Significant investment is needed to improve peri-urban sanitation. Consumer willingness to pay may bridge some of this gap. While contingent valuation has been frequently used to assess this demand, there are few comparative studies to validate this method for water and sanitation. We use contingent valuation to estimate demand for flushing toilets, solid doors, and inside and outside locks on doors and compare this with results from hedonic pricing and discrete choice experiments. We collected data for a randomized, controlled trial in peri-urban Lusaka, Zambia in 2017. Tenants were randomly allocated to discrete choice experiments (n = 432) or contingent valuation (n = 458). Estimates using contingent valuation were lower than discrete choice experiments for solid doors (US$2.6 vs. US$3.4), higher for flushing toilets ($3.4 vs. $2.2), and were of the opposite sign for inside and outside locks ($1.6 vs. $ − 1.1). Hedonic pricing aligned more closely to discrete choice experiments for flushing toilets ($1.7) and locks (−$0.9), suggesting significant and inconsistent bias in contingent valuation estimates. While these results provide strong evidence of consumer willingness to pay for sanitation, researchers and policymakers should carefully consider demand assessment methods due to the inconsistent, but often inflated bias of contingent valuation.

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