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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 114029
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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I received a written estimate to do some work on my boats

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I received a written estimate to do some work on my boat’s engine. It was from a Marine company and they were to pull the 3 pulleys off the engine, sandblast them and paint them and put them back on, and also to install the water pump service kit. The owner and one of their mechanics actually came out and looked at the engine before giving the estimate. They have also done previous work on the boat. We accepted their written proposal, and as they began the work they came back and said they could not do it at the price given.

Their reasoning was that one of the pulleys was going to be very difficult to remove, and it may be necessary to remove the engine from the boat housing to do so, and it would take considerably more time then they originally estimated. The other reason is they found that one of the screws holding the water pump on was broken, and it would need to be “tapped” and rethreaded which they could not give an estimate on the time.

My question is whether they are bound by their written estimate they gave me just last week, or can they start the work and ask much more for the work they promised? It appears instead of costing $500.00 in labor cost it may cost twice as much once it is done.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.

An estimate is just that, a guess at the approximate cost for the job. Once the work is started, estimates can legally change and are not binding contracts to the amount quoted unless the document you have states it would not change in price specifically. The reason for this is in these jobs, the business does not know what they will encounter until they actually begin the work and if they find other things that need to be done or encounter issues that were not expected, then the costs can change.

You can send them written notice demanding they contact you for each additional item they have to do before they do it for you to approve the work, but legally the estimate is not something you can use to force them to hold to that price when they find other issues that need to be done to make it work. (Unlike say painting a house, where they see the house and can give a concrete contract for the cost because they see exactly what has to be done).

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This is NOT the practice of law nor is it legal advice to you, it is merely educational information for you to use to seek out a licensed attorney in your state to get actual legal advice from them. Please use sites such as or or to find a local attorney to get actual legal advice in all matters.
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