In economics, variable cost and fixed cost are the two main costs a company has when producing goods and services. A company's total cost is composed of its total fixed costs and its total variable costs combined. Variable costs vary with the amount produced. Fixed costs remain the same, no matter how much output a company produces.

Variable Costs

A variable cost is a company's cost that is associated with the amount of goods or services it produces. A company's variable cost increases and decreases with the production volume. For example, suppose company ABC produces ceramic mugs for a cost of $2 a mug. If the company produces 500 units, its variable cost will be $1,000. However, if the company does not produce any units, it will not have any variable cost for producing the mugs.

Fixed Costs

On the other hand, a fixed cost does not vary with the volume of production. A fixed cost does not change with the amount of goods or services a company produces. It remains the same even if no goods or services are produced. Using the same example above, suppose company ABC has a fixed cost of $10,000 per month for the machine it uses to produce mugs. If the company does not produce any mugs for the month, it would still have to pay $10,000 for the cost of renting the machine. On the other hand, if it produces 1 million mugs, its fixed cost remains the same. The variable costs change from zero to $2 million in this example.