Payback method

By: Rashid Javed | Updated on: October 22nd, 2021

Under payback method, an investment project is accepted or rejected on the basis of payback period. Payback period means the period of time that a project requires to recover the money invested in it. It is mostly expressed in years.

Unlike net present value and internal rate of return method, payback method does not take into account the time value of money.

According to payback method, the project that promises a quick recovery of initial investment is considered desirable. If the payback period of a project is shorter than or equal to the management’s maximum desired payback period, the project is accepted, otherwise rejected. For example, if a company wants to recoup the cost of a machine within 5 years of purchase, the maximum desired payback period of the company would be 5 years. The purchase of machine would be desirable if it promises a payback period of 5 years or less.

Payback period formula for even cash flow:

When net annual cash inflow is even (i.e., same cash flow every period), the payback period of the project can be computed by applying the simple formula given below:


*The denominator of the formula becomes incremental cash flow if an old asset (e.g., machine or equipment) is replaced by a new one.


Example 1:

The Delta company is planning to purchase a machine known as machine X. Machine X would cost $25,000 and would have a useful life of 10 years with zero salvage value. The expected annual cash inflow of the machine is $10,000.

Required: Compute payback period of machine X and conclude whether or not the machine would be purchased if the maximum desired payback period of Delta company is 3 years.


Since the annual cash inflow is even in this project, we can simply divide the initial investment by the annual cash inflow to compute the payback period. It is shown below:

Payback period = $25,000/$10,000
= 2.5 years

According to payback period analysis, the purchase of machine X is desirable because its payback period is 2.5 years which is shorter than the maximum payback period of the company.

Example 2:

Due to increased demand, the management of Rani Beverage Company is considering to purchase a new equipment to increase the production and revenues. The useful life of the equipment is 10 years and the company’s maximum desired payback period is 4 years.  The inflow and outflow of cash associated with the new equipment is given below:

Initial cost of equipment: $37,500

Annual cash inflows:

Sales: $75,000

Annual cash Outflows:

Cost of ingredients: $45,000
Salaries expenses: $13,500
Maintenance expenses: $1,500

Non cash expenses:

Depreciation expense: $5,000

Required: Should Rani Beverage Company purchase the new equipment? Use payback method for your answer.


Step 1: In order to compute the payback period of the equipment, we need to workout the net annual cash inflow by deducting the total of cash outflow from the total of cash inflow associated with the equipment.

Computation of net annual cash inflow:

$75,000 – ($45,000 + $13,500 + $1,500)
= $15,000

Step 2: Now, the amount of investment required to purchase the equipment would be divided by the amount of net annual cash inflow (computed in step 1) to find the payback period of the equipment.

= $37,500/$15,000
=2.5 years

Depreciation is a non-cash expense and has therefore been ignored while calculating the payback period of the project.

According to payback method, the equipment should be purchased because the payback period of the equipment is 2.5 years which is shorter than the maximum desired payback period of 4 years.

Comparison of two or more alternatives – choosing from several alternative projects:

Where funds are limited and several alternative projects are being considered, the project with the shortest payback period is preferred. It is explained with the help of the following example:

Example 3:

The management of Health Supplement Inc. wants to reduce its labor cost by installing a new machine. Two types of machines are available in the market – machine X and machine Y. Machine X would cost $18,000 where as machine Y would cost $15,000. Both the machines can reduce annual labor cost by $3,000.

Required: Which is the best machine to purchase according to payback method?


Payback period of machine X: $18,000/$3,000 = 6 years
Payback period of machine Y: $15,000/$3,000 = 5 years

According to payback method, machine Y is more desirable than machine X because it has a shorter payback period than machine X.

Payback method with uneven cash flow:

In the above examples we have assumed that the projects generate even cash inflow but many projects usually generate uneven cash flow. When projects generate inconsistent or uneven cash inflow (different cash inflow in different periods), the simple formula given above cannot be used to compute payback period. In such situations, we need to compute the cumulative cash inflow and then apply the following formula:


Example 4:

An investment of $200,000 is expected to generate the following cash inflows in six years:

Year 1: $70,000
Year 2: $60,000
Year 3: $55,000
Year 4: $40,000
Year 5: $30,000
Year 6: $25,000

Required: Compute payback period of the investment. Should the investment be made if management wants to recover the initial investment in 3 years or less?


