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How to Find the Real Bargain Printer

How to Find the Real Bargain Printer

It is often said that buying a new printer can be cheaper than a new set of cartridges. Although this may be true in certain circumstances, this practice would be extremely wasteful. The reality of the situation is that even if it is cheaper to buy a new printer, rather than replacing your ink cartridges, you are probably going to end up spending more money to print than you would have if you had calculated and compared the costs of printing with available printer options before making your purchase. Saving money on printing is not exactly rocket science, but it can be a daunting task if you don¡¯t know where to begin with your calculations. Let¡¯s go through the elements that contribute to cost of printing, calculate and compare the costs of printing with a variety of printers, and implement this information in an easy to use form for identifying printers that yield real bargains.

Printer Prices vs. Ink Prices

Consumers often wonder: ¡°Why is it that manufactures sell printers for so little, but demand such a high price for ink?¡± While cruising the aisles of your local ¡°big-box¡± retail store, you may come across incredible printer deals. Printers selling for $32.00 to $69.00 catch the eye and excite the bargain hunter in all of us. You take the printer home, fall in love with it, and then run out of ink. It is at this point that you discover that it¡¯s going to cost you more than what you paid for your printer (or pretty close to it) to replace your cartridges. Simply put, printer manufacturers price their machines low, and expect to profit on your ink consumption. So if printer manufacturers analyze their revenue as an aggregate of expected ink consumption, in addition to the printer sales, then consumers should also take a similar approach in calculating their real costs.

Canon Pixma MP250 $32.00 $50.90 **
Epson Stylus NX115 $39.00 $31.80 ***
HP DeskJet F4580 $49.00 $44.90 ***
    * Price
  ** OEM Price Black + Color
*** Compatible Price Black + Color

Cartridge Yields and Cost Per Page

All cartridges are not equal; brand to brand, model to model, cartridge yields and their prices vary. These differences can serve to the confusion of cost calculation. One set of cartridges for one printer may cost less than another, projecting the perception of cost savings, but when considering their yields, you may discover that the more expensive brand may result in a lower cost per page. When only dealing with one model in comparing the cost of printing between standard and high capacity versions, cost per page is always lower with the high capacity (as illustrated in our article The Case For High Capacity Ink Cartridges). So, for the purposes of our calculations today, we will be using the costs of high capacity cartridges when available.

Cartridge yields are generally calculated by manufactures using standards established by ISO (International Organization for Standardization). One page is generally defined as having 5% coverage of ink; this usually amounts to one sixth to one fourth of a page covered in about 12 pt type, single spaced, and not bold. Although your printing will vary in coverage (usually much higher than 5%), this standard allows you to compare the cost per page of different cartridges. To establish the cost per page, you simply divide the cost of a cartridge by the estimated page yield. Page yields are usually found on the box, on a manufacturer’s website, or by calling the manufacturer directly.

Canon Pixma MP250 $0.057 $0.080  
Epson Stylus NX115 $0.017 $0.069  
HP DeskJet F4580 $0.036 $0.058  
    * CPP Determined by dividing InkSell Prices by OEM ISO Yield

Laser Printer vs. Inkjet Printers

A commonly held belief among consumers is that laser printers generally result in a lower ink cost than inkjet printers even though the printers and toners themselves are comparatively more expensive than their inkjet counterparts. Although true in many instances, there are also many inkjet printers that tout ink costs well below that of laser printers. Yet, laser printers offer features and results that may not be available with less expensive inkjet inks. So, the final cost comparison may come down to how much you value the benefits of a laser printer (ie speed, longevity, quality, etc.), which is generally not quantifiable in a cost comparison.

Another cost that needs to be considered is the cost of laser consumables beyond toner cartridges. Although some laser cartridges have built in transfer technologies, some printers have drum units and transfer belts that are consumable and need to be replaced at regular intervals (anywhere from 4-8 toners).

INKJET Epson Stylus NX115 $0.017 $0.069
HP DeskJet F4580 $0.036 $0.058
LASER Brother DCP7040 $0.039 N/A **
HP LaserJet P1102W $0.031 N/A  
   * CPP Determined by deviding InkSell Prices by OEM ISO Yield
 ** DCP7040 uses both drum and toner; CPP calculated by adding cost of 8x toners (@1.5 pgs) to cost of 1x drum (@12k pgs) and dividing by 12k.

Making Sense of the Numbers

So far, we have compared printer costs vs. their cartridges, calculated the cost per page for cartridges, and compared the costs of laser printing vs. inkjet printing. To help organize this information we have created a worksheet that you can use to gather this information and compare your options before investing in a printer. Click Here to Download. You can also Click Here to Download for an example of a completed comparison worksheet to aid you in filling out your comparison.

Once you have entered cartridge cost, yield, and calculated cost per page on the worksheet, you will need to estimate your usage. This number will be hard to accurately estimate, but reflect on how much paper you use. Take your paper estimate and multiply it by two (since your page coverage is probably going to be about 10-15%). Now reflect on your color printing vs. your black printing. If you plan on only printing with black ink, you ignore the color figure. It may be easiest to estimate how much color you may regularly print, assign it a percentage, and apply that percentage to your estimated paper usage. Enter the resulting page count in the Estimated Color Usage box and enter the remaining pages (non-color prints) in the Estimated Black Usage box.

To calculate Estimated Black Cost, multiply your Estimated Black usage by the black Cost Per Page. For color, add up the Cost Per Rage for each color cartridge and multiply it by your Estimated Color Usage. These numbers may seem a little high, but they are more than likely an over estimate. The purpose is to establish a standardized estimate of costs so that you can compare the true costs of specific printers with each other to find out which printer is the real bargain.

Now, add your estimated black and color costs together to establish your Estimated Total Ink Cost. Take this value and plug it into the Ink Cost box on the left. Next, add the Ink Cost to the Printer Cost to arrive at your Total 1 Year Cost. Compare this value between the printers you have chosen to assess. You may find that the bargain printer is an ink cost nightmare, but the slightly more expensive printer is an ink cost saving machine. Or, you may find the opposite is indeed true. So congratulations; you have successfully calculated the potential costs of your printer purchase. Use this information wisely to choose the greatest print savings possible and remember, for even greater ink savings, think INKSELL.COM!