What is Pure Competition?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Also sometimes referred to as perfect competition, pure competition is a situation in which the market for a product is populated with so many consumers and producers that no one entity has the ability to influence the price of the product sufficiently to cause a fluctuation. Within this type of market setting, sellers are considered to be price takers, indicating that they are not in a position to set the price for their products outside a certain range, given the fact that so many other producers are active within the market. At the same time, consumers have little influence over the prices offered by the producers, since there is no singular group of consumers that dominates the demand.

Businesses engaged in a pure competition market usually structure production so that they incur marginal costs at a level where they can earn the most profit.
Businesses engaged in a pure competition market usually structure production so that they incur marginal costs at a level where they can earn the most profit.

In reality, pure competition is more theory than actual fact. While there are rare situations in which a marketplace functions with pure competition for a short period of time, the situation normally shifts as various factors change the stalemate created by a multiplicity of sellers and buyers. This is often due to the somewhat stringent set of factors that must be present in order for the competition to be considered perfect or pure.

There are several essential characteristics that define pure competition. One has to do with the balance of buyers to sellers. When there is an infinite number of buyers who are willing to purchase the products offered for sale by an infinite number of producers, at a certain price, the opportunity for anyone to take actions that shift the market price is extremely limited. The price remains more or less the same, and the same number of buyers purchase the products from the same range of producers.

With pure competition, sellers can easily exit or enter the marketplace, without creating any undue influence on the price. Consumers continue to make purchases at the same rate, even if two companies leave the market and only one new one enters. The collective producers who are still in the market simply continue to produce enough products to meet consumer demand, without a shift in market price.

Businesses engaged in a pure competition market usually structure production so that they incur marginal costs at a level where they can earn the most profit. When the product line is homogeneous, this means the products produced are essentially the same as the product line produced by other suppliers in the marketplace. Assuming the costs are in line with marginal revenue, the business can generate a consistent profit for as long as the condition of pure competition is present in the market.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@cloudel – You're right about this being an example of pure competition. I see gas stations come and go now and then, but the price remains the same at all the other stations, so the shutdown of one doesn't have any effect on the prices at other places.

Personally, I do drive a few extra miles for cheaper gas. A few cents per gallon really adds up. My car holds 16 gallons, so I feel that savings of even 3 cents per gallon is significant.

If my favorite station closed, I would be sad, because I know that this wouldn't make the other stations lower their prices any. I would be stuck paying more for the same gasoline.


I live in a college town, and this place is overrun with pizza restaurants. The students keep all the places in business, and they all charge about the same for their food.

From time to time, one of the restaurants will offer a special price on a large pizza or some other deal to attract more business, but they cannot sustain this forever. Like it or not, they are under pure competition in the long run.

The good thing about having so many different pizza places is that they offer variety, and though a group of friends can't always agree on which place to order from, everyone has their favorite. This helps the restaurants stay in pure competition.


The gasoline industry sounds like a good example of pure competition. No one can really have a much lower price than everyone else and still make a profit, because the cost for gas station owners to buy the gasoline is so high to begin with.

There are a couple of stations in my town that offer gas a few cents cheaper than the surrounding areas, but not everyone is willing to drive several miles to get there. For some people, it is just more convenient to pay a few cents more per gallon than to use the gas it would take to reach these stations and save on the product.

Barring the few cents difference that some stations are willing to give, there is pretty much pure competition in this market. I don't see that changing in the future, either.

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