(1). Because the cash inflow is uneven, the payback period formula cannot be used to compute the payback period. We can compute the payback period by computing the cumulative net cash flow as follows:


Payback period = 3 + (15,000*/40,000)
= 3 + 0.375
= 3.375 Years

*Unrecovered investment at start of 4th year:
= Initial cost – Cumulative cash inflow at the end of 3rd year
= $200,000 – $185,000
= $15,000

The payback period for this project is 3.375 years which is longer than the maximum desired payback period of the management (3 years). The investment in this project is therefore not desirable.

Advantages and disadvantages of payback method:

Some advantages and disadvantages of payback method are given below:


  1. An investment project with a short payback period promises the quick inflow of cash. It is therefore, a useful capital budgeting method for cash poor firms.
  2. A project with short payback period can improve the liquidity position of the business quickly. The payback period is important for the firms for which liquidity is very important.
  3. An investment with short payback period makes the funds available soon to invest in another project.
  4. A short payback period reduces the risk of loss caused by changing economic conditions and other unavoidable reasons.
  5. Payback period is very easy to compute and apply.


  1. The payback method does not take into account the time value of money.
  2. It does not consider the useful life of the assets and inflow of cash that the project may generate after its payback period. For example, two projects, project A and project B, both require an initial investment of $5,000. Project A generates an annual cash inflow of $1,000 for 5 years whereas project B also generates an annual cash inflow of $1,000 but for 7 years. It is clear that the project B is going to be more profitable than project A, but according to payback method, both the projects are equally desirable, because both have a payback period of 5 years (= $5,000/$1,000).
70 Comments on Payback method
  1. Yusuf Nuhu

    Happy sallah and thanks, i got exactly what i need

  2. Bello Bukola

    Please I need help in solving this question.
    Below at the data of 2 machines being proposed for acquisition by a university as well as the annual net cash benefit generated by each of them. Year. Machine a. Machine b
    Initial cost. 0. $10000. -$8240
    Annual net. 1. $3500. $2000
    Cash budget 2 $3000. $2000
    3 $2500. $2000
    4 $2500. $2500
    5. $3000. $2000
    Which of the following should the university purchase if using the payback period to evaluate it’s new project?

    1. umer

      Machine ‘A’ because it gives payback in 3 year and 4 months.

      1. Salihu musa

        Pls help me in solving this problem. Umar PLC. is planning on investing into project that cost #200000 and the project useful years is 5years, after which it will be scrapped. The firm uses straight line method of depreciation. The annual profit charging depreciation is #100000. You are required to determine the pproject’s

      2. karthik

        yeah ,
        you are correct

        machine A has payback period of 3.4 years
        machine B has payback period of 3.89 years

        so which ever has less value is preferable. i.e machine A

    2. shubham yadav

      a because payback periad of a is shorter than b

    3. shuva

      1 st mechine should provide.. because 1st mechine need 3.4 yr and 2nd mechine need 3.896 yr

    4. John Macharia

      Answer is machine A because it will take 3.4 years to return the money used but machine B will take 3.896 years which is greater than than of machine A

    5. mera

      how u solve this question..??? why 2 values given? Annual net. 1. $3500. $2000
      Cash budget 2 $3000. $2000
      3 $2500. $2000
      4 $2500. $2500
      5. $3000. $2000

    6. Peter

      Machine A produced shortest payback period

  3. Manfred Nhemachena

    Project A should be purchased because the payback period is shorter in though with a short period to Project B

  4. Ivan

    When calculating Net annual cash inflow should one include the interest rate in the calculation if the investment is financed with debt?

  5. Erna

    i need help solving this

    the investment B has 7 year to pay back cost of 500.000$. The rate is 12% , what is the worst possible cash flow (NPV) from this investment?

  6. Justin

    Suppose that a 30 yr treasury bond offers a 4% coupon rate, paid semiannually. market price in 1000, equal to par value?

  7. Mudabbir

    I understood totally pay back method

  8. Ella

    Does it matter if we use nominal cash flows or real cash flows to calculate payback period? Do they give the same answer?

  9. Dusangeyezu Eugène

    thinks a lot!!

    1. Dusangeyezu Eugene

      more exercises would be better to help in …..

  10. Geofrey Kipya

    I have understood pay back period

  11. Geofrey Kipya

    thanks a lot they are the facts

  12. frank sichali

    am nw clear….

  13. Phanindra

    Do we need to deduct interest while arriving cash inflows to calculate PBP… If yes why ??? I need a logical reasoning sir… Thank u

  14. Mary

    Assuming that a project L with cash outlay of 1,200,000 and operating cost of 150,000 with cash inflow of 600,000 what is the payback period?

