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Will investing in a higher-priced printer save you money on printing in the long run?

Will you save money on ink or toner cartridges if you invest in a more expensive printer? According to a May 2, 2012 article in PCWorld, the answer to this is, “Yes/Maybe/It all depends”. http://www.pcworld.com/article/254899/ink_onomics_can_you_save_money_by_spending_more_on_your_printer_.html

The authors, Jon L. Jacobi and Melissa Riofrio, point out that in virtually all cases, the less expensive a printer is, the higher the cost of its cartridges. Therefore your cost per printed page will be considerably higher with a cheap printer. On the surface it may appear that inkjet printers are more economical than equivalent laser printers, since they usually cost less in the first place and their ink cartridges are cheaper than laser printers’ toner cartridges. However, this is an “apples vs oranges” comparison, because toner cartridges last far longer than ink ones, so the cost per copy is less. For more information about ink and toner comparisons, please click here.

However, as Jacobi and Riofrio explain, the true over-all cost of a printer and its ink or toner depends largely on your actual printing needs. If you only need a printer for occasional, black-and-white text needs, it may be somewhat cheaper in the long run to buy a very inexpensive printer, even though you’ll have to pay dearly when the cartridge needs to be replaced. (Don’t forget that less expensive recycled cartridges are available for most models.)

Say you buy an $80 sale-priced printer that requires a $60 cartridge that prints 200 copies. If you only print an average of 400 copies a year, after three years, (using two cartridges per year) you will spend a total of $440, paying a bit more than $.36 per copy (not including paper or electricity).

If, on the other hand, you buy a $300 printer with cartridges that print 200 copies and cost only $30, you’ll spend a $480, paying $.40 per copy. This is a simplified formula, but if you have limited funds for an initial purchase and limited printing needs, a cheap printer may work for you.

Again, this example is based on a user with very modest printing needs. If you print more than a couple of copies a day, or if you need to have color options and high-quality printing, you will generally benefit economically by investing in a more expensive printer with less costly cartridges. For more information about determining cost-per-page, please click here.

Jacobi and Riofrio do specifically advise against investing in a tricolor bargain color printer that uses a single cartridge to provide all its colors. This may seem efficient, but when one color runs out, the cartridge must be replaced, even if it still contains plenty of the other colors.

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