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The total cost to a company to produce one more unit of a product. The marginal cost varies according to how many more or fewer units a company wishes to produce. Increasing production may increase or decrease the marginal cost, because the marginal cost includes all costs such as labor, materials, and the cost of infrastructure. For example, if a widget manufacturer increases the number of widgets it produces, it may need to buy more material, but the costs of labor and factory maintenance remain the same, and are spread out over a greater number of widgets. This may reduce the marginal cost. On the other hand, if the manufacturer hires more workers and builds another factory, it will likely increase the marginal cost. It is also known as the incremental cost.
The additional cost needed to produce or purchase one more unit of a good or service. For example, if a firm can produce 150 units of a product at a total cost of $5,000 and 151 units for $5,100, the marginal cost of the 151st unit is $100. Industries with sharply declining marginal costs tend to be made up of firms that engage in price wars to gain market share. For example, the airlines often discount fares to fill empty seats with customers from competing airlines. Also called incremental cost.