Accounting is an essential aspect of running any type of business, but it is especially important in construction. In fact, it’s been said that “Construction companies are really accounting companies that just happen to build buildings.” Each individual project in the field of construction varies in size, scope, materials, and labor costs, so owners and managers need detailed, job-specific financial data and the ability to process different costs and transactions under each project’s unique circumstances.
In this guide, we will explain which software products work best for taking on the complexities of construction accounting. We start with an in-depth discussion of construction accounting and how construction accounting software solutions differ from other accounting software. The guide will also cover key features to look for, pricing, and the criteria you should use when evaluating your options before offering our recommendations for the best construction accounting software. Before we dive into all of the information you need to shop for construction accounting software and our full set of recommendations, here is a preview of our top choices:
|CMiC||FOUNDATION||Sage 300 CRE|
|Best For||Best Overall||Runner-Up||Accounting & Project Management|
|Learn More||Get Price Watch Demo||Get Price Watch Demo||Get Price Watch Demo|
Understanding Construction Accounting
Construction accounting is unique from the principles of general business accounting in a variety of ways that reflect how work is done in the construction industry. As such, the tools that construction businesses use to track their finances must reflect these unique characteristics. Three of the most important factors that shape how constructing accounting works are:
- Construction is project based. Every construction project is unique, and the requirements to complete one will vary based on client specifications, site conditions, and other unique variables. Because these variables are less predictable, construction managers must be able to account for the costs and revenues of each project to ensure that individual jobs are successful and meet targets for profitability.
- Construction is decentralized. Rather than happening in a central office or plant, construction happens out on job sites in the field. This means that the company’s resources, like equipment and labor, move around often depending on project needs. As a result, construction companies must closely track which resources are being used in which quantities at which location. This is especially important for labor, which may be subject to different wage rates and regulations in different states and localities.
- Construction relies on long-term contracts. Many businesses sell a product or service in a single transaction and have fairly steady input costs, all of which makes it simpler to track money coming in or going out. In contrast, construction projects can take months or years to complete. Incoming revenue is based on certain milestones or the amount of work completed, while costs can increase or decrease depending on the phase of the project. In the wrong circumstances, this can create cash flow problems for the construction company, so it is important to stay on top of ongoing costs and revenues associated with each project over the long term.
To address these differences, the field of construction accounting relies on a few core concepts that anyone evaluating software should be aware of: job costing, revenue recognition, construction billing and retainage, and construction payroll.
Whereas most businesses rely only on a general ledger, construction accounting supplements the company’s G/L with job costing. Job costing is the process by which costs and revenues associated with individual projects are tracked, and it is important because of how projects evolve over time. For instance, projects have mobilization costs, or start-up costs, early on that require allocation of cash and resources upfront. Over time, if the scope of the project shifts, a firm may need to pay for additional labor, resources or equipment, increasing expenses and cutting into the project’s margin. Job costing information is useful both to the project managers—who can make sure that the project is on track to be profitable and adjust if not—and to the company’s financial managers, who can roll up job cost information into the general ledger for a larger picture of the firm’s financial health.
Cash-basis accounting is rare in the industry except for the smallest construction companies, and under the accrual basis, the long-term nature of construction projects affects when companies recognize revenue. Construction accounting commonly recognizes revenue over the life of a contract based on how much of the project is completed, rather than upon execution or completion of the contract (e.g. 25% completion means one-quarter of the contract value is recognized). This means construction accountants must be able to closely track project progress and billing in order to recognize revenue appropriately.
Construction Billing & Retainage
Contractors use a variety of different approaches to billing that reflect job costs and progress toward project completion. For instance, time and material billing is based on hourly labor rates and supply costs used toward the project during a billing period. Alternatively, AIA progress billing is based on the percentage of work completed, and invoices include detailed reports on what work has been done and billed. In either approach, managers’ ability to closely track the costs and progress incurred on a job is essential to producing accurate invoices.
Construction clients may additionally withhold some percentage of the contract payment until they are satisfied that the work is completed, a practice known as retainage. Retainage is not invoiced the same as other client billing and must be treated separately from other receivables. Accounting for retainage ensures that a company’s cash flow and ultimate profit margin from a project remain at acceptable levels.
And adding to these complications are varying wage and labor conditions in different locations where a company might have projects, which makes payroll and tax processing a challenge as well. Challenging factors include prevailing wages (which is essentially the minimum wages and fringe benefits standard for workers of a certain type in an area), unionization (which comes with wage and fringe benefit requirements), and state and local tax rates (which produce different withholding requirements). As managers track labor on different sites, they must be able to apply these differing standards as they account for costs and manage payroll.
