The Changing Landscape of Printing Costs

I wrote some tips a while back on buying a printer. The basic lesson was that for volume printing you wanted a laser printer and, if printing a fair amount, spend more on the hardware initially so you get the option for high capacity toner.

We’ve all seen the stories of inkjet printers that cost almost nothing, but soon seem less of a bargain when you come to buy new ink cartridges, which can cost more than the printer itself. The same is usually true for low-end laser printers.

The Changing Inkjet Market

Inkjet ink makes the price of crude oil look paltry (be very thankful you don’t use it to fill your tank), it’s expensive even compared to vintage Champagne. Added to that, a typical cartridge will only cover around 300 pages, and that’s without the repeated cleaning printers perform if you don’t print often enough.

There’s the old gotcha of tri-colour cartridges too, where only one colour needs to run out before you’re forced to replace the whole thing.

There are ways to drop the cost, whether that be aftermarket/re-manufactured cartridges, syringe refills or external tanks. Looking for printers that have separate colour cartridges and offer high capacity versions can also save you a lot too.

I’ve long shied away from recommending inkjets, but having spent a lot of time researching printers recently, I’m starting to change my view.

At the bottom end of the price bracket are printers that offer high costs per page (and for mono printing I’d class that as any over 1p per page), but many of the printer manufacturers are starting to fight back against the lowering costs of laser printers with improved ink prices and higher page counts per cartridge.

Separate colours are becoming a bit more standard and high capacity, which used to mean 500 pages instead of 300, can now mean several thousand pages, which pushes the cost per copy on a mono page to below 1p. Print speeds are up too, nearing laser rates.

Comparisons

Here’s some examples of the costs for hardware and toner:

PrinterPriceBlack cartridge & CPPColour cartridge(s) & CPP**Cost to print 1,200 pagesCost to print 12,000 pages
HP Deskjet 1000£37.92£22.55480 pages4.7p£22.53330 pages11.5p£56.40 mono£138 colour£564 mono£1,380 colour
HP Officejet Pro 8100£87.50£25.852,300 pages1.1p£50.531,500 pages5.4p£13.20 mono£64.80 colour£132 mono£648 colour
HP LaserJet Pro 200£183.50£69.492,4002.9p£241.691,80013.4p£34.80£160.80£348£1,608

* Hardware prices from Ebuyer, toner costs from Cartridge Save. Genuine toner only, high capacity and multipack prices used wherever possible. Prices include VAT.

** Includes colour and mono printing prices as usually both used.

The last is a colour laser printer. As you can see, even if you only print in mono, the savings soon add up to the difference in hardware, and that’s before you consider the extra features you get.

Conclusion

It’s obvious the reduction in the cost of toner hasn’t reached the bottom end of the market yet, but if you’re prepared to spend a bit more you can get a colour printer that’ll cost you less than a laser to run, and all before you include the energy costs and the relatively high outlay for toner compared to in cartridges. Plus you’ll probably get a lot more functionality too.

As speeds and capacities increase, I think we’ll see a bit of a resurgence in inkjets, especially for small business.