The contingent valuation method estimates the non-market value of a good or service through surveying a sample of a population. These surveys are formulated to elicit hypothetical monetary values from the participants. Contingent valuation is of the few methods that reveal indirect or passive use values for goods an services. Failing to consider passive use values can cause the results of a benefit-cost analysis for a project to be misleading (Blomquist & Whitehead, 1995).

Although imperfect, contingent valuations do not produce random values and can be reliable. The CVM has been proven capable of providing internal validity, as most results show that WTP increases with income. However, CVM is faulted by issues of external validity and asymmetric information. Many studies have found that the hypothetical markets provided in these surveys illicit inflated values from the participants, especially when the valuation is of an environmental resource. Further, research has concluded that contingent valuations are more reliable when the participants have a greater understanding of the resource and availability of substitutes and alternatives (Blomquist & Whitehead, 1995).