Understanding Break-Even Analysis: Calculations and Applications

Dec 30, 2023 By Susan Kelly

Break-even analysis is a financial method to determine when a business will start making a profit. It compares the sales revenue to the constant costs of running the business. The goal is determining the sales amount needed to cover all these fixed costs. Once this point is reached, any additional sales lead to profit. This method also helps determine the 'margin of safety' - the difference between actual sales and the break-even point. It's a measure of risk, showing how much sales can drop before the business starts losing money. A company can use this to understand its selling potential better.

Businesses calculate the limitations of break even analysis. Divide total fixed costs by revenue per unit after subtracting variable costs. Rent and salaries are fixed regardless of sales volume. This analysis helps us understand how fixed costs and per-unit profits are related. A lower break-even point is usually synonymous with cheaper fixed costs.

Contribution Margin

In discussing business break-even points, we call the money left over after subtracting the variable costs (those costs that change depending on the production level) from the product's selling price the 'contribution margin.' Take the example of a product that costs $ 100. The contribution margin is, therefore, $ 40: revenues from each unit are $ 100, but it costs $ 60 to make each unit (variable costs). This $ 40 is not pure profit. It helps pay the fixed expenses--rent or salaries, for example, which do not change as production levels rise or fall.

Break-Even Analysis Formula

How do businesses determine when they'll start making a profit? They use the break-even analysis formula.

Break-Even= Fixed Costs / (Sales Price per-Unit - Variable Cost per-Unit)

Here's what each term means:

  • Fixed Costs: While these are fixed expenses, they aren't related to how much a person produces, like rent or monthly salaries.
  • Sales Price per Unit: How much do you sell your article for?
  • Variable Cost per Unit: You can think of them as materials because their costs also change with the number of units you produce.

How much is the difference between sales price and variable cost? Here's your unit contribution margin. For instance, if you retail a book for $100 and incur a production cost of $5, your per-unit contribution margin amounts to $95. This figure assists in offsetting those fixed expenses.

Break-Even Example

Consider this real-life example, for instance. Company A's managerial accountant, Colin, is considering the break-even point for their water bottles. Fixed costs (including property taxes, rents, salaries, etc.) are $100,000 for the company. It costs only $ 2 to produce one but sells for $ 12.

So, Colin calculates:

Break-Even Quantity = $100,000 ÷ ($12 - $2) = 10,000 units

A must sell 10,000 water bottles to cover costs and start making a profit. Businesses need this analysis to understand how pricing and production affect their bottom line.

Who Uses Break-Even Analysis


Entrepreneurs must know when their expenses are being covered and when they begin to make a profit. The break-even point is useful. To prevent losses, it determines the minimum sales required. This information is vital when supplies are low and time is of the essence in the beginning. Knowing their break-even point can help mitigate the 20% failure rate experienced by startups in their first year, according to a UK study.

Financial Analysts:

Analysts often refer to advantages of break even analysis when assessing a business's financial health. This analysis informs their company valuations and investment recommendations. Analysts can predict profitability and risks by understanding the sales volume needed to cover costs. The 2020 report found that companies that regularly broke even had a 15% higher chance of five-year profitability.


Break-even analysis helps investors evaluate a company's finances. They use this analysis to make informed investment decisions. Knowing when a company will start making money helps investors assess risk and return. A U.S. survey found that 60% of successful investors consider limitations of break even analysis points.

Stock and Option Traders

Stock and option traders find uses of break even analysis essential. They need to know the amount required not just to break even but also to cover the expenses of each transaction. This helps them decide how much money to allocate to a transaction and choose assets that might yield higher returns. A financial study in 2021 showed that traders who used break-even analysis reduced their transactional losses by 30%.


Break-even analysis is used by many different types of businesses, from small start-ups to big companies. It clarifies their cost structure and pricing strategy and helps them run their business more efficiently. A 2019 poll of European small and medium-sized businesses found that 70% changed their pricing strategies based on break-even analysis.

Government agencies

Government agencies employ break-even analysis to assess the financial viability of their projects and programs. This helps them answer critical questions like the minimum sales or revenue required to cover the costs of a project. For example, in Canada, the government used break-even analysis in 2022 to budget and fund new infrastructure projects, ensuring fiscal responsibility.

Benefits of Break-Even Analysis

A break-even analysis is crucial for new businesses to uncover any overlooked expenses. This process involves a thorough review of all financial obligations, helping to pinpoint the exact uses of break even analysis points. This proactive approach significantly reduces unforeseen financial surprises and equips companies to handle them efficiently.

Completing an advantages of break even analysis clarifies the necessary sales volume for profitability. This information is instrumental for sales teams, guiding them to set specific and achievable sales targets. Entrepreneurs often rely on emotions when making business decisions. While emotions are important, basing decisions solely on them is insufficient. Successful entrepreneurship demands decisions grounded in factual data.

A break-even analysis is often a fundamental element of a business plan, especially when seeking external funding. Demonstrating a viable business plan through this analysis is crucial. A positive outcome assures external investors and gives entrepreneurs the confidence to explore various financing options.

Determining the break-even point aids in setting optimal prices for products. This tool is essential for establishing a pricing strategy that maximizes profits without increasing prices. Performing a break-even analysis is key to covering all fixed costs. This analysis ensures that the business plan accounts for all regular, unchanging expenses.

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