Marginal Cost Pricing: How to Calculate, Advantages, Disadvantages - Penpoin (2022)

Marginal Cost Pricing: How to Calculate, Advantages, Disadvantages - Penpoin (1)Marginal Cost Pricing: How to Calculate, Advantages, Disadvantages - Penpoin (2)


What’s it:Marginal cost pricing refers to a pricing approach in which a firm charges a product according to its marginal cost. In this case, the company takes into account the variable costs per unit.

How to calculate marginal-cost pricing

To be honest, when I first read this concept, I felt confused. How is it possible for a firm to set prices equal to the marginal cost? Doesn’t that have implications for significant losses?

However, I slowly began to understand how marginal-cost pricing works.

Basic concepts

Before giving an example of calculating marginal-cost pricing, I will briefly review three useful concepts in this article.


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First, fixed costs.It is a type of cost whose value does not change when output changes. An example is the cost of a production machine. When increasing production, the firm bears the same fixed costs.

Second, variable costs.It is a cost that varies with changes in output. When the output increases, the value will increase. Likewise, if production falls, variable costs will also decrease. An example is raw materials.

Third, marginal cost.It is an extra cost when the company adds one unit of product. The formula is as follows:

Marginal cost = ∆ Total cost / ∆ Quantity = (∆ Total fixed cost + ∆ Total variable cost) / ∆ Quantity

Fixed cost change (∆ total fixed cost) is equal to zero. Total fixed costs will be unchanged as output increases (the firm can still use the same machines to increase production). Therefore, we can rewrite the above formula to be:

Marginal cost = ∆Total variable cost / ∆ Quantity

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Examples and calculations

Now, let’s take a simple example.

A company managed to increase its production to 20 units. Increasing output lowers average costs because it can spread fixed costs ($ 100) over a more massive output.

QuantityFixed Cost ($)Variable Cost ($)Total Cost ($)Marginal Cost ($)Average fixed cost ($/unit)Average variable cost ($/unit)Average total cost ($/unit)
10 100 150 250 25 10 15 25
20 100 200 300 5 5 10 15

Say, to sell 20 units of output, the firm adopts cost-plus pricing and takes a profit margin of 5% of the cost. From the information, we can calculate that the selling price per unit is $ 15.75 per unit = $ 15 x (1 + 5%).

Meanwhile, if the company adopts a marginal cost pricing strategy, it charges $ 5 per unit. Isn’t this absurd? Isn’t the company going to lose significantly?


Yes, companies cannot use this strategy in every situation. Companies will usually use a marginal cost pricing approach when:

  • The company has reached a break-even point. That is the point at which revenue has covered the costs of production. After the break-even volume is reached, the company can determine the price using the marginal cost pricing approach.
  • The company still has a level of capacity to add output that is higher than the break-even volume.
  • The company adopts an aggressive pricing strategy, such as a loss leader, for each additional output once it breaks even volume.

Well let’s find the break-even volume first. You can use the following formula:

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Break-even volume = Fixed cost per unit / (Selling price per unit – Variable cost per unit) = $ 100 / ($ 15.75 – $ 10) = 18 units (rounded up).

With an output of 18 units, the firm bears the fixed costs of $ 100. Meanwhile, the firm’s variable costs are $ 180 = 18 units x $ 10. Thus, the total cost is $ 280 at that volume.

Next, the revenue from 18 units’ sales is $ 283.5 (18 units x $ 15.75).

Say, with the current capacity; the company can still increase its output to 24 units. For the next 6 outputs, the company may use marginal-cost pricing.

Let’s calculate the marginal cost of increasing the output from 18 units to 24 units.

Total fixed costs are unchanged, at $ 100. Meanwhile, with the average variable cost $ 10, the total variable cost is $ 240. So the total cost of producing 24 units is $ 340 ($ 100 + $ 240).

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Marginal cost = ($ 340 – $ 300) / (24 – 18) = $ 6.8

So, in this case, the company uses two approaches:

  • Cost-plus pricing for the first 18 units of output. With 5% above average cost markup, the company charges a selling price of $ 15.75 per unit. At that price, the company earned $ 283.5 in revenue and could cover production costs of $ 280.
  • Marginal cost pricing for the next 6 units is priced at $ 6.7 per unit. At that price, the company earned $ 40.2 in revenue.


You can see that if the firm sets the selling price of the additional output equal to marginal cost, the firm will book total revenue of $ 323.7 ($ 283.5 + $ 40.2). That is still lower than the total cost of producing 24 outputs (18 breakeven volumes and 6 additional outputs) of $ 340.

Companies continue to do so if their primary goal is to increase market share.

However, if the goal is profit, then the firm may charge the selling price of the extra 6 units of output at the break-even point average cost ($ 15). That way, the company earns $ 90 (6 units x $ 15) from extra production. The firm’s total revenues will equal $ 373.5, which is higher than the total cost of 24 units of output ($ 340).

