When it comes to business contracts, one of the most popular types is the cost reimbursement contract. This agreement is often used in government procurement and construction projects. It is a type of contract that allows the contractor to be reimbursed for all of the costs that are incurred during the project. However, as with any type of contract, there are also some disadvantages to using a cost reimbursement contract.

1. Lack of Incentives for Cost-Control

Since the contractor is being reimbursed for all costs incurred, there is very little incentive for them to control costs. This can lead to unchecked spending and ultimately inflate project costs beyond what would have been reasonable under a more traditional fixed-price contract.

2. Higher Risk for the Client

A risk for the client is that they may be on the hook for all of the costs if the project exceeds the budget. This is in stark contrast to a fixed-price contract where the contractor is required to deliver the project within the stipulated budget. For this reason, cost reimbursement contracts are often the most appropriate when there is a clear and well-articulated project scope and budget.

3. More Complicated

Cost reimbursement contracts tend to be more complicated and take longer to negotiate than other types of contracts. There are often more details to be reviewed including billing rates, travel expenses, costs for subcontractors, and other expenses that are not common for fixed-price agreements. This can be burdensome for businesses and contractors alike.

4. Greater Administrative Burden

Cost reimbursement contracts require more administrative work than fixed-price contracts because it’s the responsibility of the contractor to document and prove all costs and expenses incurred on the project. This administrative burden can be time-consuming and may take personnel away from other aspects of the project.

5. Difficulty in Budgeting

Since there is no cap on expenses in cost reimbursement contracts, it can be difficult to budget the project. This can lead to uncertainty for the client, particularly if the project is being done on a tight budget. Contractors also must deal with the uncertainty of having to manage their costs without going over budget.


Cost reimbursement contracts can be beneficial in certain situations, particularly when the scope of work is not fixed, or if there are complex variables that must be accounted for. Nevertheless, cost reimbursement contracts can involve higher risk for the client, and they are often complicated and time-consuming for contractors. Ultimately, people need to evaluate the specifics of their contract before deciding whether or not to opt for a cost reimbursement agreement. This will require both parties to assess the risks, benefits, and administrative burden. Experienced professionals, such as attorneys or project managers, can be helpful partners in this process when analyzing and drafting contractual agreements.