What Is the Key Difference Between Cost and Price?

difference between cost and price

If you’re new to running a business, it’s important to understand the key difference between cost and price. While these terms are frequently used interchangeably, they have very different meanings in financial statements. Misunderstanding or using these terms can lead to making accounting errors or wrong business decisions. 

In this article, we will bring you an overview of the key difference between cost and price and the factors that affect each, with a bonus of the most typical examples of cost and price. 

The key difference between cost and prices

In its most basic form, cost refers to the total expenses incurred to create a product or service, while price refers to the total amount a customer is willing to pay for a service or product.

Profit is the first difference between the costs incurred and the price paid. The price of any service or product is usually more than its cost because it includes the profitability and the cost of producing the item. 

The second difference between cost and price is that the cost of a product can influence its price. For example, if there is an increase in labor costs, businesses need to increase the price to earn profit. 

Market factors can affect both the cost and the price of every product. The difference here is that: While price fluctuations usually occur outside the business context, and you can do nothing about it, a business can lower the product price, which stays under its control, to minimize this effect. 

What are the factors that affect the price?

Two fundamental factors that significantly impact price are supply and demand.


Supply refers to the number of goods or services that the industry can deliver. It includes both visible and invisible products and services, such as cars, data entry, marketing, etc. Several times, the quantity is limited. This implies that only a limited amount of items and services are available at any given moment.


Demand refers to the market’s need for an item, whether tangible or intangible. Like supply, the number of consumers is limited. Demand may fluctuate depending on several factors, including affordability, the worth of an item, and the need for such products.

What are the factors that affect the cost?

The cost of a product is determined by two main factors: risk and inflation.


The cost of a product is directly impacted by risk. If the capital required to create an item is high-risk, the price will almost certainly be higher.


Product prices are also affected by inflation. In most circumstances, financial institutions engage to maximize employees’ wages.

Furthermore, the supply of raw materials and other manufacturing necessities directly impacts the cost of an item. Products with scarce essential ingredients may have higher prices. Similarly, items with effortlessly natural ingredients have lower production costs.

Examples of cost and price

Here is a typical example of the difference between cost and price: If a T-shirt costs $20 to produce, its price must be higher than $20. Otherwise, the business cannot earn a profit on its sale. 

So, before determining the appropriate price for the T-shirt, the business first had to determine the cost of producing the T-shirt. This cost includes material expenses, labor expenses, location expenses, delivery expenses, etc. 

Another common example of cost and price is that costs are subtracted from prices to arrive at a business’s profit, either for individual products or in aggregate for the entire business. For example, if a company generates $1,000 of sales from its product prices and incurs $800 in costs, its profit is $200.

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The bottom line 

Though similar in everyday language, cost and price are related but different terms. It’s crucial to clarify the difference between cost and price, especially when it comes to conducting financial analysis or making investment decisions. By that, you will have a better understanding of how they impact a business’s financial profile and be able to make accurate business decisions.

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