The advantages and disadvantages of marginal cost pricing

The marginal cost pricing approach is a short-term strategy. Companies may use this approach when adopting loss leader pricing or promotional pricing. Aren’t those two also pricing methods?

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Yes, it is, but of the two, you cannot determine what the price should be. Using marginal cost pricing, you can mathematically calculate the selling price and profit (loss).

  • Under the loss leader strategy, the company sets low selling prices for some products. In the example above, the firm could set a lower selling price (at marginal price) for the additional 6 outputs and a higher selling price (with a markup above the average cost) for the first 18 units. The company’s potential loss is around $ 16.3 ($ 323.7- $ 340).
  • Under the promotional price, the firm can set a selling price of $ 15.75 for the first 18 outputs. Furthermore, for the additional 6 units of output, the firm can discount the selling price and offer it at $ 15. Under this strategy, the company still made a profit of $ 33.5 ($ 373.5- $ 340).

Advantages of marginal cost pricing

  • The calculations are relatively simple. You can calculate them using simple arithmetic operations.
  • It is useful when the company has excess production capacity. The company can increase production and sell it at a discount than the regular price. It not only benefits but also attracts more bucks (discounted price).

Disadvantages of marginal cost pricing

  • Strategies are unsuitable for long-term goals. The company must operate profitably and profitably. Therefore, it needs to recover all production costs and operate profitably.
  • Consumers expect the company to maintain a lower price even further. That makes it more challenging to raise prices again in the future.
  • Customer resale. They can take advantage of the lower marginal cost price. They could sell it to other customers and prevent buying directly from the company.


What is marginal cost pricing advantages and disadvantages? ›

Ignores current market prices - Marginal cost pricing does not consider prevailing market prices. It is strictly based on variable costs. Does not build customer loyalty - Customers who take advantage of marginal cost prices are usually price-sensitive and will not become loyal, long-term purchasers.

How do you calculate marginal cost plus pricing? ›

Say, to sell 20 units of output, the firm adopts cost-plus pricing and takes a profit margin of 5% of the cost. From the information, we can calculate that the selling price per unit is $ 15.75 per unit = $ 15 x (1 + 5%). Meanwhile, if the company adopts a marginal cost pricing strategy, it charges $ 5 per unit.

How marginal cost is calculated? ›

Marginal cost represents the incremental costs incurred when producing additional units of a good or service. It is calculated by taking the total change in the cost of producing more goods and dividing that by the change in the number of goods produced.

Who uses marginal cost pricing method? ›

Companies employ marginal pricing practices to compensate for differences between locations. While customers in one location pay the lower marginal price, those in a different area pay the full retail price. Public utilities employ this practice to make up for differences in infrastructure between locations.

What is marginal cost pricing with example? ›

Businesses often set prices close to marginal cost during periods of poor sales. If, for example, an item has a marginal cost of $1.00 and a normal selling price is $2.00, the firm selling the item might wish to lower the price to $1.10 if demand has waned.

What are the advantages of marginal pricing explain? ›

(1) Marginal costing system is very useful for internal purposes – decision making, planning and control. (2) Calculation of cost of sales, under marginal costing system, is very simple to understand. (3) Marginal costing system is very simple to operate as it does not require complex apportionments of overheads.

How do I calculate marginal product? ›

The marginal product of capital is calculated by dividing the change in output divided by the change in capital, given that all else is equal. For example, if output increased by 20 and capital increased by 4, MPL = 20 / 4 = 5.

What is marginal example? ›

Marginal refers to the focus on the cost or benefit of the next unit or individual, for example, the cost to produce one more widget or the profit earned by adding one more worker. Companies use marginal analysis as a decision-making tool to help them maximize their potential profits.

How do you calculate marginal benefit? ›

How Do You Calculate Marginal Benefit? Marginal benefit is calculated by dividing the change in total benefit received by the change in the number of units consumed.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of absorption and marginal costing? ›

Absorption & Marginal Costing
Advantages of absorption costingAdvantages of marginal costing
Simple to operate
Disadvantages of absorption costingDisadvantages of marginal costing
Profits can be manipulated by changing production levelsContribution may not cover fixed costs
7 more rows
Jan 15, 2020

What are the advantages and disadvantages of standard costing? ›

Difference Between Standard Costing and Historical Costing
Historical CostStandard Cost
It is an after-production-recorded cost.It is a predetermined cost.
It is, actually, incurred cost.It is an ideal cost.
As it relates to the past, it is not useful for cost control.It is a future cost. It can be used for cost control.
1 more row
Nov 20, 2021

What are the limitations of marginal costing? ›

Marginal costing technique has the following limitations: In marginal costing, costs are classified into fixed and variable. Segregation of costs into fixed and variable is rather difficult and cannot be done with precision. Marginal costing assumes that the behavior of costs can be represented in straight line.

What are the problems associated with marginal costing? ›

Determine profit using technique of marginal costing.
Q.The problems associated with marginal costing are
A.Difficulties in divisions of costs
B.Problem of valuation of stocks
C.Ignores time elements
D.All of the above
1 more row


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