Understanding Construction Accounting Software
The unique qualities of construction accounting described above can make it hard to keep track of the financial information construction firms need to operate. Typical general accounting software lacks the built-in capabilities to handle these needs, which is why many vendors offer software solutions that are customized to the unique needs of the construction industry.
What Is Construction Accounting Software?
Construction accounting software is the type of software specifically designed for construction companies to track money coming into and out of the business. Construction accounting software expands general accounting features by augmenting the software with modules to track job-specific costs and revenues, manage payroll, and handle billing and procurement.
Vendors offer construction accounting software to meet needs for companies of all sizes and scopes. Many small businesses and contractors can rely on simple accounting software, like Quickbooks, if their projects focus on a specific niche without much variation. However, general accounting software usually does not have the functionality to track job-specific costs and revenues, which creates a need for manual workarounds. As the complexities of a company’s projects grow, these workarounds become increasingly less effective and efficient for managing financial information and producing meaningful reports about the state of the business.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, accounting tools can be a key feature of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, which offer larger companies an all-in-one solution for many functions of a business’s operations. ERP solutions allow construction businesses to combine their accounting, asset management, contracts, CRM, payroll, and other aspects of the business into one tool. The downside of ERPs is that many of the options on the market are not tailored to the construction industry and therefore may not include construction-specific functionality. Companies looking to an ERP as their construction accounting solution should be sure to seek out a system that includes features like job costing and other construction-specific accounting modules.
Construction Accounting vs. General Accounting Software
General accounting software is a form of software that allows businesses to track the organization’s financial accounts. For general accounting software, like Quickbooks, most of the functionality is built around a general ledger, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, and tracking for the business’s assets, liabilities, capital, revenues, and expenses. These tools are vital day-to-day resources for companies to manage the money coming in and going out of the business.
In contrast, construction accounting software includes many of these same features but also adds more modules specific to the needs of construction professionals. Construction-specific features in a construction accounting software program usually include project accounting, job costing, and specialized progress billing. Whether your construction project entails residential, commercial, or industrial work, a construction accounting software will help track real-time expenses such as materials and labor, stay on top of revenue, and handle employee payroll.
The question of whether you need construction accounting software or whether you can get by with general accounting software will be highly dependent on your business’s size and the scope of your operations. If you only have a small number of projects or projects that usually have similar costs, you may be able to work around the limitations of a general accounting software. For larger companies, however, construction accounting software is virtually a must. Companies that have numerous projects happening concurrently, sometimes in different locales, need the specialized modules to help them track project costs, understand revenues, and manage payroll across different locations.
Construction Accounting Software vs. ERP
An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a form of business management software that tracks data about all aspects of a company, including suppliers, subcontractors, employees, customers, assets, and finances. ERPs may be inclusive of accounting functionality, but this is likely not the focus, as they are typically designed to meet a variety of operational needs. For ERPs specific to the construction industry, other features may include tools for project management, estimating, bidding, contract management, scheduling, and other common business activities.
In contrast, construction accounting software is usually solely focused on the financial records and reports a construction company would require. Accounting software will not necessarily include the other functionality described above. For smaller construction firms, the full set of tools available in an ERP system may be more than the business requires, but larger businesses may benefit from a comprehensive tool.
Most ERPs on the market are designed to meet needs for businesses in any industry, but construction-specific ERPs are available. If you are focused on finding the right software for financial management in your construction business, you should evaluate ERPs to ensure that construction-specific accounting modules are available in addition to other features. Otherwise, you may need to additionally procure construction accounting software to complement your ERP.
Construction Accounting vs. Project Management Software
Project management software allows construction professionals to document, visualize, and manage various project components, including the project budget, schedule, supplies, and team. Because every construction project requires extensive coordination of resources within a certain timeframe and scope, project management tools are a useful resource for staying on top of progress toward a project’s completion.
Budgeting is an important component of project management, so project management software frequently incorporates invoicing, cost tracking, budget reporting, and other finance-oriented features. Some project management software even features built-in accounting modules or allows integration with construction accounting software. However, construction accounting software will have a much wider range of tools available for finance purposes. For instance, construction accounting software is more likely to be able to integrate project costs with the business’s general ledger, generate high-level financial reports, and process and report payroll.
