This article analyzes how cost-benefit calculation influences compliance with pesticide regulation by Chinese farmers. Building on a study including 150 farmers and experts, it studies how operational costs and benefits and deterrence affect compliance. Moreover, it studies what variation in cost-benefit perceptions there are with different types of rules, farms, and villages. It finds that, in this context, cost-benefit calculation matters for compliance; with operational costs and benefits being more clearly related to compliant behavior than deterrence. It highlights that perceptions about costs and benefits are situational and vary along the type of legal rule and the type of regulated actor. It also shows that such perceptions are individually subjective, as even with similar rules and similar types of actors, perceptions vary. The paper concludes by stating expectations on how the situational and subjective nature of cost-benefit calculation can inform regulators seeking to enhance compliance.