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Incremental Cost


Incremental cost, also known as the marginal cost, is the total change in a company’s cost when production volume is increased by one unit. Essentially, it is the cost of producing one additional item. This cost is used in financial analysis to determine the most cost-efficient quantity of goods to produce.


The phonetic spelling of “Incremental Cost” is: /ɪnkrəˈmɛntəl kɒst/

Key Takeaways

  • Incremental cost is the expense that a company incurs to produce additional products or services. It includes only those costs that will change following any decision about increasing production volume.
  • Incremental costs are crucial in manufacturing and economic decisions. By analyzing incremental cost, businesses can determine if it is profitable to increase production or if funds would be better allocated elsewhere.
  • The difference between incremental cost and sunk cost is noteworthy. While the former depends on the production volume alterations, the latter refers to the costs that have already been incurred and will not change regardless of future production volumes or activities.


Incremental cost is a crucial concept in business finance as it impacts decision making on various levels of the organization. Essentially, incremental cost refers to a change in total production cost that comes from producing one additional unit of a product or service. Such costs can include additional raw materials, labor, utilities, or other resources necessary for increased production. By accurately calculating these costs, a company can better understand the potential effects of scaling their operations, optimizing production volumes, and setting appropriate pricing strategies. Hence, understanding incremental cost enables businesses to make more informed financial decisions and ultimately enhance profitability.


Incremental cost, as a crucial element in financial and business analysis, is primarily used to facilitate decision-making processes. Its main purpose is to provide insight on the additional expense that a company will incur if they decide to produce additional units of a product or invest in new projects or business ventures. By calculating the incremental cost, companies can take an in-depth look at the costs associated with expanding operations or production levels. For example, if a business wants to increase its product output, it can use incremental costs to calculate the extra expenses it would need to cover, such as labor, materials, or maintenance.

Further, the concept of incremental cost is not just confined to production; it can also be applied to evaluate the efficiency and profitability of different business strategies. Decision-makers can gauge whether the potential revenue from an increased activity will exceed its associated incremental cost, thus aiding in determining if a particular strategy is worth implementing. This is especially useful in ‘make or buy’ decisions or in situations where a company is considering discontinuing a product or service; by comparing the potential saving with the incremental cost, the company can make an informed decision. Thus, incremental cost serves a vital role in enhancing financial efficiency and strategic planning in businesses.


1. Production Expansion: Suppose a company produces 100 widgets at a total cost of $5000, so the average cost of production per widget is $50. The company then decides to increase production to 120 widgets and finds that its total cost has increased to $5500. The incremental cost for producing the additional 20 widgets is the change in total cost, which is $500, or $25 per widget. This information might help the company to determine whether it is more cost-effective to increase production.

2. Adding New Product Line: Let’s assume a clothing manufacturer decides to launch a new line of apparel. The additional cost of designing the clothes, sourcing the materials, advertising, and distribution would all be considered as incremental costs. The manufacturer will need to decide if the estimated revenue from the new line is high enough to cover these incremental costs.

3. Switching to a New Software System: A company may choose to switch over to a new software system to increase its efficiency. The cost of purchasing the software, training team members on its use, and any lost productivity during the transition time would be considered incremental costs. The company would need to assess whether these additional costs are likely to be offset by the anticipated productivity gains from using the new software.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does Incremental Cost mean?

Incremental Cost, in the field of finance and business, refers to the total change that a company experiences within its balance sheet due to one additional unit of production.

How is Incremental Cost calculated?

Incremental Cost is computed by getting the difference in costs when production volume is increased by one additional unit. It considers the costs that directly change due to this production increase like labor, raw materials, additional utilities, etc.

Is Incremental Cost considered a fixed or variable cost?

Incremental Cost can be considered a variable cost since it can change depending on the levels of production. It’s not a fixed cost which generally remains constant, irrespective of the output levels.

What is an example of Incremental Cost in a real business situation?

For example, if a shoe company normally produces 100 pairs of shoes costing $1,000 but decides to produce an extra pair, increasing the total cost to $1,010, the Incremental Cost for the extra pair of shoes is $10.

Why is understanding Incremental Cost important in decision making?

Incremental Cost is crucial in decision-making processes because it provides companies with detailed information on the cost implications of expanding production. This knowledge aids in determining profitability and in deciding whether the proposed expansion or change would be financially beneficial.

Does Incremental Cost consider indirect costs?

No, Incremental Cost only takes into account the costs that are directly linked to the production of an extra unit. It doesn’t include indirect costs like overheads which generally do not alter with minor changes in production volume.

How is Incremental Cost different from Marginal Cost?

While both Incremental Cost and Marginal Cost look at changes in costs due to alterations in production, there’s a difference in scale. Incremental Cost refers to the cost change with any amount of product increase, whereas Marginal Cost specifically refers to cost changes from producing one additional unit.

Related Finance Terms

  • Marginal Cost: The cost of producing one additional unit of a product or service. It’s a concept closely related to incremental cost.
  • Opportunity Cost: The cost of forgoing the next best alternative when making a decision, often compared against the incremental cost of a decision.
  • Variable Cost: Costs that fluctuate directly with output or activity level within a business. These are often considered in determining incremental costs.
  • Fixed Cost: Costs that do not change with the level of output or activity, and opposite of variable costs. While these are not included in incremental cost calculations, they play an important role in overall cost structure.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: A process used by organizations to analyze decisions, systems or projects, or to determine options and impacts and compare them to the incremental costs associated with making a change.

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