Features & Functionality
The core benefit of construction accounting software is that a company’s general ledger can be integrated with the costs and revenues associated with particular jobs. Job costing functionality is one of the defining attributes for the category of construction accounting software, and you should expect that any solution advertising as a construction accounting program will have this feature included.
Beyond that, the features and functionality available will vary by vendor, and you will need to evaluate which are important for your company and which you can live without. Being able to do so will help make sure your business requirements are met without spending more on a product with features you don’t need. This section of the guide highlights many of the construction-specific features that a construction company might come across when evaluating software options.
Job costing is one of the essential parts of construction accounting and a key feature of construction accounting software. These modules allow users to track actual costs and revenues for different phases of a project, compare those figures to what was estimated and budgeted for the project, and link that information to the company’s general ledger. Construction professionals should take a close look at a software solution’s job costing module to understand all the features available within it. Common features available for job costing in construction accounting software include:
- Project Cash Flow – Accounting software can generate reports that provide insight into how much of a project has been completed and how much has been billed, which is important for monitoring cash flow and profitability as projects go on.
- Budget Management – The user can input a budget for each project with set variances based on cost predictions. As the project progresses, easily add or subtract additional costs that come up along the way.
- Compare Estimated and Actual Costs – The software will show you how well the actual costs match up to the predicted ones. These features allow comparisons across labor, materials, equipment, overhead costs, and other custom categories for any length of time during the project to ensure that project costs are on track.
- Automated Alerts – These alerts help contractors avoid exceeding budget for both labor and overhead costs. Alerts are issued when one of the selected categories is nearing its budget cap so that the contractor can decide to override it or not.
- Generate Production Reports – Production reports help managers understand the unit costs for a construction project, finding how much has been produced per man hour or the cost per unit produced. This is important data for tracking progress and projecting costs both for the project at hand and for future estimates.
Revenue Recognition, Construction Billing, & Retainage
One of the most significant differences between general accounting software and construction accounting software is accounting for how billing and invoicing for projects are spread out and how that affects revenue recognition. Being able to track what has been done on a project allows construction managers to bill clients accurately and ensures that revenues are recognized appropriately for tax and audit purposes. Key features for these purposes include:
- Progress-Complete Invoices – This feature simplifies billing by recording information about the contracting company and automatically filling in most fields, leaving only the unique ones. Based on bids or projections and the progress made, the software can generate the correct percentage to bill.
- AIA Billing – AIA (American Institute of Architects) billing requires forms G702 and G703 to be compliant with current construction standards. These forms give detailed information about the completion status of the project and allow for streamlined client billing. Federal jobs require AIA billing, so contracting companies with this feature can bid on a broader range of projects.
- Retainage Report – This feature shows the retainage percentage, the retainage’s monetary value based on the current project value, and how much of each invoice is retained until the client’s approval.
- Assign Specific Billing Rates – This feature allows contracting companies to input the agreed-on rates per project or customer. By automatically storing the information, future invoices can be generated faster.
- Track Cash Receipts – By maintaining a comprehensive record of cash receipts by project, and recording them against corresponding invoices, audits can be completed for individual jobs.
- View Sales and Use Tax Liabilities – All information about materials, overhead, and equipment costs are separated by actual cost, tax liabilities, and total cost with this feature. Contractors can also see the total sales or use tax liabilities per project or project phase.
- Change Orders – Change orders frequently occur whenever the current project plans need to be revised or updated. Construction accounting software usually allows you to monitor and sort incoming change orders, assess their impact on the job cost, and see if they have been approved yet.
- Create and Manage Purchase Orders – This feature allows the company to track materials and equipment expenditures through purchase orders and show the purchase status. Some software offers a more robust version of this feature that also tracks inventory and inventory location.
Payroll & Labor
Payroll can be a challenge for construction companies because pay rates and labor regulations can differ by state or locality and activities performed, even for the same employee. Good accounting software will offer a robust payroll module that will allow companies to manage payroll easily despite these and other issues related to labor. Features to look for include:
- Multi-state/locality processing. Because a single employee may work on multiple jobs in different locations during a payroll period, the ability to assign employees’ time to different sites will help automatically compute different wages, tax rates, or deductions.
- Certified Payroll Reports – With this feature, a contractor can create and send reports for federal and local agencies or create an audit trail showing how employees were paid based on project location and job activity.
- EEO Compliance Reports – Bids for government jobs require contractors to demonstrate their compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity standards. These reports can be onerous to prepare, but a good payroll solution will easily generate reports about minorities’ work on jobs with your company.
