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Fixed vs Variable Cost: Whats the Difference?



Ingredient costs could change as well—an unfavorable year for wheat could raise the cost of flour. The owner should find, however, that their fixed costs remain relatively stable. Unlike variable costs, fixed costs encompass a company’s obligations irrespective of the production output (e.g. rent, insurance premium). It can change its entire labor force, managerial as well as line workers.

A company’s break-even point is calculated as fixed costs divided contribution margin, and contribution margin is calculated as revenue – variable costs. A company can leverage variable cost analysis to calculate exactly how many items it needs to see to break-even as well as how many units it needs to sell to make a specific amount of money. A variable cost is a corporate expense that changes in proportion to how much a company produces or sells. Variable costs increase or decrease depending on a company’s production or sales volume—they rise as production increases and fall as production decreases. In the case of raw materials, the more units a business produces, the more materials they will need. In the case of a service business such as a quick service auto shop, the more customers they have, the more oil, filters, and other supplies will be needed to serve those customers. The same goes for shipping charges or processing fees—the more units sold, the higher those variable costs will ultimately rise.

Examples of variable cost

Rent payments are always fixed and will not change unless a new lease is signed. Going back to Tom again, during a busy month, he ships twice as many airplane parts as he did the previous month.

Businesses can have semi-variable costs, which include a combination of fixed and variable costs. An example of a semi-variable cost is a vehicle rental that is billed at a base rate plus a per-mile charge.

Other Variable Costs definition

For example, a company relies on materials and personnel to produce goods. If sales increase, the amount of materials and labor needed also increases. If sales decrease, resources and labor needed decreases as well. For example, raw materials may cost $0.50 per pound for the first 1,000 pounds. However, orders of greater than 1,000 pounds of raw material are charged $0.48. In either situation, the https://www.bookstime.com/ is the charge for the raw materials (either $0.50 per pound or $0.48 per pound).

A good example of variable costs is the operational expenses that increase or decrease based on the business activity. If a business grows, so will its expenses such as utility bills for electricity, gas, or water. While total variable cost shows how much you’re paying to develop every unit of your product, you might also have to account for products that have different variable costs per unit. Variable cost is a business expense that rises or falls in direct proportion to production volume. Variable costs differ from fixed costs, which remain the same even as production and sales volume changes. A labor shortage could mean that the bakery owner has to pay its bakers more per hour.


For instance, if a company pays a 5% sales commission on every sale, the company’s sales commission expense will be a variable cost. If the company has no sales, the total sales commission expense will be $0. When sales are $100,000 the sales commission expense will be $5,000. Sales of $200,000 will mean total sales commission expense of $10,000.

What is variable cost with formula?

Variable Cost Formula. To calculate variable costs, multiply what it costs to make one unit of your product by the total number of products you've created. This formula looks like this: Total Variable Costs = Cost Per Unit x Total Number of Units.

Manufacturing businesses use variable costs more frequently, since materials cost is directly tied to current manufacturing levels. Small businesses with higher variable costs are not like those with high fixed costs—costs that don’t change with revenue and output, such as rent and insurance. Companies with high variable costs need to produce less to break even but they also have lower profit margins than companies with high fixed costs, according to Business Dictionary. In the long run, if the business planned to make 0 shirts, it would choose to have 0 machines and 0 rooms, but in the short run, even if it produces no shirts it has incurred those costs.

What Is a Variable Cost Example?

Reach new customers, send behavior‑based campaigns, and increase engagement with your app. Drive traffic and boost sales with a marketing platform that seamlessly integrates with your store. Test different versions of a single email to see how small changes can impact your results. Suppose that a consulting company charged 1,000 hours of services to its clientele.

  • In a manufacturing process, there are different types of costs.
  • Whether a firm makes sales or not, it must pay its fixed costs, as these costs are independent of output.
  • Understanding how costs can change with fluctuations in volume and output levels can help refine your overall business strategy.
  • Whilst the graph depicts a straight line, this may vary in real life.
  • Fixed costs remain constant in total, whereas variable costs change with changes in production volume or activity.
  • Since variable costs are output-dependent, the costs incurred increase given varying production volumes.

Let’s look at that formula again with our sample data plugged in. We can see in the sample table that not all of the costs shown are variable costs. Fixed costs are on both your income statement and balance sheet. They are nice to have because they are a predictable expense, and you know you’ll need at least that much money to stay in business. The less variable cost there is, the more the additional revenue earned will contribute to the overall profit. These other methods generally have a higher fixed cost, but a lower variable cost than metal spinning. The company purchases one unit of raw material for each widget it makes.

How to Find Variable Cost?

As the company produces more products, it will need to buy more raw materials, and so the cost of raw materials will increase. In contrast, the rent on a company’s office space is a fixed cost, because the company will continue to pay the same amount for the space, regardless of how much or how little it produces. There are a few ways to calculate variable costs, but the most common is to use the average variable cost formula. The average variable cost formula takes the total variable cost for a given period of time and divides it by the total number of units produced in that same period of time. In a manufacturing process, there are different types of costs. One of those cost profiles is a variable cost that only increases if the quantity of output also increases.

These are desirable, but you can choose whether to have them or not. One way to reduce car usage is to increase the variable cost of using a car. Prevent overspending on materials or underpricing the cost per unit. Examples of materials used for packaging are bags, boxes, twist ties, plastic wrappers and foil. Most companies consider the cost of packaging materials when determining product profitability. Examples of direct materials include steel used in building construction, circuit boards used in computer assembly and fabric used in producing clothes. The Ascent is a Motley Fool service that rates and reviews essential products for your everyday money matters.



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