What is Cost Per Unit?

Cost per unit is a measure of a company's cost to build or create one unit of product.

How Does Cost Per Unit Work?

For example, let's assume it costs Company XYZ $10,000 to purchase 5,000 widgets that it will resell in its retail outlets. Company XYZ's cost per unit is:

$10,000 / 5,000 = $2 per unit

Often, calculating the cost per unit isn't so simple, especially in manufacturing situations. Usually, costs per unit involve variable costs (costs that vary with the number of units made) and fixed costs (costs that don't vary with the number of units made).

For example, at XYZ Restaurant, which sells only pepperoni pizza, the variable expenses per pizza might be:

Flour: $0.50
Yeast: $0.05
Water: $0.01
Cheese: $3.00
Pepperoni: $2.00
Total: $5.56 per pizza

Its fixed expenses per month might be:
Labor: $1,500
Rent: $3,000
Insurance: $200
Advertising: $500
Utilities: $450
Total: $5,650

If company XYZ sells 10,000 pizzas, then its cost per unit would be:

Cost per unit = $5.56 + ($5,650/10,000) = $6.125

Why Does Cost Per Unit Matter?

Knowing cost per unit helps business owners determine when they'll turn a profit and helps them price their products with that in mind. It provides a dynamic overview of the relationships among revenues, costs and profits.

However, typical variable and fixed costs differ widely among industries. This is why comparison of break-even points is generally most meaningful among companies within the same industry, and the definition of a 'high' or 'low' should be made within this context.