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What does "Going Rate" Mean?

By Mark Wollacott
Updated May 17, 2024
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The “going rate” is an idiomatic English term referring to the standard price of an item or service. The going rate also can be applied to salaries. The going rate is the rate someone would expect to pay for a service such as baby-sitting.

By using the term as a question — such as, “What is the going rate?” — the person asking is indicating he is uncertain of the current standard market value for the item or service in question. This infers that the item or service — baby-sitting, for example — fluctuates in price. It may also suggest the potential customer has not bought the service or item for a long time and is therefore unsure how much the cost has gone up.

If a customer knows the standard rate for a service, then he will be better able to judge whether what he is buying offers good value for the money. Take the baby-sitting example again. If the going rate for a baby sitter is $10 US Dollars (USD) an hour, then a customer might feel he has received a good deal if he pays only $8 USD an hour.

By the same token, a baby sitter may charge twice the going rate for his or her services. The parents are likely to expect a better service in return. Expectations may go up or go down, depending on how much the service charge varies compared to the going rate.

The standard price for a service or item is not set by any one person or company. To determine the going rate a customer must research a large number of companies or people offering the same service. Companies are unlikely to use the term, which is colloquial and informal. They are more likely to use a phrase such as market value or recommended retail price (RRP).

The term is more likely to be used informally between people. Using the baby-sitting example, a person would expect a couple in need of a baby sitter to phone their friends, relatives and neighbors. To learn what the appropriate rate is they might ask another couple with children about what they should pay.

With regards to salaries, the expression is most likely to turn up in an informal discussion. For example, two old friends meet while playing golf. One says he is an architect, at which point the other might ask, “What is the going rate for an architect these days?” The question is an indirect way of asking the other man’s salary.

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Discussion Comments
By sunshined — On Jul 23, 2012

My aunt had the same house cleaner for almost 20 years. This person was trustworthy, efficient and didn't charge nearly enough for her services. I think she had a hard time increasing her rates with her long time customers.

When she decided to quit cleaning houses, my aunt had to find a new house cleaner. She was absolutely blown away at what the going rate for house cleaning was.

She had no idea what people were currently charging and getting paid for. I don't think it is always true that you will get better service if you pay someone a higher going rate as each circumstance is different.

If you find someone who charges something less than the going rate, and they give you good service, you would be wise to make sure you continue to use them and let them know how much you appreciate their services.

By myharley — On Jul 22, 2012

The going rate for babysitting has sure changed since I started babysitting as a young girl. I would have absolutely loved to get paid what a babysitter gets paid today.

When my kids were young and I needed to hire a babysitter, I started asking all my friends who already had kids what the going rate for a babysitter was. I was a little bit shocked at how much they were paying a babysitter.

They told me this was pretty much the going rate and if I found someone who accepted a lower rate, I might not get the quality I was expecting. I don't know if this is always true, but do know the going rate for this service keeps going higher all the time.

By golf07 — On Jul 21, 2012

When my niece opened up her own hair salon, she did a lot of price comparing to find out what the going rate was for the services she would provide.

She wanted her prices to be comparative and competitive with what other people were charging in the area. I know these services can vary in price depending on many factors as well.

If you visit an upper end salon you would probably expect their going rate to be more than someone who offers fewer services and caters more to someone with an average salary.

By SarahSon — On Jul 20, 2012

I know the going rate of something will often vary quite a bit depending on what part of the country I am in. I have really noticed this when it comes to the price of gasoline.

I don't usually have to ask someone what the going rate for gas is because the signs are posted at each station, but it sure changes as you drive from place to place.

If you are stopping to get gas anywhere close to the interstate, the going rate is always higher than what you would pay in town.

It also changes a lot from state to state. I live in the Midwest and the going rate for our gas is usually much lower than what my sister pays who lives in California.

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