can effortlessly import those files and work them into its own system. The better products are compatible with most of those programs, but before you make a final decision you’ll want to make sure the estimating software will work with the rest of your business applications. 

Mobile Access
A feature worth considering, depending on your needs, is a mobile version of the estimating program. This is especially helpful during the construction phase, particularly if you’re on-site often. You’ll be able to quickly access estimate information directly from your phone or tablet to make quick decisions during building.

All-In-One Platforms
A few of the programs on our list are part of larger suites of construction software that integrate with each other. Other programs in these suites include construction management, accounting and scheduling programs. Depending on your needs, it could be beneficial to purchase a complete suite of tools; however, it will undoubtedly come with a higher price tag. All the products on our list can still be purchased separately.

The Best Construction Estimating Software: Our Verdict & Recommendations

ProContractor Estimating is our top pick for construction estimating software, featuring an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. Its standout feature lets you to import 3D blueprints and interact with them while determining your takeoff and estimate, allowing you to be as accurate as possible.

B2W Estimate, our Silver Award winner, comes with access to several supplier databases that are easy to navigate and are frequently updated. These databases help keep your prices up to date, which helps ensure your final costs are in line with your estimate.

Sage Estimating wins our Bronze Award. Its software is geared for the construction of commercial projects. It’s a helpful tool throughout the bidding and construction process with an easy-to-use interface similar to Microsoft Excel. Sage also provides a large suite of software to integrate into your business.