Understanding Marginal Cost: Definition, Formula, and Examples

what is marginal cost

Marginal cost refers to the increase or decrease in the cost of producing one more unit or serving one more customer. It is also known as incremental cost.

Marginal costs are based on production expenses that are variable or direct—labor, materials, and equipment, for example—not on fixed costs the company will have whether it increases production or not. Fixed costs might include administrative overhead and marketing efforts—expenses that are the same no matter how many pieces are produced.

It is often calculated when enough items have been produced to cover the fixed costs and production is at a break-even point, where the only expenses going forward are variable or direct costs.

When average costs are constant, as opposed to situations where material costs fluctuate because of scarcity issues, marginal cost is usually the same as average cost.

What is marginal cost?

Marginal cost is the change in total production cost that comes from making or producing one additional unit. It is calculated by dividing the change in production costs by the change in quantity.

The marginal cost is used to help determine optimal production levels and pricing for a business. Investors can use the concept to help forecast the profit growth of a company as it increases in scale.

A company can optimally increase units of production to the point where marginal cost equals marginal revenue.

What's the importance of marginal cost?

Marginal cost is important for ecommerce businesses because it helps them make informed decisions about pricing, production, and inventory management, which can ultimately lead to increased profitability and success.

Marginal cost is the cost of producing one additional unit of a product or service. In ecommerce, this can include the cost of materials, labor, shipping, and other expenses associated with producing and delivering a product. By understanding their marginal costs, ecommerce businesses can determine the optimal price to charge for their products, as well as the quantity of products to produce and stock.

For example, if an ecommerce business knows that the marginal cost of producing one additional unit of a product is $5, they can use this information to determine the minimum price they should charge to make a profit. They can also use this information to determine how many units to produce and stock, based on expected demand and the costs associated with holding inventory.

In addition, understanding marginal cost can help ecommerce businesses identify areas to reduce costs and improve efficiency. By analyzing their production processes and supply chain, they can find ways to reduce the cost of producing each unit, which can increase their profit margin and make them more competitive in the market.

Calculating marginal cost

Calculating the marginal cost helps a business determine the point at which increasing the number of items produced will push the average cost up. Costs can increase if production volume requires the company to add equipment, move to a larger facility, find a another supplier that can provide enough materials.

For example, if a company can produce 200 units at a total cost of $2,000 and producing 201 costs $2,020, the average cost per unit is $10, and the marginal cost of the 201st unit is $20.

Here’s the formula for calculating marginal cost: Divide the change in total costs by the change in quantity. Using the example above, the change in cost is 20 and the change in quantity is 1. 20 divided by 1 equals 20.

When charted on a graph, marginal cost tends to follow a U shape. Costs start out high until production hits the break-even point when fixed costs are covered. It stays at that low point for a period, and then starts to creep up as increased production requires spending money for more employees, equipment, and so on.

Understanding a product’s marginal cost helps a company assess its profitability and make informed decisions related to the product, including pricing.

Marginal Cost FAQ

What is marginal cost and example?

Marginal cost is the cost of producing one additional unit of a good or service. An example of this would be the cost of an additional hour of labor or the cost of an extra machine to increase production.

What is a marginal cost formula?

Marginal Cost Formula: Marginal Cost = Change in Total Cost / Change in Quantity

What is the difference between cost and marginal cost?

Cost refers to the total amount of money spent to produce a certain quantity of a product or service. Marginal cost is the cost associated with producing one additional unit of a product or service. It is calculated by taking the total cost of producing a certain quantity and subtracting the cost of producing the previous quantity.