How Much Do Certification Bodies Charge for ISO?

How Much do Certification Bodies Charge?

It’s not a bad Idea to know what certification bodies charge. Essential if you are budgeting for an ISO project and also important if you are already ISO certified to make sure you are not paying too much.

The decision about which registrar to use and if to change to another is fairly straightforward. The key factors are:

Accreditation: only use IAF accredited certification bodies. This is the recognized accreditation and it allows transferring between certification bodies without repeating audits. Careful, there are some certification bodies that claim accreditation but if their accreditation agency is not part of IAF then its simply not the same. Whatever they say. In the US that is ANAB accreditation but international equivalents are RvA, CSA, UKAS, Inmetro.

Quality of the auditor and customer service you will receive: Because you really can’t tell this before you actually experience it you cannot really consider this. Reputation doesn’t count because often the people saying “their registrar is great” don’t really know. You can interview the auditor but they will all tell you they are great and they are precise with the standard. They all say they “help” without giving advice and are careful in writing findings. But in real life they don’t always do that. Just because the sales person is responsive it is no indication of how they will be if you have a problem on your audit and need to talk to someone. So don’t consider this too much at this time. When you experience the auditor – that’s when you react. Demand good auditor and fire bad ones. Switch certification bodies if you don’t get the performance you demand.

Price: Price can be confusing. Certification bodies charge in different ways to differentiate themselves from one and other.

The following information was obtained on a recent consulting project for a client who was seeking ISO 9001 registration. They are a mid-west traditional machining/manufacturing contracting organization building things to customer drawings and so they exclude section 7.3 Design and Development. They have no special processes in house and although they occasionally outsource some processing, it is rare enough that they have also excluded 7.5.2.  Everything else is applicable. They have a traditional quality manual and 12 procedures that describe management processes in a process based manner. Obviously we helped them put their system together and they have evidence through internal audit and document review that they are in conformance with the standard. They have 11 people.

These are all ANAB accredited ISO 9001 registrars – technically their certificates are interchangeable, and from our clients perspective, all of equal value.

Out of interest the IAF table (which is what all certification bodies have to follow) shows the audit duration as 2.5 days for 11-15 employees. The maximum reduction is 30% which would reduce the minimum duration to 1.75 days.

Certification Body





Stage 1 Audit 1 day $1350 1 day $1200 1 day $1400 1 day $1350
Stage 2 – Certification Audit 1 day $1350 1.5 days $1800 1 day $1400 1 day $1350
Additional fees/off-site Off $675 Fee 250    
Total Days 2.5 2.5 2 2
TOTAL for Initial Assessment $3,375.00 $3250 $2800 $2700
Surveillance Audit (There are two of these) 1 day $1,350.00 .75 days $900 $1400 $1350
Additional fees/off-site Off $675.00 Off $600    
Total Annual Cost $2025 $1500 $1400 $1350
Three year cost $7425 $6250 $5600 $5400

Two other certification bodies would not respond without our client completing a questionnaire. There are plenty of accredited certification bodies like those above who do not require your administrative effort. One of the non-responders is a larger certification body who charges $1600/day. The other, also one of the larger recognized names, stated “We charge a flat day rate, an administrative fee and an accreditation fee.” Both of these are likely to be much more expensive than anyone in our table. Better? Who knows at this stage? More prolific reputation? Who cares, anyone who understands the ISO market knows that the quality of the audit is based on the quality of the auditor (which is hard to know from a certificate or a reputation) and so long as the registrar is accredited then reputation means very little.


Clearly unless you like to give money away you should pick a certification body that has an inexpensive day rate and no fees. This is true if you are just starting out looking for a certification body, if you are already registered then it’s a little more difficult. Of course if you are using one of the larger certification bodies you could be wasting thousands of dollars every year. The argument against changing is usually that we “know” our auditor and we don’t want to risk going to another. The normal translation of this is that our quality system is a little dubious and our auditor is easy/lazy/ineffective. If the boss understands that you have been wasting money because you didn’t make sure your quality system is robust enough to stand scrutiny by anyone – your job may be on the line. If he is complicit, acknowledging that the QMS is less that solid, and he accepts this then the organization’s existence (and again your job) is on the line. Get a non-easy/lazy/ineffective auditor, take the hits, improve your system and ask for a raise for all the value you have added.

Cavendish Scott has been helping organization design and implement ISO systems for 25 years. We guarantee success, we have never had a failure and we produce practical, business focused, low maintenance systems.

We help our clients with their choice of certification body to minimize costs and with their choice of auditor to ensure they get the most benefit. If you have any questions about certification bodies or their auditors we are happy to help. Just ask!

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