Free classifieds software vs. Commercial software

After getting numerous requests regarding the difference between free classifieds software and commercial one we decided to draw a substantive comparison and show you the most important facts and pitfalls of using free and commercial scripts so you could make the right choice. We tried to be as unbiased as possible.

Commercial Classifieds Software

Free Classifieds Software

Price

The price for commercial classifieds software may vary from 69 to 2900 USD depending on what comes with a license, who makes it and type of a license etc.

Why do I have to pay for commercial software?
Commercial software is made by full-time professional developers, who are convinced that a product must be a good value for money otherwise no one will buy their software and they won’t have positive reviews on the Internet; so they try to make really powerful classifieds software with as many features, plugins and themes as possible. In addition a development company has to rent an office to ensure proper staff communication and synergy, pay salary to full-time developers, supporters and other specialists and make profit to support products and make new things.

Free classifieds software is offered as open source and can be freely downloaded from a developer's site, which is really good because you don't have to purchase it.

Why free classifieds software is free?
Offering free software is not just a charity, but one of the business models that thrives on human inclination towards free things. Developers of free software give you the opportunity to download their basic functionality script at no cost hoping that you’ll come back one day to buy plugins, themes and customizations. Partly the software is offered as free because developers may work either part time or remotely to support the free software business model financially; so they can save on office rent, salary and utilities. Free software doesn’t necessarily have to be the best; most people download it because it’s free.

Hidden costs

Basically there are no hidden costs with commercial software because you can see pricing for software, plugins, themes and services with all necessary details. If you have questions you can always shoot an email or start a chat with a development company; most commercial software companies offer pre-sales chat and even the ability to make a call for getting more details. The only hidden cost that you might face when using commercial classifieds software might be caused by an improperly worded request or by misunderstanding of how software or a plugin works; in this case an extra charge for adding a custom feature or module might be the very hidden cost. If you want to order a customization you’ll get a quote from original developers who know their script like the back of their hands. In addition, most companies are ready to review your spec before purchasing software.

Most companies develop plugins and themes for their software without engaging third party companies, which provides seamless integration and stable performance; so you can be sure that all plugins will work fine on all templates and if not, you can ask a company to do this work for free because you already purchased their software.

The fact that you can get classifieds software for free is really amazing; you can start your project practically for free; we're not talking about domain and hosting, which you'll have to purchase to get your site going. If you plan to run a basic site with no extraordinary features and functions then you can use the free software without any hidden costs, but if you want to start a money-making site you'll see a long list of things to purchase; that is, plugins, themes and probably customizations to make your site attractive to users. The trick is that no one knows how much it will cost you to get a site of your dream in the long run, and you may end up paying even more as compared to ready-to-use commercial solutions. Let’s do some calculations for a custom money-making site based on free classifieds software:

Buying a responsive theme: 100-200 USD
Buying plugins: 0-40 USD; you might need about 20 plugins to get a desired functionality; due to the fact that some plugins are free and some paid, you may spend from 0-800 USD.
Compatibility issues: from 0-200 USD; if you have a custom third party template integrated you’ll have to adjust plugins to your custom theme.
Total: from 100 USD to 1200 USD (excluding mobile apps). Some companies estimate average projects at 1000 USD charging more than 100 USD for reviewing your spec.

Note: A mobile app will cost you 390-2000 USD. You need apps for two environments at least: Android and iOS.

Functionality

The majority of commercial software developers or top companies offer software packages with massive functionality allowing you to do a lot of things from admin panel without getting into the code or use of plugins. Taking into account high competition and availability of free classifieds scripts they realize that they should do their best to give a really good value for money and make as powerful, flexible and reliable software as possible otherwise no one will be interested in purchasing their software.

Free classifieds software offers a basic set of features and functions. It is not that developers cannot add more features to their script; they simply don't have enough resources to make a really powerful free script; at the same time they try to keep a balance between basic functionality and paid plugins and themes. Offering a feature-rich free script that would top commercial software may turn out to be unprofitable because the number of paid plugins in this case will be insufficient for keeping the business model alive.

Monetization

Due to the fact that commercial software is mostly used for commercial purposes it offers more payment gateways integrated and more monetization options like: charging users for featured ads, highlighted ads, moving up, banners, sending invoices, charging a commission on sales etc.

Free scripts also offer payment gateways, featured ads and banners as paid plugins that you can use for collecting payments on your site. As for the rest of monetization options in free scripts, they are quite limited.

Support

On average support for commercial software costs from 40 USD per month, and is provided on a daily basis, which gives you confidence that problems on your site will be taken care of, if something happens to it. Quality of support in most cases depends on a company, its location and number of staff and division of labor in a company. With good support a helpdesk will respond to your request within a few hours 2-3 times a day. If you send a list of issues and small changes you may expect a 1-2 day delay, which is quite natural because looking things in the code takes time; in addition, a supporter is supposed to send a reply explaining the cause of a problem or give guidance. Support of some companies includes making minor changes to the source code, which might be a useful asset to the software license. Most companies offer chat that you also can use for getting basic support. Companies experiencing peak loads may take longer in responding to your requests.

