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Cost-Plus Contract


A Cost-Plus Contract is a type of agreement often used in business, where a client agrees to cover the direct costs of completing a project, plus an additional amount or percentage to allow for profit. The extra amount could be a fixed fee or a percentage of the total costs. This arrangement ensures the contractor’s profit and reduces their risk of cost overruns.


The phonetics of “Cost-Plus Contract” is: kɔːst plʌs ˈkɒntrækt

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>A Cost-Plus Contract is a unique type of contract that compensates a contractor for all determined, allowable, and allocatable costs incurred, plus a set profit amount above these costs. This kind of contract is used when uncertainties in the contract performance do not allow costs to be determined with sufficient accuracy.</li><li>Cost-Plus Contracts can benefit both parties involved. For contractors, they minimize the risk of unpredicted expenses and ensure profitability. For clients, they offer the advantage of flexibility and potential for cost savings if the project is completed below estimated costs.</li><li>Nonetheless, this contract type can also pose challenges, especially related to cost control and budget overruns. The contractor may have little incentive to control costs because they are guaranteed a profit on top of all costs. Therefore, the client must implement strong management, oversight, and cost auditing practices to ensure expenses stay within reasonable bounds.</li></ol>


A Cost-Plus Contract is significant in the business and finance sector because it offers a method of agreement that benefits both the contractor and the client in scenarios where the project’s cost scope isn’t definitive. The contract essentially guarantees full coverage of actual project costs experienced by the contractor, plus an additional payment as a profit, thus reducing their financial risk. Conversely, for the client, this agreement ensures a dedicated contractor who is less likely to cut corners on quality due to budget constraints since they’re certain their costs will be met. Additionally, it allows a job to commence even when variables preventing an exact project cost estimate exist, providing flexibility that could be crucial for timely project completion.


A Cost-Plus Contract is not merely a way of pricing a contract but a unique tool for managing uncertainty in the realm of project management. Its principal purpose is to address risk mitigation for businesses, particularly in industries where the scope and specifications of a project are unpredictable or continually changing. It’s frequently used in sectors like construction, defense procurement, research and development, software development, and any other areas where there’s a high level of complexity or technological innovation involved.Under a cost-plus contract, the buyer agrees to cover the actual expenses incurred by the vendor in the production or delivery of a product or service, with an additional payment to allow for profit. This offers assurance to companies incurring high and uncertain costs, that by accepting and executing the contract, they won’t suffer financial losses. In turn, cost-plus contracts may encourage innovation, as companies are more likely to invest and explore new techniques, technologies, and expertise, knowing their costs will be covered.


1. Construction Project: In a large construction project like a skyscraper or bridge, the construction company may sign a cost-plus contract with the project owner. This means the contractors get reimbursed for the cost of materials, labor, equipment, etc., plus an additional percentage as their profit. This type of contract is often preferred for large, lengthy or complex projects where total costs are uncertain.2. Defense Industry: The U.S. Department of Defense often uses cost-plus contracts to pay defense contractors. For example, when Lockheed Martin develops a new type of aircraft for the military, they employ a cost-plus contract. The government pays for the cost of development and production, plus a profit set in the contract.3. Research and Development Projects: Pharmaceutical companies often use cost-plus contracts in their research and development projects. These require huge investments and have uncertain outcomes. The company contracts research to a laboratory or research institute, agreeing to cover all research costs and pay a certain percentage of profits if the project is successful.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Cost-Plus Contract?

A Cost-Plus Contract is a type of agreement typically used in construction projects where the purchaser agrees to cover the actual expenses of the project, plus additional payment which usually is in the form of a pre-determined percentage of the project’s costs, to allow for a profit.

When is a Cost-Plus Contract typically used?

This type of contract is usually used for large or long-term projects where the total costs are uncertain or cannot be accurately estimated in advance.

What are the advantages of a Cost-Plus Contract?

The main advantages are that it ensures all costs are covered and profits are guaranteed for the contractor. Also, it often leads to a higher quality of work as there’s less incentive to cut corners on materials or labor.

What are the disadvantages of a Cost-Plus Contract?

The disadvantages are that it can lead to budget overruns if proper oversight is not in place. Also, it provides less cost certainty for the purchaser or client as the final cost isn’t determined until the project is complete.

Who carries the risk in a Cost-Plus Contract?

In a Cost-Plus Contract, most of the risk is shouldered by the client or purchaser as they have to cover any additional costs incurred during the project, even if they exceed the initial budget.

How is the additional payment or profit determined in a Cost-Plus Contract?

The additional payment or profit is usually defined as a percentage of the actual costs. This percentage can be negotiated and agreed upon before the contract is signed.

Is a Cost-Plus Contract appropriate for every project?

No, Cost-Plus Contracts are most beneficial for complex or uncertain projects where costs are hard to estimate ahead of time. They may not be the best choice for straightforward or shorter term projects with predictable costs.

What can be included in the costs of a Cost-Plus Contract?

Costs can include direct expenses like materials and labor, and often also indirect costs such as administrative overheads, utilities, or any other expenses necessary for the completion of the project.

Related Finance Terms

  • Overhead Costs
  • Profit Margin
  • Direct Costs
  • Indirect Costs
  • Fixed Price Contract

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