Direct costs are costs which are directly accountable to a cost object (such as a particular project, facility, function or product).[1] Direct cost is the nomenclature used in accounting. The equivalent nomenclature in economics is specific cost. By contrast, a joint cost is a cost incurred in the production or delivery of multiple products or product lines. For instance, in civil aviation, substantial costs of a flight (pilots, fuel, wear and tear on the plane, landing and takeoff fees) are a joint cost between carrying passengers and carrying freight, and underlie economies of scope across passenger and freight services. By contrast, some costs are specific to the services, for instance, meals and flight attendants are specific costs of carrying passengers.

Direct costs are directly attributable to the object. In construction, the costs of materials, labor, equipment, etc., and all directly involved efforts or expenses for the cost object are direct costs. In manufacturing or other non-construction industries, the portion of operating costs which is directly assignable to a specific product or process is a direct cost.[2] Direct costs are those for activities or services that benefit specific projects, for example salaries for project staff and materials required for a particular project. Because these activities are easily traced to projects, their costs are usually charged to projects on an item-by-item basis.

What are direct costs? Direct costs are expenses that a company can easily connect to a specific “cost object,” which may be a product, department or project. This category can include software, equipment and raw materials. It can also include labor, assuming the labor is specific to the product, department or project.

What is a Direct Cost vs. Indirect Cost?

The benefits of using direct cost methods

Direct cost methods are financial strategies that rely on the direct cost of operations for budgeting and other business decisions. They do not include indirect costs in their per-unit or overall evaluations of production costs. Here are some benefits of using direct cost methods:


Direct cost methods are usually more beneficial for specific departments or projects within a business. This is because smaller segments of an organization might be able to more easily connect specific costs with a particular cost object. This can be a good strategy for evaluating the profitability of specific customers or products, for example.


Direct cost methods can also make it easier to calculate the budget for a business or unit for an upcoming year. This is because direct costs can be variable, and accounting for potential changes in those expenses might have a positive impact on the budgets accuracy. This benefit can depend on the quantity of direct and indirect costs in a business or division, so you may want to perform a thorough analysis before making a cost method decision.

Price determination

Direct cost methods can be useful when determining the price of goods or services your business offers. This is because direct costs may be variable and it can be helpful to account for possible changes in production cost when determining prices. You may choose to pass part or all of an increased direct cost to the customer, for example, or find a way to balance it out with another direct cost that can be decreased.

Profit calculation

Direct cost can be a suitable tool for calculating specific profits according to a product or product line. This information can be useful when comparing different products or if you are trying to determine your breakeven point or the point at which a business neither gains nor loses money.

Managerial control

Using direct cost methods can help keep some decision-making processes closer to the product line by allowing lower-level managers to evaluate the cost of a specific product or service. This is because direct costing connects specific expenses with specific products or departments, so its possible to assign responsibility to one manager or a leadership team. This might help with organizational efficiency.

What are direct costs?

Direct costs are the expenses associated explicitly with a business operations. For example, labor, materials and fuel are usually considered direct costs because they tangibly contribute to production. Direct costs differ from another cost category, “indirect costs,” because they can be connected explicitly to a specific item or service, also known as a “cost object.” This contrasts with indirect costs that help keep a business running but dont connect to a specific cost object—for example, overhead and financial services.

Direct costs also vary depending on the type of product and market factors; therefore, they are sometimes called variable costs. For example, the cost of iron for a manufacturing plant will change depending on the market value of that product.

Examples of direct cost

Here are some examples of possible direct costs in a business:


The cost of wages for the employees that directly produce an item is usually a direct cost because it can be associated with a specific product or product line. The direct cost of labor associated with a particular price object usually includes hourly wage, overtime if applicable, benefits and any other payroll items. Labor is almost always a direct cost if it varies depending on production, but might be indirect if those wages are not variable—for instance, if employees work a specific amount of hours regardless of production levels.


Like labor, commissions are considered direct costs because they connect to a specific price object. For example, if an employee sells a car and receives a commission payment for that sale, the amount paid would be a direct cost in connection with that car or line of cars.


Materials are a direct cost because they explicitly contribute to the production of a good or service. For example, the expense of lumber might be a direct cost in a furniture factory because it explicitly contributes to the end product and can vary depending on production quantities.


Consumable supplies are also usually considered direct costs. For example, paper, ink, pens and paper clips might be direct costs in an office setting. Similarly, the cost of sand-blasting medium might be considered a direct cost for a painting company. In both of these examples, the consumable items can correlate specifically with individual cost objects.


Transportation, or freight, is often considered a direct cost because specific materials or finished items are being moved with every dollar spent. Direct transportation costs can include the price of shipping materials to the production facility as well as transportation between production and sales locations. If transportation contracts dont vary depending on the quantity of product being moved, they might be classified as indirect costs instead.

Fuel and some utilities

Some fuel expenses may be direct costs if they connect explicitly to a cost object such as a product or service. For example, if you can calculate the specific amount of power it takes to create one tote bag on an assembly line, that might be a direct cost. A gas-powered sawmill would probably count gasoline as a direct cost of producing wood products. This differs from overhead power costs, such as the cost of power to light the building, because these kinds of overhead must be paid regardless of production totals.


What are direct vs indirect costs?

Direct costs are expenses that can be connected to a specific product, while indirect costs are expenses involved with maintaining and running a company. As a business owner, you will have a clearer understanding of how to set pricing if you can classify your costs correctly.

What are examples of indirect costs?

Indirect costs include costs which are frequently referred to as overhead expenses (for example, rent and utilities) and general and administrative expenses (for example, officers’ salaries, accounting department costs and personnel department costs).

What is called direct costing?

Direct costing is a specialized form of cost analysis that only uses variable costs to make decisions. It does not consider fixed costs, which are assumed to be associated with the time periods in which they were incurred.

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