NPV vs DCF: Difference and Comparison

We all want our money to grow and make profits. Allocating your money to let your money grow is an investment. Based on the strategies utilized, financial gain is generated.

For an ordinary citizen, there are various reasons to invest, and the expectation of returns differs. The investment value is distinctive to each person.

There are different valuation methodologies to calculate the value of the investment. As investors, they are independent to use any method to grasp the value of the investment.

The net present value(NPV) and the discounted cash flow(DCF) help the investor to make an informed decision.

The NPV helps to determine the net value of the investment after accounting for expenses incurred. The DCF analysis determines the worth of the cash flow at the current time.

Key Takeaways

  1. NPV calculates the present value of future cash flows, while DCF calculates the future value of present cash flows.
  2. NPV considers the time value of money, while DCF does not.
  3. DCF is used to determine the value of an investment, while NPV is used to determine the profitability of an investment.


In investment, net present value (NPV) is the value in the difference between the current value of cash inflow and outflow over a time period. It indicates the worth of an investment in the future. Discounted cash flow (DCF) is a finance method used to evaluate an investment value in the future. It ascertains the investment value based on future cash inflow.


NPV is the net profit value, and the investors look for a positive NPV. It means they are making a profit.

The NPV represents the ongoing worth of money flow, and it makes a note of both the internal and external investment of the company.

It is the contrast between the current value of money inflow and the money outflow.

DCF is the discounted cash flow that analyses the investment and determines the value in the future. It helps scrutinize the value of the investment returns and the time frame for the same.

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The DCF methodology is popularly used by investors while dealing with investments.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonNPVDCF
Full-FormNet present valueDiscounted cash flow
ComponentIt is the present value of cash flow and compares internal and external investment.It analyzes investment and value in the future.
MeaningNPV is the contrast between the current value and money inflow and money outflow.DCF helps an investor calculate the returns and the time taken for the same.
CompareNVP compares the value of investment today.It analyzes the investment done.
InvestmentNPV looks into future costs in today’s value.It looks into how much investment is needed in present to achieve the desired output.

What is NPV?

Net Present Value is the contrast between the current value and money inflow and money outflow over time.

NPV is helpful for money budgeting and investments planned based on the advantage of the investment or a project.

When there is a positive NPV, it means that the investment is beneficial. A positive NPV shows the foreseeable future returns on the investments made will be more excessive than the anticipated costs.

A negative NPV means net loss.

The formula of Net Present Value takes the total money inflow in the future and reduces it by a set value to get to the present value. After that, you subtract the initial cost from the total cash inflow.

If the investment status is more than zero, then the investment is profitable. If the investment status result is less than zero, the investment is a net loss.

Limitations of NPV:

The reliability of assumptions and the future cash flows are the significant limitations of NPV. An over-optimistic view about future money generation might lead to inaccurate NPV.

It might not give a realistic perspective of the investment made.

Uses of NPV:

NPV as a tool helps you determine the value of the investment, in an organization that has multiple projects to prioritize. NPV is a perfect tool to allocate scarce resources.


What is DCF?

Discounted cash flow(DCF) is an evaluation method to get the approximate value of the investment based on the foreseeable future money flow. The analysis is appropriate in any situation.

The investor pays money in the present, expecting to receive more money in the future. The DCF analysis assumes the value of the investment based on the future money it generates.

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This decision helps the investors to make decisions to acquire a company or buy stocks. It even assists the owners or managers in capital budgeting or operational expenditure.

The analysis of DCF finds the PV, the present value of the expected money flow, using a deduction rate. PV (Present Value) expresses that the sum currently is worth more than the same sum in the foreseeable future).

Discount rate(discount rate is the interest charged to any bank or financial institution for short-period loans). If the value of DCF is higher than the investment of the current cost, then the opportunity is worthwhile.

The DCF relies on the estimation of future cash flow, which can lead to inaccurate analysis.

Limitations of DCF:

DCF needs a lot of assumptions. It can get more exposed to errors and complexities.

Uses of DCF:

It is extremely detailed. It shows an estimate of money through investment.


Main Differences Between NPV and DCF

  1. NPV means Net Present Value and represents the current worth of cash flow. DCF helps to determine the value of the investment.
  2. NPV is the difference between current money inflow and outflow. The DCF required analysis determines the appeal of an investing opportunity.
  3. NPV suggests the later worth of an investment or enterprise based on the worth of money. DCF analyses the amount of investment to achieve the desired output.
  4. NPV compares the merit of investments made to the merit of the same in the future. DCF assists in analyzing the funding and its worth eventually.
  5.  The NPV tells the net return after deducting the startup costs. The DCF formula determines the value of a business. 
Difference Between NPV and DCF

Last Updated : 29 August, 2023

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