- Workers’ Compensation Tracking – Based on where the company’s office is located and where the injury happened, the amount of workers’ compensation may be different. This feature helps contractors keep records of medical benefits and insurance paid out to an employee who was hurt on the job.
- Union Reports – Construction accounting software with this feature allows companies to quickly create reports on union members’ activity and ensure that any relevant union requirements for a project are met.
- Calculate Fringe Benefits – This feature automatically adds fringe benefits like continuing education or health care as part of the employee’s compensation based on project location and local regulations. It will also factor in overtime and special rates.
One of construction accounting software’s main benefits lies in its focus specifically on financial management for the construction industry. However, construction companies may rely on a variety of other industry-focused software tools to manage other aspects of the business, so the ability to integrate accounting software with pre-existing software can help you make the best use of your data. Here are some of the integrations to research or ask about when evaluating your construction accounting software options:
- Project Management Software – Integrations with project management software like Procore are essential for many companies. Project scope, schedule, plans, and resource allocation managed through a project management tool will have an impact on the financial information you track through your accounting software.
- Time-tracking Software – Labor is one of the most important expenses to track on construction projects. Integrations with timecard application software allow employees to automatically import labor hours into the construction accounting software to be reviewed and approved.
- Construction Estimation Software – Estimating project costs is an essential part of managing a construction company, and with specialized software, a company can keep those estimates as close to reality as possible. Integrating estimation software with your accounting system allows you to prepare more accurate estimates based on existing data from past projects.
- Field Data Software – This is typically an integration, but some construction accounting software, like Foundation, offers this feature as a module in their software package. Essentially, it allows on-site managers and employees to enter real-time information about the project such as status reports, hours worked, equipment usage, inventory receipts, and issues that prohibited progress on the project (e.g. inclement weather).
- Equipment Use Software – Integrations with equipment-use software allow contracting companies to track their fixed assets and depreciation schedules. Construction equipment is a significant aspect for most companies, and the IRS expects accurate records of new purchases and the amount of use for each piece.
- Inventory Management Software – Inventory management is another feature that some construction accounting software incorporates to track products, their use, locations, prices, and quantities. Data about how inventory is being used can also inform financial records and reports on project costs in your accounting system.
- Payment Solution – With this integration, construction companies can have checks cut or facilitate ACH payments. This feature is occasionally offered as an additional module within a construction accounting software package.
- CRM Software – CRM software allows companies to consolidate their customer information in one place. By integrating it with construction accounting software, data can be imported over and attached to specific jobs to facilitate client communication and manage leads.
Most of the main features of construction accounting software are listed above, but some vendors may have additional features available. These modules may be other features that come standard with the construction accounting software or extra modules paid for separately from the main software package. Some other features that you may encounter when shopping for construction accounting software include:
- Data Analytics and Business Intelligence – Software providers have developed more sophisticated uses of financial data to assess job profitability, proactively identify project challenges or risks, and produce more accurate estimates for future projects.
- Document Imaging and Management – Some construction accounting software allows images to be associated with files so that any auditor or contractor can see, at a glance, relevant information about a particular report or file.
- Permit, Inspections, and Fee Processing – Permit tracking can also be useful depending on the project and whether contractors or subcontractors need to wait for municipal permits for their work. A permit tracking module would show various permits’ statuses and alert the contracting company when a change order necessitates a license based on the project location.
Considerations for Certain Businesses
Because companies in the construction business can vary so much in terms of size, scope, and specializations, different types of companies may focus on different attributes when comparing construction accounting software products. This section covers the various considerations for three subgroups of construction businesses: commercial developers, general contractors, and subcontractors.
Commercial Developers & Owners
Since commercial developers and owners tend to have larger and more complex operations, it will be important to procure a software solution that can accommodate many users and provide detailed analysis and reporting on a variety of custom projects.
For these reasons, an ERP solution may be a good choice for commercial developers. ERPs allow the business to contain extensive information about clients, employees, projects, and assets within the same database, and many ERPs include modules for construction accounting. The downside of ERP systems is that they tend to be quite costly, but they have the most comprehensive suite of features available. For commercial developers, an ERP system like that offered by Jonas Construction Software is ideal.
General contractors likely don’t need the comprehensive functionality of a fully-fledged ERP system, nor are their operations simple enough that they can get by with general accounting software. Instead, general contractors need software customized for the construction industry that can handle essential financial functions like job costing, invoicing, and payroll. Project management and scheduling tools or easy integration with other project management software are also commonly sought after for general contractors, as are tools to manage arrangements with subcontractors. A solution that can be scaled to smaller construction companies would be best for general contractors, like CMiC or Sage 100 Contractor.
