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Marginal Costing vs. Differential Costing: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 8, 2024
Marginal costing considers costs of additional units of production, focusing on variable costs, while differential costing evaluates costs and benefits of different business decisions.

Key Differences

Marginal costing is used to analyze the impact of producing one additional unit, mainly considering variable costs. Differential costing, on the other hand, compares costs and revenues under different business scenarios.
In marginal costing, fixed costs are not considered in the cost per unit calculation. Differential costing involves considering both variable and fixed costs when evaluating different business options.
Marginal costing is primarily used for short-term decision-making. Differential costing is used for making strategic decisions, like adding or discontinuing a product line.
The focus of marginal costing is on marginal cost and marginal revenue. Differential costing focuses on the net difference in total costs and total revenues under different alternatives.
Marginal costing is useful in setting prices in competitive markets. Differential costing aids in decisions like make or buy, continue or discontinue, and pricing strategies under different scenarios.

Comparison Chart


Analyze cost of additional production unit
Evaluate costs and benefits of different decisions

Cost Consideration

Focuses on variable costs only
Considers both variable and fixed costs

Decision-making Scope

Used for short-term operational decisions
Applied in strategic, long-term decisions

Cost Analysis Focus

Marginal cost and revenue
Difference in total costs and revenues between alternatives

Application Examples

Pricing in competitive markets, cost-volume-profit analysis
Make or buy decisions, product line analysis, special orders

Marginal Costing and Differential Costing Definitions

Marginal Costing

This method aids in understanding the impact of production volume changes on total costs.
Marginal costing revealed the minimal impact of increased production on total costs.

Differential Costing

It involves both variable and fixed costs in its analysis.
Differential costing considered the entire cost structure in the decision-making process.

Marginal Costing

It focuses solely on variable costs, excluding fixed costs.
Marginal costing helped in analyzing the direct labor and materials cost per additional unit.

Differential Costing

It assists in 'make or buy' and discontinuation decisions.
The company applied differential costing to decide whether to make parts in-house or outsource.

Marginal Costing

It helps in performing cost-volume-profit analysis.
Through marginal costing, the company understood its break-even point.

Differential Costing

Useful for strategic decisions like product line choices.
Differential costing aided in evaluating the profitability of introducing a new product line.

Marginal Costing

Marginal costing is pivotal in short-term decision-making.
Marginal costing was crucial in setting short-term pricing strategies.

Differential Costing

Differential costing compares the costs of different business alternatives.
The firm used differential costing to decide between two manufacturing methods.

Marginal Costing

Marginal costing assesses the cost of producing one more unit of a product.
The company used marginal costing to determine the viability of increasing production.

Differential Costing

Focuses on the net difference in total costs and revenues.
Differential costing showed the net benefit of outsourcing a component.


Does differential costing include fixed costs?

Yes, it considers both fixed and variable costs.

What is the primary focus of marginal costing?

It focuses on the cost of producing one additional unit, mainly variable costs.

How does differential costing help in decision-making?

It evaluates the financial impact of different business alternatives.

Is marginal costing suitable for long-term decisions?

No, it's mainly used for short-term operational decisions.

What types of decisions is differential costing used for?

It's used for strategic decisions like adding or discontinuing a product line.

Is marginal costing useful for break-even analysis?

Yes, it's instrumental in cost-volume-profit analysis.

Can differential costing help in special order decisions?

Yes, it's useful in evaluating profitability of one-time or special orders.

How does differential costing assist in 'make or buy' decisions?

It compares the costs of making in-house versus outsourcing.

Is marginal costing effective for large-scale production changes?

It's more effective for analyzing small-scale or incremental changes.

Can marginal costing aid in pricing decisions?

Yes, especially in competitive markets where volume changes are significant.

Does marginal costing apply to service industries?

Yes, especially in analyzing service delivery costs.

Does marginal costing consider indirect fixed costs?

No, it typically excludes fixed costs.

What role does differential costing play in budgeting?

It aids in preparing budgets by evaluating different cost scenarios.

How does marginal costing affect profit reporting?

It can show higher short-term profits due to exclusion of fixed costs.

Can differential costing be used in environmental cost analysis?

Yes, it can compare costs and benefits of environmentally friendly business practices.

Can differential costing aid in capacity utilization decisions?

Yes, it helps in analyzing costs and benefits of different levels of capacity utilization.

Can marginal costing help in inventory valuation?

Yes, it assists in valuing inventory by excluding fixed costs.

How does differential costing impact pricing strategy?

It helps determine pricing under different scenarios, like market expansion.

Is differential costing applicable to non-financial decisions?

Primarily, it's used for financial decisions but can provide insights into non-financial impacts.

How does marginal costing influence cost control?

It emphasizes control over variable costs in the short term.
About Author
Written 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.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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