  15. Liang

    How to make decision if project A payback is 2 years with total inflow of 15k and project B payback is 4 years with total inflow is 40k?

  16. osayuware Osas

    thanks alot

  17. enocc

    am just very happy to have got the concept behind payback method

    1. Ruthey

      understood that thank you sir


    For cash inflow, do we need to consider – NP + depreciation only OR we shall consider actual cash inflow as per cash flow report. The two are different in a sense that the latter considers fluctuations in working capital or other payment or inflows as well.

  19. Gaby

    I need help in solving this question by calculating the payback period, please assist

    Cash inflow 2 575 000
    Net Cash flows year 1-9 800 000
    Year10 75 000
    Scrap value (end of 10 years) 525 000

  20. Burnet

    What is the date of this article so that I can cite it as an authoritative source?

    1. Accounting For Management

      This article was written by “Rashid Javed” and was published on December 26, 2016.



  22. jerrybest

    this is a helpful Plat Form

  23. Blaise

    Between a young investor and a near-retiree investor who do you think will prefer to use payback period as a tool for appraising investment?

  24. Dnegi

    What is the net annual cash flow in case of tax rate is given

  25. Sana

    Pay back period method solv

  26. tesfay welay

    thanks you more,i need to send me more calculations on PBP for two projects.

  27. Afzaal

    Hello – what method do we use when we are incurring continuous cash out flows?

  28. Philemon mayowa

    please can some one help solve this

    assume you have 40k to invest and you are to choose between the two, analyse using discounted payback method if the discount rate is 9%
    20k. 20k
    investment A. investment B
    year 1. 6k. 5k
    year 2. 6k. 5k
    year 3. 6k. 5k
    year 4. 6k. 5k
    year 5. 6k. 5k
    terminal value. 0. 8k

    which investment would you goose and why
    please I need a worked solution thanks, the terminal values got me confused

  29. Tataiah ankani

    A company is considering an investment proposal to install a new machinery which will cost Rs.6,00,000.The machine has a life of 5 years after which it has salvage value of Rs.1,00,000. The companys tax rate is 50% and it uses straight line method of depreciation.The estimated. Cash flows before depreciation and tax from the proposed investment proposal are as follows. 1year. Cfbdt Rs. 1,20,000. 2year. Cfbdt Rs.1,30,000. 3year. Cfbdt Rs. 1,50,000. 4year. Cfbdt Rs. 1,80,000. 5year. Cfbdt Rs. 2,50,000. Compute the following. a) pay back period. b)Avarage rate of return. C)Net present value at 10% discount rate. d)Internal rate of return. e)Profitability&Index of 10% discount rate. Sir please slove this problem

  30. Sara

    Pls need help to. Pro A Pro B
    Initial capial outlay. 80,000. 100,000
    Net cash inflows yr1 40,000. 25,000
    2. 60,000. 30000
    3. 30,000. 50,000
    4. 20,000. 50,000
    5. 25,000. 50,0000
    The initial outlay will occur immediately and you assume that the net cash flow will rise at the end of each year.the company estimate cost of capital over the five years period is 12%.calculate
    1. Payback
    3. NPV
    4. IRR

  31. Rehabeam Nalitye

    The firm has a cost of capital of 8%. The two projects are expected to have the following cash flow:
    Year Project A(R) Project B(R)
    1 – 50 000 -80 000
    2 20 000 40 000
    3 30 000 30 000
    4 10 000 30 000
    What is the profitability index for Project A.
    Greetings everyone, anyone to help here please.

  32. Kerine Johnson

    I need help solving for NPV. If a project has a Initial cost os 50,000 and the incremental cash flow associated with the project is 20,000 in yr 1, 15,000 in yrs two and three, and 10,000 in year four. The discount rate for this project is 11%. What is the NPV?

    I appreciate the help on bayback. Thank you


    Payback period method is interesting. Thank you for your help. I expect to benefit from the solution to Kerine Johnson’s question on NPV

  34. stephen waweru

    In the example with the even cash flows,supposed there is provision for depreciation but still depreciation is a non cash expense,how would it be.

    Thank for the great knowledge.

    1. Accounting For Management

      All non-cash expenses are ignore while computing payback period.

  35. Morley

    This is so good to calculate our payback period

  36. Faith obeten.

    Please i need help. How can you determine the actual payback period of motor vehicle under payback period which will be obtained with the following cash flows? Initial cash flow (400,000), 200,000 yr1, 50,000 yr2, 40,000 yr3, 50,000 yr4, 40,000 yr5.