Specialty & Subcontractors
Smaller subcontractors or specialty construction businesses operate at a small enough scale that a general accounting software program may not be a bad option. Typically, a subcontractor will be looking for software that simplifies payroll, billing, and invoicing, and general accounting software can often take care of those basic requirements. This is particularly true if your business focuses on similar, simple projects that have predictable costs, which will require fewer manual workarounds when trying to track job costs.
Choosing a general accounting software program like or a basic tier for a construction-specific accounting software also has the advantage of being less expensive to purchase. A subcontractor or specialist may not need the same level of administrative support and financial management expertise required by a larger company, so having affordable software for accounting is one way to keep overhead costs lower while still simplifying the business’s financial and administrative functions. For these basic needs, a general accounting program like Quickbooks or a simple construction accounting software like Sage 100 Contractor would be a good fit.
Construction Accounting Software Costs
Construction accounting software costs are challenging to estimate because the majority of software vendors customize their prices depending on various factors, which are addressed in the following section. Some products have transparent pricing systems, but the vast majority require a consultation to determine the implementation cost and the subsequent monthly or annual fee per user. The best way to know what a package will really cost you is to speak directly with the software provider to learn more about the offerings they have available.
How Much Does Construction Accounting Software Cost?
It can be difficult to find accurate information about construction accounting software without talking to representatives of the software companies directly, but some vendors list basic pricing information online, which can give you a sense of the range of options available.
For the smallest businesses, general accounting software with some modifications for construction accounting purposes can cost less than $1,000 per year. A simple solution like Quickbooks Online Plus starts as low as $35 per month, with optional payroll modules that can be included with additional monthly base and per-employee charges. Quickbooks’ Advanced tier starts at $75 per month, with additional features like business analytics, automated workflows, and on-demand online training.
For companies that want construction-specific accounting software but do not need the full functionality of an enterprise solution, most options will cost between about $100 and $300 per user per month, depending on the exact features you purchase.
Finally, enterprise-level software with construction accounting functionality can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year. For example, Jonas Premier lists its prices at $20,000 for an initial implementation plus monthly charges of $199 per user. While these figures may sound exorbitant to a smaller business, if your firm has a large number of projects, does millions of dollars of business each year, and works in multiple states, these costs may be a worthwhile value for managing your complex financial operation.
We advise receiving quotes from multiple vendors to find a solution that will meet your company’s needs at a price within your software budget. To get accurate pricing information, you will likely need to speak with vendors and share information about your company’s size, goals, and software needs.
Factors That Affect The Price
Estimating the price for construction accounting software can be a challenge because vendors typically do not list a flat price for their products. Instead, you will need to speak with representatives of your potential software vendor(s) to understand the options available for your needs and budget. However, the pricing structure typically depends on a few common factors in every implementation. These include your chosen features, the number of users, software maintenance costs, and company size or revenue.
As described elsewhere in this guide, the particular modules and features for a software package will vary substantially based on what vendors have available and what your business determines as its software requirements. As you work with a vendor to identify the modules that best suit your needs, the costs of your chosen package will vary accordingly. A bare-bones implementation with some simple job costing, payroll, and billing and invoicing tools will cost much less than a more comprehensive solution. Because of this flexibility, you will need to connect with a representative from potential vendors to receive the most accurate pricing information.
Number Of Users
Costs for construction accounting software programs are typically tied to the number of users who will be using the software. The reason is that a larger number of users is likely to require more from the software vendor in terms of training, change management, and ongoing support. Software vendors address this by charging based on the number of registered users or the number of people who are allowed to use the software concurrently. If you have a larger team using your accounting software, you should expect to pay more.
Software maintenance is a cost that is usually incorporated into monthly or annual fees for cloud-based software. However, there may be an additional cost for on-premise solutions to ensure that the vendor will routinely update or patch the system when needed. This support will help ensure that your systems remain compliant with changing requirements and regulations, allow you to access new and updated features, and ensure that your systems continue to work as intended.
Software vendors have developed different software packages or tiers based on different segments of the market. For the smallest companies that are doing less than $1 million in business each year, with a small number of projects in a limited geographic area, the solutions available will be much less expensive. In contrast, a company doing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of business will need a much more comprehensive solution and will pay a premium for the ability to manage a large-scale operation.
