Small Business Glossary

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is a methodical approach used to assess the potential advantages and disadvantages of a decision, project, or policy. It involves identifying, measuring, and comparing the expected costs associated with a particular option against the anticipated benefits it will bring.

What's the Purpose of a Cost Benefit Analysis?

Cost Benefit Analysis helps individuals and businesses make informed decisions by providing a structured framework to evaluate alternatives. It aims to determine whether the projected benefits outweigh the costs, ultimately indicating if a course of action is worthwhile.

What does a cost-benefit analysis typically involve?

  • Identifying all relevant costs and benefits, both tangible (financial) and intangible (non-financial).
  • Assigning a monetary value to the quantifiable costs and benefits whenever possible.
  • Comparing the total benefits against the total costs to determine if the option creates net positive value.
  • Considering alternative options and conducting a comparative analysis.

What are the benefits of doing a cost-benefit analysis?

  • Provides a data-driven approach to decision-making, reducing reliance on intuition or bias.
  • Simplifies complex choices by clearly outlining the potential costs and benefits.
  • Uncovers hidden aspects by prompting a comprehensive analysis of all potential impacts.

What are the limitations of a cost-benefit analysis?

  • Difficulty in accurately predicting all future variables and outcomes.
  • Reliance on accurate data to avoid skewed results.
  • Can be less effective for long-term projects with high uncertainty.
  • May struggle to assign a dollar value to intangible benefits or costs.

Overall, cost-benefit analysis is a valuable tool for informed decision-making across various sectors in Australia.

Cost-benefit analysis example

Upgrading Delivery Vehicles for a Sydney Bakery

Business: Le Pain Doré, a small bakery located in Sydney

Decision: Upgrading from two older delivery vans to two fuel-efficient hybrid vans.


  • Financial:
    • Purchase cost of two new hybrid vans: AU$80,000
    • Disposal costs of old vans: AU$2,000
    • Potential maintenance cost increase (due to newer technology):  AU$1,000 per van annually
  • Non-financial:
    • Training staff on operating new vans
    • Downtime during the transition to new vehicles (potential loss of sales)


  • Financial:
    • Reduced fuel costs (estimated 30% decrease)
    • Potential tax benefits for environmentally friendly vehicles
    • Increased delivery capacity with larger cargo space (potentially leading to more sales)
    • Lower maintenance costs in the long run (due to hybrid technology)
  • Non-financial:
    • Improved brand image due to focus on sustainability
    • Enhanced employee morale with newer, more comfortable vehicles
    • Reduced environmental impact


  • The initial investment (purchase and disposal) is AU$82,000.
  • Potential annual fuel cost savings could be substantial, depending on fuel prices. Let's assume AU$10,000 per van annually.
  • Increased maintenance costs would be AU$2,000 per year.
  • The potential for increased sales and tax benefits are harder to quantify but should be factored in qualitatively.

Considering a 5-year timeframe:

  • Total upfront cost: AU$82,000
  • Total potential fuel cost savings: AU$50,000 (AU$10,000 x 2 vans x 5 years)
  • Increased maintenance costs: AU$10,000 (AU$2,000 x 2 vans x 5 years)

Based on these simplified figures, there appears to be a net financial benefit after year 3. However, the  decision should also consider the intangible benefits and potential for increased sales.


Upgrading the delivery vans appears to be a financially sound decision in the long term.  The cost-benefit analysis provides a framework, but the bakery owner should also consider:

  • The impact of potential increased sales on profitability.
  • The value of the improved brand image and employee satisfaction.
  • The availability of government incentives for environmentally friendly vehicles.

By incorporating these factors, Le Pain Doré can make a well-informed decision about upgrading their delivery fleet.

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