Depreciation is like spreading out the cost of something valuable, like a machine or a building, over the time you use it. The Double Declining Balance (DDB) method is a way to do this faster. It means you take a bigger chunk of the cost at the beginning, which can help show the true value of the asset over its lifetime.

Today we’ll explain how the DDB method works, compare it to other common depreciation methods, and get into its implications for your business’s financial management.

This guide is also related to our articles on understanding journal entries in accounting, double-entry accounting: the basics, and how to read a balance sheet.

Highlight the essence of the Double Declining Balance method and its accelerated depreciation approachThis list includes:

  • Double declining balance method
  • Accelerated depreciation techniques
  • Depreciation calculation example
  • Depreciation methods comparison

Let’s get right into it!

The basics of depreciation 

In simple terms, depreciation is how you spread out the cost of a big purchase for your business, like equipment or vehicles, over the time you expect to use it, spreading costs in a way that makes sense alongside the wear and tear on these assets.

Why use depreciation?

Using depreciation in your accounting allows you to match up the cost of the asset with the revenue it helps generate. For instance, if you buy a truck for deliveries, depreciating it over its useful life lets you correlate the truck’s declining value with the income it’s helping to bring in each year.

Keeping track of asset value

Each year, as your assets get older and less efficient, their value decreases. Depreciation lets you record this decrease in value on your financial statements. It turns the initial cost of the asset into an ongoing expense, spread across the asset’s useful life, giving you a more accurate financial picture.

Tax benefits

Depreciation can also reduce your taxable income. Each year, when you record depreciation expenses, it lowers your business’s reported income, potentially reducing your taxes. Make sure to check with a tax professional to get this right and make the most of possible tax benefits.

Budgeting for replacements

By keeping an eye on how much your assets have depreciated, you can better plan when to invest in new equipment and so avoid unexpected hits to your cash flow.

The DDB method as an accelerated depreciation technique

The DDB method is a way of accelerating depreciation. It allows you to write off more of the asset’s cost in the early years of its life and less later on. This can be particularly useful for assets that lose their value quickly—think of tech gadgets that might be outdated in just a few years.

How it works

With DDB, you depreciate the asset at double the annual rate you would with the straight-line method. Instead of spreading the cost evenly over its life, you front-load the expenses. This reflects that some assets are most useful, and therefore lose value more rapidly, in their initial years.

There are a few common ways to calculate depreciation, each with its specifics to match different types of business needs. So how does DBB compare to other methods? Let’s take a look.

Straight-Line vs. DDB

The straight line method is the simplest. Here, you divide the cost of the asset minus its salvage value by the number of years it’s expected to be useful. The result is a fixed annual depreciation expense. For example, if you buy a piece of equipment for $10,000 and expect it to last 10 years with no salvage value, you’ll charge $1,000 to depreciation each year.

Unlike DDB, the straight-line method spreads the depreciation of an asset evenly over its useful life. It’s simpler but doesn’t always match how some assets are actually used or how their value drops.

Units of Production vs. DDB

This method ties depreciation to the use of the asset. It’s ideal for machinery and vehicles where wear and tear are more closely linked to how much they’re used rather than time alone. Calculate it by dividing the total cost minus salvage value by the estimated total units the asset will produce or hours it will operate over its life. Multiply this rate by the actual units produced or hours operated each year to get your depreciation expense.

The more you use the asset, the more depreciation you record. It’s great for machinery that sees variable usage, but unlike DDB, it doesn’t accelerate depreciation based on time alone.

Sum-of-the-Years’ Digits vs. DDB

This accelerated method adds the years of the asset’s life into a sum and uses this sum as a denominator. Each year, you depreciate the asset by a fraction that has the remaining life of the asset as the numerator.

For instance, if an asset has a life of five years, the sum of the years’ digits would be 15 (5+4+3+2+1). In the first year, you use 5/15 of the depreciable base, then 4/15 in the second year, and so on.

This method is another form of accelerated depreciation but less aggressive than DDB. It’s based on a formula that depreciates more in the early years and less as time goes on, though not as steeply as DDB does.

When to choose DDB

DDB might be right for your business if you have assets that become outdated quickly or will see most of their use in the initial years. It’s a strategic choice to match expenses with the asset’s productive period.

This method is faster than both the sum-of-the-years’ digits and straight-line methods. With DDB, you double the straight-line depreciation rate. Apply this rate to the asset’s remaining book value (cost minus accumulated depreciation) at the start of each year. So if an asset with a 10-year life and no salvage value depreciates at 10% per year straight-line, the DDB rate would be 20%.

Fundamentals of the Double Declining Balance method

To calculate depreciation using the DDB method, you first determine the straight-line depreciation rate by dividing 100% by the asset’s useful life in years. Then, double this rate. Each year, apply this double rate to the remaining book value (cost minus accumulated depreciation) of the asset.

Here’s a quick example:

  • You buy a machine for $10,000, expecting it to last five years with a salvage value of $2,000.
  • The straight-line rate is 20% (100% / 5 years).
  • Double this rate to get 40%.
  • For the first year, your depreciation expense is 40% of $10,000, which equals $4,000.
  • The book value at the end of the first year is $6,000 ($10,000 – $4,000).
  • For the second year, the depreciation expense is 40% of $6,000, which equals $2,400.

Explanation of key terms

Book value: This is the cost of the asset minus all accumulated depreciation. It reflects the asset’s current value on your books. As depreciation is recorded each year, the book value decreases.

Useful life: This term refers to the estimated operational lifespan of an asset, how long you expect it to be productive for your business. The useful life is essential for calculating depreciation as it determines how long the cost of the asset will be spread over.

