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Fixed Costs vs. Variable Costs — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Fiza Rafique — Published on September 26, 2023
Fixed Costs are expenses that remain constant regardless of production volume. Variable Costs change in proportion to the level of goods or services produced.
Fixed Costs vs. Variable Costs — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Fixed Costs and Variable Costs


Key Differences

Fixed Costs refer to the expenses that a company incurs regardless of its level of production or sales. These are costs like rent, salaries, and insurance that have to be paid whether or not a single unit is produced. Variable Costs, on the other hand, are costs that fluctuate in direct proportion to the volume of goods or services a company produces. In this case, costs like raw materials and direct labor are variable, increasing with each additional unit made.
In accounting and finance, Fixed Costs are often considered the baseline expenses that a business needs to cover to operate. These costs do not change in the short term and are thus easier to predict. Variable Costs, however, change with the level of production or sales, making them harder to forecast. As production increases, variable costs will increase as well; conversely, they will decrease if production decreases.
When it comes to budgeting, Fixed Costs present less uncertainty because they are known in advance and consistent. They're easy to plan for and manage. Variable Costs present more of a challenge because they can change significantly, depending on various factors like demand fluctuations or price changes in raw materials.
Business decisions, such as pricing strategies, are often influenced by the interplay between Fixed Costs and Variable Costs. For instance, understanding fixed costs can help a business determine its break-even point, while understanding variable costs can inform pricing strategies and production levels. Each plays a vital role in the overall financial health of a company.

Comparison Chart

Change with Production





Rent, Salaries
Raw Materials, Direct Labor

Financial Planning

Easier to budget
Harder to budget

Impact on Pricing Strategy

Influences break-even point
Influences per-unit cost

Compare with Definitions

Fixed Costs

Invariable Costs: "Fixed Costs do not change with production levels."
Monthly utility bills are generally Fixed Costs for a company.

Variable Costs

Scalable Costs: "Variable Costs increase or decrease based on business activity."
Shipping fees vary and are therefore Variable Costs.

Fixed Costs

Non-production Costs: "Fixed Costs are not directly tied to the making of a product or delivery of a service."
Business licenses are Fixed Costs.

Variable Costs

Fluctuating Expenses: "Variable Costs change in direct proportion to production volume."
The cost of raw materials is a Variable Cost.

Fixed Costs

Long-term Expenses: "Fixed Costs often persist over an extended period and are contractual."
A yearly lease is a Fixed Cost.

Variable Costs

Production Costs: "Variable Costs are incurred in the manufacturing of goods or delivery of services."
Labor costs in a factory are Variable Costs.

Fixed Costs

Baseline Costs: "Fixed Costs are the foundational expenses necessary for a business to operate."
Salaries for permanent staff are considered Fixed Costs.

Variable Costs

Short-term Expenses: "Variable Costs can change over a short period due to various factors."
The electricity used in production is a Variable Cost.

Fixed Costs

Static Expenses: "Fixed Costs are constant financial obligations that do not vary."
The rent for the office space is a Fixed Cost.

Variable Costs

Direct Costs: "Variable Costs are directly tied to the units of products or services produced."
Packaging costs are Variable Costs.

Common Curiosities

What are Fixed Costs?

Fixed Costs are expenses that remain the same regardless of production levels.

What are Variable Costs?

Variable Costs are expenses that change in proportion to the volume of goods produced.

Do Fixed Costs change in the short term?

Generally, no, Fixed Costs remain the same in the short term.

Is rent a Fixed Cost or Variable Cost?

Rent is generally a Fixed Cost.

Can Variable Costs be zero?

Yes, if there is no production, Variable Costs can be zero.

How do Fixed Costs impact budgeting?

Fixed Costs make budgeting easier due to their predictability.

Are Fixed Costs always fixed?

In the long term, Fixed Costs can change but they are stable in the short term.

Do Variable Costs influence pricing?

Yes, Variable Costs often directly affect the per-unit cost and therefore pricing.

How do Variable Costs affect profit margins?

Higher Variable Costs can reduce profit margins per unit.

Are all production costs Variable Costs?

Most direct production costs are Variable Costs, but there can be exceptions.

Is direct labor a Fixed Cost or Variable Cost?

Direct labor is generally considered a Variable Cost.

What role do Fixed Costs play in break-even analysis?

Fixed Costs help determine the break-even point for a business.

How do Variable Costs impact budgeting?

Variable Costs make budgeting more challenging due to their fluctuating nature.

How do Fixed Costs differ across industries?

Fixed Costs can vary significantly depending on the industry and its requirements.

Can a cost be both fixed and variable?

Some costs have both fixed and variable components, known as mixed costs.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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