What is the Difference Between Prime Cost and Conversion Cost Formula & Examples

The total direct materials cost for a single bicycle will include $10 for the bicycle frame, $10 ($5 x 2) for the tires, $3 for the seat and $2 for the paint and other small items. The $7 material costs that do no relate to the production of the bicycle are not considered. Conversion costs are the expenditures incurred in transforming raw materials into finished or partially complete products.

Compensation paid to machinists, painters, or welders is common in calculating prime costs. In such a manner, direct work or direct labour cost turns into the normal part of both the expense classifications. Prime expense, completely, is recognisable to the item made as both of its singular parts (i.e., direct materials + direct work) are immediate and discernible or traceable. Conversion cost, then again, isn’t discernible or traceable to the item completely in view of having a non-detectable part (i.e., production overhead) in its aggregate.

The difference between prime costs and conversion costs

Tangible components, such as raw materials, necessary to create a finished product, are included in direct materials. For instance, the engine of a car and the spokes of a bicycle are included in direct material costs because they are each necessary to complete production of that specific item. In this regard, direct labor cost becomes the common component of both the cost categories. Prime cost, in its entirety, is traceable to the product manufactured as both of its individual components (i.e., direct materials + direct labor) are direct and traceable.

Conversion costs include direct labor and overhead expenses incurred due to the transformation of raw materials into finished products. The difference between the two cost classifications is that prime costs only relate to direct material and direct labor costs, while conversion costs only include direct labor costs and factory overhead costs. Conversion costs can be considered to layer on top of prime costs, where they are needed to convert raw materials into finished goods. Because prime cost only considers direct costs, it does not capture the total cost of production. As a result, the prime cost calculation can be misleading if indirect costs are relatively large.

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  • Conversion costs are the sum of the direct labor costs and factory overheads of a single product.
  • By digging into conversion costs, you can see exactly what you are paying that doesn’t go into your product.
  • For example, raw materials and packing materials such as leather, soles, packing boxes for a shoe manufacturer and wood for a furniture maker etc.
  • Utilities or rent are overhead expenses, because they’re necessary to make your products but don’t actually contribute to the final product.

The cost of the raw materials was $200, and it took him three hours to construct. If his direct labor costs were $15 per hour, he realized a modest gain of $5. Therefore, it is especially important for self-employed persons to employ the prime cost method when determining what price to set for their goods and services. Prime costs and conversion costs include some of the same factors of production expenses, but each provides a different perspective of production efficiency.

Prime Cost Formula – How to Calculate it

Direct materials include all tangible goods or supplies that are directly used in the production process and whose presence can be directly traced to the products manufactured. As they are directly traceable, the quantum of direct materials utilized for each product manufactured can be fairly easily determined. For example, raw materials and packing materials such as leather, soles, packing boxes for a shoe manufacturer and wood for a furniture maker etc.

The manufacturing sector analyses both prime costs and conversion costs to measure efficiency in the production of a product.

Examples are steel in automobiles, rubber in tires, fabric in clothing, etc. Direct labor refers to the salaries and wages of workers who transform the materials into finished goods. Physical components also called tangible components such as raw materials are needed to create the finished products.

For small-scale producers, prime cost computation assists them in monitoring hourly wages earned and profit per unit produced. The conversion costs can also be used as a measure of the efficiency of the production process. Conversion costs can also be helpful in identifying any wastages during the manufacturing process. The conversion cost of a product can be measured against a set standard or past conversion costs to identify any irregularities in the production process. Similarly, the direct labor cost of a single bicycle will include $10 paid to the assembly worker, $2 ($8 per hour / 4 bicycles) paid to the worker that paints the bicycles.

What impacts the cost

The manufacturing sector relies on prime costs and conversion costs to measure the efficiency in the production of a product. Consider a professional furniture maker who is hired to make a coffee table for a customer. The prime costs for creating the table include the cost of the furniture maker’s w2 form labor and the raw materials required to construct the table, including the lumber, hardware, and paint. Conversion costs are the expenses to turn, or convert, your raw materials into finished goods. Conversion costs include indirect materials, indirect labor, and other overhead costs.

This is because these items are Elizbeth Inc’s period costs and don’t relate to its manufacturing process. All conversion costs can’t be straightforwardly followed to items fabricated. The upward part of all-out or total conversion cost is a backhanded expense part and, subsequently, can’t be explicitly followed to a specific item.


It should not be assumed that the methods, techniques, or indicators presented in these products will be profitable, or that they will not result in losses. Salary is considered an indirect expense as it is not directly involved in a manufacturer’s production. Once the bicycles are assembled and painted, they are sent to the warehouse.

After the chairs are assembled and painted, the chairs are sent to the warehouse. To produce these bicycles, a frame is purchased from a supplier costing $10. These are the materials that go directly into the production of the bicycle. Other materials are also purchased for $7 but they do not contribute directly to the production of the bicycle.

All these expenditures are aggregated and divided on the number of units produced to find the cost per unit of a single product. For complex production setups, other methods such as batch costing and process costing may be used to determine the cost per unit produced. Conversion costs refer to those that are spent to transform raw materials into finished goods, i.e. direct labor and factory overhead.

What are Conversion Costs?

Direct labor includes costs such as salaries or wages of the employees that are involved in the production process. The direct expenses are expenses that are directly related to the production of the watch, such as any royalties paid for the production of the watch. Prime costs ignore manufacturing overhead, while conversion costs leave out direct materials. Businesses use both cost formulas to assess profitability and labor efficiency.

A warehouse keeper is paid $5 per hour to ensure the bicycles are not stolen. When costs are classified by their behavior, they are grouped together based on how these costs change in relation to the level of activity of the business. These costs can be classified into fixed, variable, semi-fixed or semi-variable and stepped fixed costs. Costs classified by behavior can be used in the decision-making process of a business. This classification can also be helpful in the budgeting process of a business. Apart from determining the cost of a product to make pricing decisions or pricing strategies or defining the cost per unit of a product, the cost of a product can be used in many different summaries.

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