Salvage value: At the end of its useful life, an asset may still have some value. The salvage value is what you expect to sell the asset for once it’s no longer useful in your business operations. The salvage value is subtracted from the asset’s cost to determine the amount that will be depreciated.

Calculating depreciation using DDB, step-by-step

Calculating depreciation using the DDB method involves a few straightforward steps. Here’s a guide to help you through the process, along with examples to show how it works over multiple years, and how the salvage value affects your calculations.

Step 1: Determine the asset’s initial cost.

This is the total amount paid for the asset, including any costs necessary to get it ready for use.

Step 2: Estimate the asset’s salvage value and useful life.

The salvage value is what you expect to recover at the end of the asset’s useful life. The useful life is how many years you expect the asset to be in service.

Step 3: Calculate the straight-line depreciation rate.

Divide 100% by the asset’s useful life. This gives you the annual depreciation rate if you were using the straight-line method.

Step 4: Double the straight-line rate.

Multiply the straight-line rate by two. This is your DDB depreciation rate.

Step 5: Apply the DDB rate to the current book value of the asset.

For each year, multiply the book value at the beginning of the year by the DDB rate. The result is your depreciation expense for that year.

Step 6: Subtract the depreciation expense from the book value to find the end-of-year book value.

Continue this process each year until the book value reaches the salvage value or the end of the asset’s useful life.

Here’s an example of how that might work:

Let’s say you buy machinery for $15,000 with a useful life of five years and a salvage value of $2,500.

  • Initial Cost: $15,000
  • Salvage Value: $2,500
  • Useful Life: 5 years
  • Straight-Line Rate: 100% / 5 = 20% per year
  • DDB Rate: 20% * 2 = 40% per year

Year 1:

  • Book Value at Start: $15,000
  • Depreciation Expense: 40% of $15,000 = $6,000
  • End-of-Year Book Value: $15,000 – $6,000 = $9,000

Year 2:

  • Book Value at Start: $9,000
  • Depreciation Expense: 40% of $9,000 = $3,600
  • End-of-Year Book Value: $9,000 – $3,600 = $5,400

Continue this until the book value approaches the salvage value. The calculation automatically slows down as the book value decreases, preventing it from dropping below the salvage value.

Impact of salvage value on depreciation calculations

The salvage value plays a crucial role by setting a floor on the book value, so that the asset is not depreciated beyond its recoverable amount. In the final year of depreciation, make sure the depreciation expense is adjusted so that the asset’s book value equals the salvage value.

For instance, if the book value in the final year before adjusting for salvage value would drop below $2,500, reduce the depreciation expense to maintain the book value at $2,500; this way your books reflect a realistic value for the asset at the end of its useful life.

Examples where DDB is beneficial

  • Technology equipment: Imagine you’ve purchased a high-end computer system for $5,000, expected to be technologically relevant for only three years with a salvage value of $500. Using the DDB method, you could write off a significant part of its value within the first year, matching the rapid pace at which technology becomes outdated. This reduces the mismatch between the book value of the equipment and its actual market value as new advancements come out.
  • Restaurant kitchen equipment: Kitchen equipment in a high-volume restaurant suffers heavy wear and tear, significantly and quickly reducing its efficiency and reliability. By applying the DDB method, a restaurant owner can depreciate the equipment more aggressively during the early years when it’s most used and most crucial for business operations.
  • Manufacturing machinery: A manufacturing firm might invest in machinery that’s expected to be replaced in a few years due to advancements in technology or heavy usage. The DDB method allows the business to recover more of its investment sooner.

As these examples show, the DDB method can be particularly useful for depreciating assets that have a rapid decline in efficiency, effectiveness, or relevance.


The Double Declining Balance (DDB) method is an accelerated depreciation technique that allows faster write-off of assets in their initial, more productive years. It can lead to significant tax advantages and better matching of expenses with the actual economic benefits of the asset.

However, it’s important to be aware that DDB can overstate expenses early on and understate them later, which might not suit every type of asset or business model.

While DDB is excellent for assets that quickly lose their efficiency or become outdated, it’s less suitable for assets with unpredictable usage patterns. Make sure the method you choose aligns with how your assets contribute to your business.

Next, check out our articles on bookkeeping 101: a guide to bookkeeping basics, how to calculate burn rate, and modified cash basis accounting.

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FAQ: Understanding Double Declining Balance Depreciation

Here's some answers to commonly asked questions about Understanding Double Declining Balance Depreciation.

What is Double Declining Balance depreciation?

Double Declining Balance (DDB) is an accelerated depreciation method that allows for a larger portion of an asset’s cost to be depreciated in the early years of its life. This method is especially useful for assets that quickly lose their value or become obsolete, such as technology or machinery. Businesses that expect their assets to provide more value upfront might find DDB advantageous as it matches depreciation expenses more closely with the asset’s actual economic output during its initial years.

How do you calculate depreciation using the DDB method?

To calculate depreciation using DDB, start with the asset’s initial cost and subtract any salvage value to find the depreciable base. Determine the straight-line depreciation rate (100% divided by the asset’s useful life). Then, double this rate to find the DDB rate.

Each year, apply this rate to the remaining undepreciated balance of the asset. Continue this until the asset’s book value approaches its salvage value or until the asset is fully depreciated.

What are the major differences between DDB and other depreciation methods?

DDB differs from the straight-line method as it accelerates depreciation, allowing larger expenses in the earlier years and smaller ones as the asset ages. Compared to the sum-of-the-years’ digits method, which also accelerates depreciation but less aggressively, DDB provides a more significant front-loading of depreciation expenses. This makes DDB ideal for assets that lose value quickly, while straight-line might be better for assets with a more uniform usage and value decline over time.