## What is the Average Cost?

Average cost refers to the per-unit cost of production, which is calculated by dividing the total cost of production by the total number of units produced. In other words, it measures the amount of money that the business has to spend to produce each unit of output. It forms a fundamental component of demand and supply as it affects the supply curve.

It is also known as unit cost or average total cost. We can further break down the total cost of production into fixed and variable cost components. Generally, the total fixed cost component doesn’t change, and hence the change in average cost is primarily due to a change in total variable cost. If the cost reaches the threshold, then it is advisable to either increase the selling price or negotiate the variable cost component, as otherwise, it will result in business loss.

### How to Calculate Average Cost?

We can calculate it by following these five steps:

**Step 1:** Firstly, determine the fixed cost of production incurred during the given period, which may include salary, depreciation & amortisation, lease rental, marketing & advertising expenses, etc. These cost heads don’t change with the change in production volume.

**Step 2:** Next, determine the variable cost of production incurred during the given period, which may include the cost of raw material, wages, electricity bill, etc. These cost heads are mainly dependent on the production volume.

**Step 3:** Next, calculate the total cost of production by adding up fixed (step 1) and variable cost of production (step 2).

**Total Cost of Production = Fixed Cost of Production + Variable Cost of Production**

**Step 4:** Now, determine the number of units produced during the given period.

**Step 5:** Finally, calculate the average cost of production by dividing the total cost of production (step 3) by the number of units produced (step 4) as shown below.

**Average Cost Formula = Total Cost of Production / Number of Units Produced**

### Examples

#### Example #1

Let us take the simple example of the manufacturing plant of ASF Inc., where the total fixed cost of production during the year was $100,000, and the variable cost of production was $20 per unit. Determine the average cost of production if the company manufactured 20,000 units during the year.

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Given,

- Variable cost per unit = $20
- Number of units produced = 20,000
- Total fixed cost of production = $100,000

**Solution:**

Calculation of Total variable cost of production will be –

**The total variable cost of production = Variable cost per unit * Number of units produced**

**Total variable cost of production **= $20 * 20,000 = $400,000

Now, the calculation of the total cost of production is as follows:

**Total cost of production = Total fixed cost + Total variable cost**

**Total cost of production **= $100,000 + $400,000 = $500,000

Now, the calculation is as follows:

**Average cost Formula = Total cost of production / Number of units produced**

** **= $500,000 / 20,000 = $25 per unit

#### Example #2

If in the above example the number of units produced during the year increased to 25,000, then determine the average cost of production for the increased production.

Given,

- Variable cost per unit = $20
- Number of units produced = 25,000
- Total fixed cost of production = $100,000

**Solution:**

The calculation of the total variable cost of production will be –

**The total variable cost of production = Variable cost per unit * Number of units produced**

**The total variable cost of production** = $20 * 25,000 = $500,000

Now, the calculation of the total cost of production is as follows:

**Total cost of production = Total fixed cost + Total variable cost**

**Total cost of production **= $100,000 + $500,000 = $600,000

Now, the calculation is as follows:

**Average Cost Formula = Total cost of production / Number of units produced**

= $600,000 / 25,000

= **$24 per unit**

Therefore, the new unit cost of production reduced from $25 to $24 per unit owing to the benefits of economies of scale.

### Average Cost Diagram

Typically, the average cost curve (blue line) results in a U-shape as can be seen in the above diagram. It is primarily because of the average variable cost of production (grey line) that decreases with the increase in production initially and then starts increasing with the incremental production. On the other hand, the average fixed costs (orange line) continue to decrease significantly as the production volume increases.

The marginal cost (yellow line) after initial decrease starts to increase due to diminishing marginal productivity and it intersects the curve at its lowest point (minimum), after which the curve also starts to slope upward. From this point onwards, the marginal cost curve is above the average cost curve, and hence an increase in production volume increases cost.

This concept is critical as it helps in determining the long-run price and supply of any commodity, and hence it influences profit significantly. For instance, if the selling price of a commodity is higher than its average cost (AC), then the company makes a profit. On the other hand, if the selling price is lower than the unit cost, then it is a loss-making proposition.

### Advantages

- It considerably simplifies the process of cost calculation and record keeping.
- It automatically adjusts the impact of price volatility witnessed during the given period.
- It makes manipulation of accounting figures difficult and hence provides an accurate picture of the business.

### Disadvantages

- Every time a new purchase happens at a rate different than the previous one, it changes, resulting in frequent changes in selling price as well.
- The average cost may not be reflective of the prevailing market rate as it averages out the price across the period.

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