One thing you cannot afford to do, whether you use a printer for personal or professional use, is base your entire decision on which new printer to buy solely on the price you pay to buy it off the shelf. If you do, the cheapest printer possible could end up becoming one of your most expensive mistakes of all time, true even if you like the printer’s overall performance.
Whether you realize it or not, most printer manufacturers do not make their money back on the sale of a consumer computer printer. This is why you can see such low prices – and sometimes even free offers – when you go to shop.
In fact, the price you pay upfront for this much-needed device often has almost nothing to do with how much you will pay during the life of the printer to operate it. This is because manufacturers usually make their profit on a printer in all the ink and/or toner cartridges you will need to buy later to keep the unit printing. For example, there are some Hewlett Packard and Epson inkjet printers that run as little as $39 to $49 brand new, only to discover the replacement ink cartridges for them may each cost almost as much as the new printer. I have an HP Inkjet like that; the printer cost practically nothing, but manufacturer-specific cartridges have me paying up to $29 a piece – and that’s with competitive shopping practices, too.
The problem mostly surfaces around the most common inkjet printers, yet you can see them occur with laser printers as well. A laser printer has superior output, so your hard copies will be as crisp as possible. But although you pay substantially more for a laser printer than an inkjet, you can still face extremely pricey replacement toner cartridges. A client of mine gets hit for about $140 in charges every time he runs out of printer materials. He reports this price rises on a regular basis, too.
For this reason, I advise that only people who absolutely need laser printer results buy them, which is by no means everyone. Most people, in fact, will do better if they keep to an inkjet printer and then take a disk containing documents or images they need professionally published to a print shop where they pay per copy prices.
Before you buy any printer, you do best if you can estimate how much material you usually print. This can help keep you from either purchasing a much more expensive unit than you need or getting one on the cheap that just can’t hold up to your largest print jobs.
Inexpensive inkjets are usually aimed at the consumer-only market, where a person may print no more than 10-12 sheets per day. While these printers can usually manage a much bigger job, they won’t stand up to doing this amount of work on a frequent basis. You’ll not only go through ink and paper like crazy, the unit will likely fail faster than one used more moderately. Some, when overworked, begin to jam paper, foul the ink, or actively misprint.
Also, Windows and most other operating systems make it fairly easy for you to have multiple printers installed. There is nothing to prevent you from having three or more units – save for limited space in your office – where one is your standard printer, one is used exclusively for premium printing, and another just for photographs. If you buy all these printers with Universal Serial Bus or USB connections, they are extremely easy to swap in and out so you only need to keep one printer on the desktop at any one time.
Next, you need to do your research to find out how much it costs for the replacement cartridges. With this, you want to check to see what adequate non-name brand replacement cartridges may be available. For example, you can save between 20 and 50% off the cost of some HP-compatible printer cartridges if you avoid the HP brand itself. Yes, doing so can invalidate your printer warranty, but in truth, most of us do not return low-end printers for service because they are so inexpensive to buy new. The cost and inconvenience of shipping a printer back for repair is often substantial.
As you research, check carefully for compatible cartridges for the exact model printer you want to buy. Not every non-name manufacturer makes cartridges for the entire line of a manufacturer’s printers, so you can’t assume that if they make a cartridge for models near yours, they make one specifically for yours.
You also want to weigh the cost of any special paper the printer may require. Photo printers, for example, may require very specific paper. Again, you may be able to find a non-manufacturer compatible paper type that can save you money, but you want to know that before you lock yourself in to a particular unit.
Look also at the PPM or page-per-minute print speed. Many inkjets print much faster in black ink only than they do in color; even then, they may only produce 6-8 pages per minute. For consumer use, this may be sufficient for you. But if you occasionally need to do a bigger print job with best results, a large report could take some time. You also want to research the resolution rates which tell you how small or how large the printer prints.
If you get a bug in your head that you may want to save money by using special kits that allow you to refill your cartridges yourself, think again. Often, you end up with a big mess rather than refilled cartridges. This mess can be sufficient to effectively ruin the printer (unless you like a tie-dyed effect on your printed pages) along with any tabletop it sits upon. There are ways to refill cartridges properly, but few if any that I’ve seen available to the consumer market are satisfactory.
Instead, consider ways you can reduce overall printing costs. For instance, if you print most of your work in black rather than color, you can save because color ink cartridges usually cost between 10 and 40% more than black ink cartridges. You can also use cheaper bulk yet compatible printer paper rather than purchase small packages of name-brand paper for most of what you print. This saves the premium paper for more important print jobs.
Also, check to see if your friends or coworkers happen to use the same printer model you plan to buy. If so, you may be able to get a group of you together to buy paper and cartridges in bulk from suppliers which can result in a substantial price drop. You can also buy for six months work of replacement needs at once, although you probably don’t want to order years’ worth because you’ll have to store this material somewhere. Not all printer cartridges are manufactured to sit for prolonged periods of time under less than ideal conditions.
Is this a lot of work for as simple a purchase as a printer? It may seem so, but the savings you can make over the lifetime of the unit can easily justify the time you spend upfront.