May 11, 2023

What Goes Into A Heavy-Duty Estimate?

What Goes Into A Heavy-Duty Estimate?

Ah, estimates. You give them out like candy, right?

Busted turbo? That’ll be a certain amount of money to fix or replace.

New tires? Tack on another grand or so to that turbo.

Estimates are an important component of any business. They allow your customer to gauge what kind of work they’ll need done and about how much that work is going to cost. While estimates aren’t always 100% on the money, they should be in the general ballpark of what a repair is going to cost (barring discovering some crazy problem while digging into the chassis).

What kind of information should you include on your estimates, though? And how does Fullbay make it easier to create detailed estimates?

(Yes, folks, at least part of this article is going to be absolutely shameless!)

Let’s discuss.


First, we want to differentiate between types of estimates.

There’s the person who walks into a shop and says, “Hey, my starter is busted, can you replace it?” Everything lines up: the truck won’t start, the part in question is a zillion years old, and yeah, you can estimate that it will take 1.5 hours to replace that starter. The shop offers a quote based on their experience swapping out starters on a thousand prior vehicles.

Then there’s the “Something is wrong but I’m not sure what” estimate, which usually requires some diag. Say the truck is hard to start, but we don’t know if it’s actually the starter. Maybe it’s the starter…but maybe it’s the battery. So your estimate is going to include whatever you charge for diag work, whether that’s free (eeek) or $150 or so, followed by a list of all the stuff wrong with the truck and how much it’ll cost to fix each one.

In each case, you get to ask the customer what they want to do. (Make sure to always get authorization—you will thank us later!)

Next, we’ll get into the essential components of a heavy-duty diesel estimate.


  • The problem(s) (busted starter; dead battery; etc.) isolated by repair and system. If you’re putting together a service order estimate, you’ll want to indicate what problems you’ve found. DO NOT JAM THEM ALL INTO ONE PARAGRAPH. Make it easy for your customer to see what needs to be done. Break out chassis repairs vs. engine repairs and so on.
  • The labor rate and how much time it should take. If you’re looking at 15 hours of work and a $120 labor rate, pop those numbers in.
  • Any parts needed (marked up). You are marking up your parts, right? (We have a simple calculator you can use if not!) If the maintenance or repairs are going to require new parts, you’ll want your customer to know roughly what they’ll need to pay for them.
  • The estimated total. You want your customer to know roughly what they can expect to pay. This is not always perfectly on target, but with experience and the right tools (like MOTOR Labor Time Guides) you should be able to convey a ballpark figure.
  • Estimate language. We also recommend—in any estimate that you include language that clearly states This Is Just An Estimate. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” says Chris O’Brien, COO of Fullbay. “You might see a cracked bumper, but once your technician gets under there and starts pulling things apart, you might see more parts that you didn’t see before.”

You may include other types of information if you want—every shop will tailor their estimate system a bit differently—but those five components are critical.


We did warn you this was going to be a partially shameless post.

Before going into all the ways Fullbay makes your estimate-building easier, let’s think about what goes into building an accurate estimate on your own.

You might be using a spreadsheet, a Word doc, or even a blank piece of paper and a pen. You might be using several apps and attempting to port information between one and the other—or you’re re-keying information over and over again, which can lead to all kinds of errors. And just think about trying to get your cobbled-together document over to a customer…

At the very least, you’re losing time. And you know the saying: time is money.

Save both with Fullbay!

(Ooooh, we should write that one down.)

How does Fullbay build great estimates? Let us count the ways:

  1. It’s all one ecosystem—you aren’t bouncing back and forth between software, paper, or both.
  2. The estimate builds itself as a technician handles diag work. This leads to hyper-accurate estimates in generally under two minutes.
  3. Fullbay automatically marks up parts and includes labor rates (and if you’ve got our MOTOR integration, it can pull in labor times!).
  4. Techs can add photographs and notes so a customer has full context around a repair.
  5. All information is available to the customer through their portal. They can authorize work, ask questions, and pay their bills right away.
  6. Speaking of paying their bills…estimates become service orders become invoices with the click of a button.

Okay. That’s six ways. We’re sure there are more, but those six are pretty darn important to most diesel repair shops and their customers.

We’d tell you more, but you know what? We’d really rather show you. Get a closer look at our estimate process when you check out our free demo. It’ll save you time, money, and possibly a lot of paper and brainpower—and that’s just scratching on the surface!

Suz Baldwin