Free Construction Accounting Software
Most construction accounting software offers a robust suite of features specifically tailored for the construction industry. To handle the more complicated aspects of managing a construction business’s finances, customers typically have to pay a price—and for very small businesses, the costs of accounting software can quickly add to their overhead costs.
Fortunately, some software vendors offer packages that begin at no cost for the most basic functionality. ZipBooks is one example, offering basic tools for time tracking, invoices, income statements, and other financial reports. These features are not as comprehensive as what a construction-specific vendor might offer, and the free edition does not include payroll or tax preparation with the free plan. However, for smaller businesses who do not need as extensive a collection of construction-specific features and do not want to spend on accounting software, ZipBooks may be a good entry-level accounting software option.
Finding the Best Construction Accounting Software
When it comes to finding the best construction accounting software, there are several factors to assess. Depending on business goals and objectives, there are a variety of aspects to consider when comparing software. Additionally, this section also lists construction accounting software for construction companies with specific needs or operating systems.
Comparing Construction Accounting Software Programs
In the construction accounting software industry, vendors stand out from the crowd based on some key aspects, like the modules included, how easy their software is to learn, their reputation, and the price. This section delves into the specifics of the crucial aspects that contracting companies should evaluate when comparing construction accounting software.
Company Reputation & Customer Service
Knowing how existing customers review a company’s product is a significant factor in the decision to implement their software. You can learn a lot from others who have used the software before and are able to tell you how well the software features meet their requirements and how easy the software is to use. Always check out other websites with impartial reviews for the company’s reputation before you implement their software.
One particular quality to focus on in reviews is customer service. When a software provider has fast, friendly, knowledgeable customer service to solve problems or guide you through a solution, you will get far more value out of the software. Software issues are unavoidable, so you should be confident that your chosen vendor will also work with you to solve any problems that arise.
Accessibility & Deployment
Construction accounting software can be deployed either through on-premise or cloud-based installations. If the software is cloud-based, users will be able to access the software anywhere with an internet connection. If the software is on-premise, it can only be used with equipment where the software has been installed.
These days, many software providers are increasingly focused on cloud-based software, but on-premise installations are still fairly common. When evaluating your deployment options, you should consider the costs and benefits associated with each. For example, if you have employees working in many different locations, a cloud solution may be more convenient. Alternatively, if you are worried about the cost of ongoing monthly subscription fees, purchasing a license upfront for on-premise software may be preferable.
Product Design & User Experience
Product design and user experience are crucial factors in evaluating any kind of software. A particular construction accounting software program could have every feature imaginable, but if the product itself is complicated or difficult to use, it could take up valuable staff time and energy.
This is also an important consideration for training your accounting and finance staff. Software that is intuitive, user-friendly, and easy to learn will help make sure that your team does not miss a beat when you are transitioning from one accounting system to another or onboarding new employees.
One of the best ways to evaluate the product design and user experience is to try a demo of the product. Reading about a piece of software or discussing features with a vendor cannot replace the value of hands-on experience with the tool. This will help make sure that the software not only has the features that your business needs, but also that these features are designed in a way that allows you to get the most usefulness out of them.
One of the previous sections delved into the best features to be on the lookout for in construction accounting software, like job costing, billing and invoicing, and managing payroll and labor. When comparing construction accounting software packages, it is essential to have a firm understanding of what your company needs to find a software package that includes the right functionality. Some niche spaces within construction may require a software solution with additional features tailored to specific workflows.
As discussed elsewhere in this guide, pricing for your construction accounting solution typically depends on a variety of factors, including what features you need, the number of users, and whether the software is cloud-based or installed on-premise. Because businesses’ needs with their construction accounting software can vary substantially, prices may range from a few hundred dollars per year to tens of thousands of dollars per year in implementation fees and monthly user access fees.
Many vendors do not publicly disclose their pricing structure, instead preferring to create custom software packages for their clients. This can make it more difficult to compare prices, but the advantage is that the vendors work to fulfill your precise requirements. However, it is important to obtain quotes from multiple vendors to find a system that adds value for the company while remaining within your budget.
