NPV vs Payback: Difference and Comparison

Knowing finance and its concepts is very important. The Net Present Value and Payback are the two most commonly used financial metrics concepts when analysing and evaluating investments

Both are ways of appraising Capital Budgeting decisions that determine to make a budget in the Financial Institutions, Companies, and also Government.

Key Takeaways

  1. NPV measures the present value of an investment’s expected future cash flows minus the initial cost, while payback is the time it takes to recover the initial investment.
  2. NPV is a better indicator of long-term profitability than payback, which only considers the time it takes to recover the initial investment.
  3. NPV considers the time value of money, while payback does not.

NPV Vs Payback

NPV, or net present value, is how much an investment is worth throughout its lifetime, discounted to today’s value.  The formula for NPV is used in investment banking and accounting. The payback period refers to the time it takes to recover the cost of an investment. Simply put, it is the time an asset reaches a breakeven point.

NPV Vs Payback

NPV stands for Net Present Value. The Net present value determines an investment’s current or present value by choosing future cash flow by evaluating a series of the cost of capital.

The metric can be used for different projects, products, or any other activity which involves acquiring capital.

The payback period is defined as the time taken to recover the original equipment investment by considering all the income and expenses.

It is used in capital budgeting to evaluate the profitability of potential projects. Most enterprise consultants, accountants, and financial managers will consider this.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonNet Present Value (NPV)Payback
DefinitionHer interest will be reinvested at the same rate like that, at which it was earned.It is defined as the number of periods required for the initial investment to be paid back.
Treatment of interestInterest will not be reinvested but paid back to investors during the period it is earned.It includes all anticipated future cash flows, whether or not the project generates them under consideration.
Use of Cash Flows.The payback method uses only those cash flows generated by the project itself.This method considers any number of periods over an indefinite future horizon, even infinity.
PeriodThis method considers only cash flows occurring during a single period, one year.They are used for new or unproven investments or technologies because it requires estimating many uncertain cash flows.
Used ForUseful for projects with limited life spans that will be demolished at the end of their useful life. Eg. Building.Useful for projects with limited life spans that will be demolished at the end of their useful life. E.g. Building.

What is NPV?

NPV(Net Present Value) is a way to determine the value of a project from a financial standpoint. NPV calculations determine if a business should invest in capital or finance.

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Accountants and financial managers use this calculation to determine if a company should buy or lease equipment or make an investment in a new venture.

Net Present Value allows us to compare projects with different profitability profiles, and time horizons and use them with a project with an initial investment to know the future cash flows.

It is the sum of all future cash receipts, minus the sum of all future cash payments, discounted back to the present at an appropriate discount rate.

It should be done if a project is worth doing because its total expected NPV is positive. It should not be done if a project is not worth doing because its total expected NPV is negative.

It is a decision-making tool when comparing projects with a different period or when putting together a business plan.

It also can be used in real estate appraisals and other areas where future income needs to be estimated and contextualised with current assets.

net present value npv

What is Payback?

In business and finance, the payback is the time required to recover the initial investment in an income-producing project.

The payback ​is a measure of the performance of a particular investment project, expressed in years.

The formula initial investment calculates it is divided by annual return subtracted by one. It is one of many financial measures used to compare projects or investments.

It is also known as payback time, payback period, and payback period analysis.

The Payback Period should be listed alongside the Return on Investment so that people can see their actual payback period.

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This can help someone make up their mind about whether or not they should buy something.
The payback period can be expressed as an annual or monthly figure.

Compare interest rates and cash flow when deciding whether to invest in something. Short-term and long-term are two investment concepts.

The higher the return, the shorter the payback period, which makes it easier to recoup your costs.

If you have an opportunity to earn a high return on your investment but will need more time to recoup your costs, think twice before accepting such high-risk opportunities.

Main Differences Between NPV and Payback

  1. The Payback period method considers the time value of money, while the Net Present Value doesn’t think the time value of money.
  2. Net Present Value is a time value of money, while the Payback Period is an accounting method.
  3. Net Present Value is a long-term investment decision technique for evaluating the relative merit of different investments, and the Payback method is a short-term investment technique only.
  4. The formula for Net Present Value looks more complicated than the Payback period method, but it’s much more straightforward than the latter.
  5. Payback focus on current cash flow whereas Net Present Value focuses on future cash flow.
Difference Between NPV and Payback

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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10 thoughts on “NPV vs Payback: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I agree that this is a useful reference, but the resources utilized should be more varied and diverse to support the information presented.

  2. A very informative piece, people often overlook the importance of understanding these concepts, I believe this will be of great help to anyone considering investments.


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