What are Product Costs?

Definition: A product cost is an expense incurred to produce a product that is capitalized as inventory. In other words, this costs provide are necessary to manufacturer a finished good and are capitalized on the balance sheet because they provide a future benefit.

What Does Product Cost Mean?

Product costs typically include direct materialsdirect labor, and factory overhead. All of these expenses are required in order to turn a raw material into a finished good. Since these expenditures create value and benefit in future periods, they are reported on the balance sheet instead of being expensed on the income statement.


Take the Ford factory for example. The tires that are bought or manufactured in the plant are necessary to produce a finished car. These costs are directly added to the total production cost of a finished good. Likewise, the salary of the assembly line worker who mounts the tires on rims and bolts them onto the car would be considered a product cost because it is necessary to manufacture the end product. All of these costs are capitalized and reported on the balance sheet as either a raw material, work in process inventory, or finished good.

Keep in mind that only the costs associated with goods that haven’t sold yet are reported on the balance sheet. The product costs incurred to produce units that were sold in the current period are first capitalized. But when they are sold, the costs are reported on the income statement as cost of goods sold.

Expenses incurred to sell the finished inventory, on the other hand, are not considered product costs. For example, advertising costs and sales staff salaries are not necessary to produce the products. These expenses are considered period costs and are expensed in the period they are incurred. Similarly, salaries paid to office and administrative staff don’t contribute to the production of product. Thus, these too are considered period costs and reported on the income statement as an expense.

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