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Fixed Cost vs. Variable Cost: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 14, 2023
Fixed cost remains constant regardless of production volume, while variable cost changes proportionally with production volume.

Key Differences

Fixed cost is a financial commitment that a business incurs irrespective of its level of production or sales. This cost remains unchanged over a specific period and does not fluctuate with business activities. Variable cost, on the other hand, is directly correlated with the volume of production; it increases as production rises and decreases as production falls.
In understanding the financial landscape of a business, recognizing fixed cost provides insight into the mandatory expenses that must be met, such as rent or salaries. Conversely, variable cost gives a picture of costs that change based on operational levels, such as raw materials or production supplies.
From a budgeting and forecasting standpoint, fixed cost offers predictability, as it doesn't change with production or sales volumes. It creates a baseline for expenditure. Variable cost, however, requires more dynamic forecasting, as it shifts in direct response to business activities and can significantly influence profitability.
In terms of profitability analysis, fixed cost dilution happens when there's increased production or sales, reducing the cost per unit. However, variable cost remains consistent on a per-unit basis, making it a direct influencer of the cost of goods sold and overall profitability.
Strategically, businesses aim to manage and possibly reduce fixed cost to improve their bottom line, as these are recurrent expenses. In contrast, the focus with variable cost is often on efficiency and sourcing, ensuring that as production or sales grow, these costs are optimized.

Comparison Chart


Remains constant regardless of production volume.
Changes proportionally with production volume.


Predictable and does not fluctuate with business activities.
Fluctuates with changes in production or sales levels.


Rent, salaries.
Cost of raw materials, production supplies.

Impact on Profitability

Dilutes with increased production, reducing cost per unit.
Consistent per-unit, directly influencing cost of goods sold.

Management Focus

Reduction to improve bottom line.
Efficiency and optimization as production grows.

Fixed Cost and Variable Cost Definitions

Fixed Cost

Fixed cost represents obligations that don't fluctuate.
Despite lower sales this quarter, our fixed cost for salaries stayed the same.

Variable Cost

Variable cost remains consistent on a per-unit basis.
Each product carries a $5 variable cost for components.

Fixed Cost

Fixed cost provides a predictable expense baseline.
The fixed cost for software licenses is budgeted annually.

Variable Cost

Variable cost can be influenced by sourcing and efficiency.
Negotiating with suppliers reduced our variable cost significantly.

Fixed Cost

Fixed cost can be diluted with increased production or sales.
Higher production this month reduced the fixed cost per unit.

Variable Cost

Variable cost changes in direct proportion to production.
As we manufactured more units, the variable cost for materials increased.

Fixed Cost

Fixed cost is consistent and doesn't vary with output.
The company's fixed cost for the building lease remained at $10,000 monthly.

Variable Cost

Variable cost fluctuates based on business operations.
The variable cost for shipping changed with the number of orders processed.

Fixed Cost

Fixed cost is incurred regardless of business activity levels.
Even during the off-season, the fixed cost for utilities persisted.

Variable Cost

Variable cost impacts the cost of goods sold.
Higher sales led to increased variable cost in the financial statement.


What remains constant irrespective of production levels: fixed cost or variable cost?

Fixed cost remains constant irrespective of production levels.

How does an increase in production affect variable cost?

An increase in production generally leads to an increase in variable cost.

Which cost type fluctuates with changes in production: fixed cost or variable cost?

Variable cost fluctuates with changes in production.

Are salaries typically considered a fixed cost or variable cost?

Salaries are typically considered a fixed cost.

Can fixed cost change over time?

Yes, fixed cost can change over time, but it remains constant over a specified period.

Why is it said that fixed cost dilutes with increased production?

Because the total fixed cost spread over more units reduces the cost per unit.

How does bulk purchasing impact variable cost?

Bulk purchasing can reduce the per-unit variable cost due to volume discounts.

How does seasonality impact variable cost?

Seasonality can cause fluctuations in production or sales, leading to changes in variable cost.

How do variable costs impact break-even analysis?

Variable costs, along with fixed costs and selling price, determine the break-even point for sales.

Are monthly software subscription fees a fixed cost or variable cost?

They're typically a fixed cost, as they don't vary with production or sales volume.

Is rent a fixed cost or variable cost?

Rent is typically considered a fixed cost as it doesn't fluctuate with production or sales.

Why do businesses aim to manage and possibly reduce fixed cost?

To improve their bottom line, as fixed costs are recurrent and can impact profitability.

Why is understanding variable cost crucial for pricing strategies?

Understanding variable cost helps ensure products are priced to cover costs and achieve desired profit margins.

Can a variable cost become a fixed cost?

Some costs have both fixed and variable components, but strictly speaking, one doesn't become the other.

How do economies of scale relate to variable cost?

Economies of scale can reduce per-unit variable costs as production volume increases.

How does efficiency in production impact variable cost?

Greater efficiency can reduce wastage and potentially lower the variable cost.

Can a business have zero fixed cost?

It's rare, but some digital or dropshipping businesses might have minimal to zero fixed cost.

Do all businesses have both fixed and variable costs?

Most businesses have both, but the proportion and magnitude can vary widely.

Are commissions based on sales a fixed cost or variable cost?

Commissions based on sales are a variable cost, as they change with sales volume.

Can businesses change their fixed cost structure?

Yes, businesses can change their fixed cost structure through decisions like relocating or renegotiating contracts.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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