    1. Accounting For Management

      See example 4 in this article.

  37. Rafaqat

    Will we add Installation cost of new machine or only machine cost will add for payback calculation?

  38. Pallu

    Plz help solving my confusion.
    In uneven cashflow the minimum year is taken as 3, on what basis it has been taken plz elaborate.

  39. Alebachew sime

    yomilata company has rcorded the following data related to two alternatives A and B.Both require an investment of $56,125 A B
    year acfs after acfs after
    1 $3,375 11,375
    2 5,375 9,375
    3 7, 353 7,375
    4 9,375 5,375
    5 11,375 3,375
    total 36,875 36,875
    cost of capital 10%
    estimated life 5 years 5years
    estimated salvage value $3,000 $3,000
    tax rate 55% 55%
    depreciation has been changed on straight line basis calculate
    2)pay back period
    3)net present value
    4)profitability index
    5)internal rate of return

    1. Jojolie

      Please can you help me with this question.
      Investment 20000 to obtain 5%interest in a rental property. Estimate cash receive per year is 6000 and 8000 from the interest of 5%.Time 10years.income tax 25%. The pay back period is asked

  40. Shikha

    When I solve this question I feel really very good because I got the right answer
    Machine A- 3.4
    Machine B-3.896

  41. Jojolie

    Please can you help me with this question.
    Investment 20000 to obtain 5%interest in a rental property. Estimate cash receive per year is 6000 and 8000 from the interest of 5%.Time 10years.income tax 25%


    thanks i understand PBP now

  43. loulah

    Project A and B have a cost of OMR (700). Each project generates cash flows as seen in the below table, According to the payback period method and in the line of risk and liquidity preference, answer the following:- (Hint:- Your answer must be not random.)
    a) which is the project you will select?
    b) Justfy your decision.
    End-of- Year Cash Flow
    Project 1 2 3
    A 500 300 100
    B 400 450 100

  44. nonhlanhla

    QUESTION 3 (Ignore income taxes in this problem) (20 marks)
    Boy-Boy , Incorporated , is considering the purchase of a machine that would cost R240,000 and would last for 5 years, at the end of which, the machine would have a salvage value of R48,000.
    The machine would reduce labour and other costs by R62,000 per year.
    Additional working capital of R7,000 would be needed immediately, all of which would be recovered at the end of five years. The company requires a minimum pretax return of 17% on all investment projects.
    Determine the net present value of the project. Show all your calculations

  45. Nonhlanhla

    Good day

    kindly help.

  46. oluwaseun

    Tnks so much
    pls in exercise 4,when working the payback period how did u derive 15,000 dnt understand dat part

  47. Gemmechu Kabeto

    Good question now

  48. Alma

    It’s so very difficult for me .,..😭😭

  49. Nametso

    Sporo Limited, a local company, is considering buying a new machine called X2000, costing P2300,000, after performing a market research worth P50,000.It is expected to yield the following profits;

    Year P
    1 600,000
    2 800,000
    3 1000,000
    4 1200,000
    5 800,000

    Installation and transport cost would amount to P300, 000 and have not been included in the cost price. Risk is fairly high and the opportunity cost of capital has been fixed at 16%. Machine X2000 could be sold for P100, 000 at the end of 5 years.

    a) Calculate the payback period in years and months.
    b) Calculate the NPV of the Project.

    Need help

  50. richa

    A company is considering the purchase of a machine. there are two machines X and Y. The cost of these machines is rs. 40000 each. The earnings after tax are as given below:
    Year. Machine X. Machine Y
    1. 12k. 4k
    2. 16k. 12k
    3. 20k 16k
    4. 12k. 24k
    5. 8k. 16k
    calculate payback period method.
    evaluate the alternatives X or Y according to these methods. The rate of discount is 10%.
    pls help I don’t know how to solve with discount.

  51. Mercy

    MAOLAK LIMITED has a mutually exclusive projects X and Y with each of the initial outlay is 150000 the profit given for the years under consideration are as follows: Project X has 30000, 45000, 80000, 120000 and 160000. PROJECT Y has 120000, 40000, 30000, 15000,15000. The residual value after five (5) years is Nil. Determine the PBP for both projects and determine which is better given the cash flows is after depreciation.

  52. Ped

    Please can there be an instance where both projects can be rejected

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