Best Construction Accounting Software For Small Businesses
For smaller construction businesses with simpler operations—e.g., managing a small number of fairly predictable projects and operating in one state—Quickbooks is a solid option for construction accounting software. Quickbooks is a common choice for many small businesses of all types who appreciate its ease of use and affordable pricing. Though it was not originally designed for the construction industry, there is a Quickbooks for Construction that offers many of the essential features a construction company needs, including job costing and estimating tools and strong cash flow reporting features. Other common needs, like tracking retainage, do not have built-in features in Quickbooks, but some workarounds are available. Larger companies may prefer a more comprehensive, industry-specific solution, but for smaller scale construction firms, Quickbooks will meet most needs. And with reasonable prices, Quickbooks can save you money compared to other software providers.
Cloud Construction Accounting Software
One important factor to consider in evaluating construction accounting software is whether to purchase a cloud-based or on-premises software solution.
Cloud-based software allows users to access the programs online, whereas software that is only available on-premise is installed on a limited number of physical devices in a company office. Cloud-based tools have become increasingly common in recent years throughout the construction industry, as they are easier to access, tend to have more affordable startup and infrastructure costs, and are simpler to update. Proponents of on-premise software note that the long-term costs of cloud-based software—which typically require ongoing subscription payments—can add up over time compared to the cost of purchasing a software license upfront.
Most construction accounting software has transitioned to offering cloud-based solutions (either exclusively or as an alternative to on-premise installations) and is rapidly becoming the industry standard. Between accessibility for any registered user with an internet connection and the ability to update software without downtime or waiting for a technical expert to come to the office, cloud-based tools are preferable for most companies. Fortunately, many of the top vendors offer cloud-based versions of their construction accounting software, including Jonas, Sage, and FOUNDATION.
Construction Accounting Software for Mac & iPad Users
One consideration that may come up when evaluating construction accounting software options is whether a particular software package is compatible with the operating systems used by your company’s finance and accounting staff. Some software programs were originally developed for Windows operating systems and never ported to Mac, so Mac users may not have quite as many options on the market for construction accounting software.
The rise of cloud-based software has made this less of a concern, as it is now common to be able to access software through web browsers or even mobile apps. Any cloud-based software solution is a feasible option for Mac users, even for vendors whose on-premise editions are not compatible with Mac. Cloud-based software is also frequently available on mobile devices that run iOS, so iPad users can utilize these tools as well. All of the software listed in this guide has cloud-based versions that would be appropriate for Mac users.
The Best Construction Accounting Software
CMiC (Best Overall)
CMiC is an excellent all-around software for your construction accounting and financial management needs. CMiC’s construction-specific accounting systems include core functionality around budgeting, corporate and project forecasting, general ledger, accounts payable, and accounts receivable. Further, CMiC includes robust tools for project management, human capital management, and asset management. CMiC combines all of the business’s data into a single database that allows users to generate a variety of sophisticated reports that help shed light on project costs and minimize potential risks.
CMiC is offered as both a cloud-based and on-premise solution. With either option, CMiC is able to provide in-depth training to help facilitate the transition to the new system. CMiC also has a strong customer support operation and an extensive library of on-demand reference materials for users to answer questions or troubleshoot themselves.
CMiC also has the benefit of being a scalable solution, just as useful for small construction businesses as it is for larger organizations—and with hundreds of customers at different sizes in the market. While you need to contact CMiC for pricing information, CMiC is a highly customizable solution and its different options for features and deployment help ensure that you can scale it to your business’s needs.
CMiC’s focus on and deep knowledge of the construction industry, strong collection of features, flexibility, and appropriateness for companies of all sizes makes it our Best Overall pick.
Started in 1985, FOUNDATION is one of the best construction accounting software vendors available. FOUNDATION offers robust features with a wide range of modules for businesses of all sizes. Like many other construction accounting software options, FOUNDATION’s base modules include job costing, payroll, general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and purchase order/subcontractor management.
FOUNDATION goes further with the comprehensiveness of additional modules for project management, scheduling, inventory and equipment tracking, document imaging, and many other aspects of construction financial management. Another benefit of FOUNDATION is its integration with DataGenie, which strengthens FOUNDATION’s functionality around reporting. FOUNDATION offers a number of predefined reports, but DataGenie offers the ability to easily customize and design your own reports.
FOUNDATION is also well-regarded for its customer service, with industry expertise, quick response times, and helpfulness in resolving problems. With so many different features and modules available, this customer support can help you and your team members make sure that you are maximizing the software.
FOUNDATION’s customizability means that its pricing will vary according to your specific needs. You should contact a FOUNDATION sales representative to help determine which modules are right for you and get a quote for your customized package.
FOUNDATION’s strong features and customer service make it one of our leading picks for construction accounting software.
Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate (Best for Construction Accounting & Project Management)
With thousands of customers, Sage 300 CRE is one of the most prominent tools available on the market, supporting complex financial management needs for midsize and large construction firms. Sage 300 CRE distinguishes itself with a full suite of features that include sophisticated accounting tools and reports for job costing, payroll and HR, and billing and invoicing, along with features for estimating, document management, project management, and business intelligence. Sage also has a well-regarded customer support team who can help ensure that your business makes the best use of Sage 300 CRE’s many tools and features.
Sage 300 CRE’s comprehensive tools come at a fairly high price, which means that it may not be a good fit for smaller companies. While exact pricing will depend on factors specific to your business, Sage 300 CRE can easily cost thousands of dollars per year between implementation and ongoing subscription fees. But for larger companies with complex operations who are looking for some of the most comprehensive accounting and financial management tools in the industry, Sage 300 CRE is an excellent choice.
Jonas Enterprise (Best for Enterprise Customers)
For large companies looking to add construction accounting software that will meet the complex business needs of multiple simultaneous projects running in various states and localities, Jonas Enterprise is a good pick. Jonas Enterprise is tailored toward commercial construction companies. In addition to the essential job costing elements included in construction accounting software, Jonas Enterprise also has modules suited to general contracting and specialized building trades alike.
Jonas Enterprise can be installed on-premise with a Windows operating system or as a cloud-based service, depending on the company’s preference. They offer a variety of training during implementation like training videos, lectures, webinars, and documentation. They also have 24/7 customer support hotlines and emailed support.
Jonas Enterprise can be costly, with an implementation fee of $20,000 and per-user subscription costs of $200 per month or more. However, as a comprehensive solution for many aspects of construction management, Jonas Enterprise is a worthwhile pick for larger companies and our choice for Best for Enterprise Customers.
Sage 100 Contractor (Best for Midsize Contractors)
Formerly known as Sage Master Builder, Sage 100 Contractor is a popular choice for smaller and midsize construction firms. Sage 100 Contractor offers many essential features for construction accounting software, like job costing, work in progress reporting, certified payroll, and change order management. Modules are also available for other important functionality for your construction business, including estimating and project management.
Sage 100 Contractor is a good choice for construction professionals who are upgrading from a general accounting software program like Quickbooks to their first construction-specific accounting solution. Reviewers find that Sage 100 Contractor offers quick implementation and good customer service and high-quality user training that make the transition easy.
Sage 100 Contractor’s focus on small and medium-sized businesses also means that its cost is relatively affordable compared to more comprehensive solutions on the market. Companies should contact Sage for precise information about pricing structure. For businesses, just looking for a cloud-only accounting solution from Sage, Sage Intacct Construction could also be a good option to consider.
Between Sage 100 Contractor’s strong array of essential accounting features and the ease of implementing and transitioning from a general accounting system, we recommend Sage 100 Contractor as the Best for Midsize Contractors.
Quickbooks (Best for Small Contractors)
While Quickbooks isn’t specifically for construction accounting, they do offer enough capabilities with their general accounting modules that small contractors can use their software. Quickbooks is much less expensive than the other software on this list and might be a good fit for companies with a smaller number of employees and projects who usually have predictable job costs. Quickbooks offers two tiers of pricing:
- Plus – $35 for the first three months and then $70 per month after.
- Advanced – $75 for the first three months and then $150 per month after.
Advanced offers more capabilities like batching invoices and bills, automating workflows, and on-demand training for the software. Payroll is an additional feature that can be added on for $22.50 flat with $4 per employee per month for Core, $37.50 flat with $8 per employee per month for Premium, and $62.50 flat with $10 per employee per month for Elite. With Plus, a customer can have five users included in the monthly fee, although up to 25 additional users can be bought as the company scales up. For small companies, that should be more than enough to cover the employees who need to access the software.
Most editions of Quickbooks are cloud-based, which means that they can be run on any device with an internet connection, updates are immediately available for installation, and upgrades from one edition of Quickbooks to another are simple. Once you change your subscription, you can download the next edition. Quickbooks also integrates with many other software programs, so it is easy to use Quickbooks when you want to bring in data from other programs.
Another benefit to Quickbooks is the easy-to-learn, easy-to-use interface. Customizing reports, entering invoices, and connecting bank accounts for simplified transactions are all streamlined in Quickbooks. For people without a need for complex financial reporting, Quickbooks makes contract accounting simple.
For all of these reasons, we have chosen Quickbooks as the Best for Small Contractors.