How a $1500 website can actually cost you over $5000

Your Guile to Website Pricing

Written by JVF Solutions

JVF Solutions is your premier source for all things online. From responsive websites to digital marketing services to online marketing strategy, we've got you covered.

July 28, 2022

We all love a good bargain. That’s why price is the most focused on condition in every business deal. We’ve seen estimates for the same website build that range from $1500 to $10,000. Why is there such a wide variance? It’s like car shopping (which will be our analogy for today).  If you’re looking for a sedan, you can go to multiple dealerships. For the sake of consistency, we’ll say that you visit a used car lot, a Toyota dealership, and a Lexus dealership. So in this case, you can see how similar sedans in three different lots can have a wide range of prices.

Understanding website pricing:

There are hundreds of thousands of web developers and each has their own pricing method. Some have flat rates, others use a tool to estimate the cost, while others may just charge based on what they need to pay their next set of bills. In general, all websites have fixed and recurring costs. The below table has some of these different costs along with their car equivalents:





Car Equivalent

Website BuildThe creation of the website.One-timeThe vehicle on the lot as is.
Website FeaturesAdd-ons to the basic website such as integrations, security, SEO, performance tuning, etc…One-time per itemAccessories and add-ons for the vehicle such as an upgraded sound system or sunroof.
Set-up costsMigrate the website from its temporary location to its final location.One-timeDelivery charge
Domain nameA fee to “own” the domain name.

Note: you should always own your domain name.


AnnualVehicle registration (custom/vanity plates).
Website HostingStorage space in a data center to host your site.Monthly / AnnualGarage/parking space.
MaintenanceRegular updates and upkeep to your site such as security scans and performance tests & tweaks.Monthly / AnnualVehicle service (oil changes, checking fluid levels, etc…)
Licensing/Subscription feesFees for software (themes, plug-ins, etc…) that is needed for features for your site to function.Monthly / AnnualXM radio subscription, OnStar, monitoring services, etc…
Update feesAdditional costs for updating your websiteOne time per projectBrake/tire replacement, scratch repair, swap out radio, etc…


So as you can see, a lot can be factored into a quoted price. To further complicate things, some of these items are combined. For example, we include the licensing fees in our maintenance plans. But the website build and additional features are where you see a lot of variances. Just like some cars come with a sunroof and some don’t, some designers include security with their site and others don’t.


Buying off the Used Car Lot:

When you find a bargain designer on a service like Craigslist of Fiverr, it’s like shopping on a used car lot. You’ll definitely pay the least, but it’s hit or miss. Most web designers base their cost on estimated hours so your bargain site means either their hourly cost is low (they are off-shore or just starting out) or they are only putting in a few hours (because they are using a template with little customizations for you).

You can find a real gem at a used car lot – perhaps someone bought something they couldn’t afford and needed to cash it in. But you can also get a real lemon. The same is true with websites. You might luck out with a gem or end up with a garbage website. Remember that even if a site looks good, it may not perform well. So it’s like having a freshly painted car with a bad engine.


Options, Options, Options:

So let’s say you’re not willing to roll the dice with a low-cost developer. You’ve sent out bids and received a wide range of prices. In this case, there are two main factors that impact price: quality and features.

Often, you get what you pay for when it comes to quality. We often have discussions with potential clients where we’ll hear “well, my brother-in-law will do it for half that price.” There’s usually a reason why their brother-in-law is so inexpensive – he probably does it part-time and learned web design from free YouTube videos. Yes, there really are talented people that are desperate for work and will give you the bargain of the century. But the best way to determine quality is to look at their portfolio and speak with their clients.

But the biggest variation comes with features. To use our car analogy, you can go to a Toyota dealership and pick out a Camry for $25,000. But after you upgrade the tires, add in premium sound, add in leather seats, and add a few option packages, it’s now up to $42,000. You could go next door to the Lexus dealership and get a comparably equipped ES for $40,000.

Toyota Camry & Lexus ES

How a $1500 website can cost over $5000

Again, you might find the bargain of the century with a talented web designer desperate to make some quick money. But that’s rare. Unless you’re looking for a very basic website, you will most likely pay more. Here’s an example:



$1500 site

$5000 site

Website build (site design, 4 pages, enable blogging)IncludedIncluded
Custom work to fit your existing copy into their template$500Included
Additional page for products$150 extraIncluded
Add 4 e-commerce products$400Included
Integration with payment system$750 (as they needed to subcontract this out)Included
Security monitoring tools and security tweaks to site.$750 (need to outsource this as well)Included
Performance tuning, cache setup, performance tools$750 (need to outsource this too)Included
First year of hosting$240Included
First year of maintenance$900Included
Update website phone number$100Included
Total Cost




So as you can see, that $1500 isn’t a real bargain unless you need something very basic.


In summary:

Website pricing is always confusing. The best approach is to level the playing field by creating detailed requirements. This way, you’re comparing apples to apples. You want to ensure that you know all of the upfront costs and all the recurring costs. All of this should be outlined in your contract as well. If the web designer doesn’t do contracts, then don’t use them – that will open you up to even more headaches. If you need help reviewing an estimate or would like a quote with no hidden fees, please sign up for a complimentary consultation.

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