Support is one of the weaknesses of free classifieds software because it is downloaded by thousands of users every day and developers simply don't have enough time to respond to every bug report or request. So if you have a bug, question or want a change to your site you have two options here:

1. You can turn to community that might help you find a solution; of course it's not the fastest way to get a problem resolved because you deal with ordinary users, or

2. You can purchase paid support. Paid support for free classifieds software is relatively cheap starting from 15 USD per month, which means that such companies are ready to support your site for as low as 0.5 USD per day. The price is OK if a company offers part time support, doesn’t have to pay a rent for an office, doesn’t have a regular staff that develops software on a daily basis, is located in a country with low living standards and if support includes only basic guidance on the software.

Bug fixing

Developers are responsible for software native bugs and are ready to fix them even if you don't have support because you bought a commercial product, and developers assume full responsibility for native bugs found in their software. You can expect a bug fix at any time and at no cost or as long as a company operates. Some companies use automated tests to find bugs and make their software more reliable and stable.

In most cases companies make customizations to customers' sites using in-house resources, which is an extra source of income. So if you find a bug caused by a customization you can always request a fix by contacting a company directly.

Due to multiple downloads of free software from a developer’s site, which supposes a multitude of sites running on free software, you may not expect a quick fix of a bug reported, or you may get a notification that bugs reported will be fixed in the next update. As you get classifieds software for free you might be encouraged to purchase support on a regular basis to have your requests and issues taken care of.

Bugs can also be caused by customizations, which in some cases are outsourced to third party developers or companies; free software company in this case is merely a middle link between you and developers. No one knows how fast third party developers will fix their bugs on your site.

Mobile Apps

Almost all companies offer mobile applications for Android and iOS devices. Their prices vary from 150 to 800 USD depending on a company's pricing policy, how many features and functions they have and how well they are organized. In most cases companies provide for in-house development of native mobile applications because they have enough resources to make them.

The majority of free scripts come without any mobile apps on offer because development of a native application requires an in-house dedicated staff that has all necessary knowledge and time. Some offer mobile apps but their price starts from 390 USD. Mobile apps similar to free software have primitive interfaces and limited functionality.

Plugins

Normally companies offer a lot of plugins to their customers. Some of them are free, you get them with a license, and others are paid. Prices for plugins vary from 9-150 USD. In most cases plugins are developed by members of the team, which implies their reliable and stable performance and compatibility with software. If development of a plugin has been suspended for some reason another member of the team will always be able to take over development of the plugin. So you can be sure that plugins will be supported and updated on a regular basis. Depending on requirements and purpose of plugins some of them are really powerful add-ons offering commercial quality and stunning performance.

Some companies offer so many plugins that they experience problems adjusting all their plugins to the latest software version, and it might take some time before you get software with all plugins working fine.

Some companies have very few plugins offering mostly themes and services others offer a lot of plugins. In most cases plugins are offered as paid add-ons, which along with premium themes are a source of income for free classifieds developers. The price may vary from 5 to 50 USD for a plugin. Even though free software might include a number of plugins it’s worth paying your attention to functional power of such plugins: few plugins feature a really powerful functionality.

Some plugins are made by third party developers wanting to earn extra. No one can guarantee that developers will continue to support and update their plugins. There also might be loopholes in such plugins, which may compromise security of your site.

Themes

Not all companies provide nice themes, but some do really awesome classifieds themes that follow the latest CSS and HTML standards. Some themes are offered as standard and others as premium. When you purchase a theme from a software development company you can be sure that it will be 99% compatible with the software and plugins and you won't have to buy extra support to set it up. Normally you upload a theme through FTP and choose it from admin panel and you get a new skin for your site.

Free scripts come with mediocre themes, which look simple and unsophisticated. You can use themes if you plan to start a free project; although not all themes that you can purchase from developers can be called awesome. Their main advantage is simplicity and use of bootstrap. Making a series of really awesome themes is expensive and developers of free software believe that availability of free software can easily offset absence of nice themes. You also may purchase a theme from a template vendor and have it integrated into your software for extra charge.

Languages

Developers of the commercial software, in most cases, hire translation agencies to translate files of the software, which provides a certain level of quality and clarity. Although such translations also might have mistakes.

Translation of free software, in most cases, is made by users. The fact that free software is open source and used by a number of users supposes that quality of translations is quite satisfactory; although there also might be mistakes because translations are made by people who don't know software very well and may interpret some functions differently.

Installation

Some companies offer free installation while others give it a cool name like expert or professional installation and charge a fee for it. Prices vary from 30 to 50 USD for installation by a company.

With the free software you're supposed to install your site yourself or pay for installation or at least buy something from a company to have your script installed. Some companies charge 55 USD for installation of their free script.

Attitude

The motivation to sell software drives companies to focus on the software as their main product. For this reason companies developing commercial software can be regarded as software-oriented. And when you purchase commercial classifieds software you give a deposit to a company, which allows such companies to be predictable, encourages them to make really good software, provide professional and timely support, keep developing and supporting their software, offer some plugins for free, and more importantly offer reasonable prices for mobile apps and other services because you already purchased their software.

When you download free classifieds script you pay nothing but you give hope to a company that you’ll buy something after installation when your site grows bigger. For this reason their business model is mostly add-on-oriented. Powerful software is not a priority for such companies because you download software for free.