Is it Cheaper to Buy a New Printer Than it is to Just Replace the Ink?
Throughout the internet you will find many articles asking the question, is it cheaper to buy a new printer than it is to just replace the ink cartridges. We will explore the various aspects and angles of this question.
Proving the Premise
For the sake of proving the premise of the question, we shopped the HP.com website, and selected an inexpensive printer, the HP Deskjet 1000 Printer which sells for $29.99.
According to the product specifications the printer comes with one HP 61 black cartridge with a yield of approximately 190 pages and one HP 61 tri-color cartridge with a yield of approximately 165 pages.
On the very same HP.com website we can order a new HP 61 Black Ink Cartridge which according to the specifications the cartridge yield is approx. 190 pages, for a price of $13.99. Also the HP 61 Tricolor Ink Cartridge with a yield of approx. 165 pages, costs $19.99. The cost to replace both ink cartridges is $33.98.
So at least on the surface, we have proven the basic premise that is it cheaper to buy a new printer than it is to just replace the ink cartridges. But now let us explore some other issues.
The Myth of the Unfilled Ink Cartridge
Many articles on the internet claim that the new printer comes with starter ink cartridges that are nearly empty, that they are not as filled as the ones you buy to replace them. In the case of our shopping example this is not the case.
The Myth of Inkjet Refills
There are many places selling refilled cartridges with the claims of saving money over buying the manufacturers brands. There are also various kits sold for refilling ink cartridges. I have worked in various capacities as a technician representing both companies that sold printers and copiers, as well as supported them as an employee working for the company using the printers. Refilling ink cartridges or using cartridges from companies that refill them is a very mixed bag.
I have not seen consistent results from refilled cartridges. Because of numerous problems, I urge companies not to use refilled cartridges, or try filling them on their own. If you are looking to save money on ink cartridges, there are other things to consider, and that I would recommend, instead of using refilled cartridges.
Always print in Black
If you do the math on the ink cartridges in our example you will see that that the cost per copy on the color cartridge is about 12 cents per copy, while the black costs around 7 cents per copy. The cartridge yields are based on printing a standard test page. A densely colored document will use ink even faster. How many times do you print a multicolor page just for the sake of some text data that does not need to be in color?
Consider printing text documents only in black, and save color only for photos. If you look at the printing preferences on the printer set up of your printer in the operating system, you will find the option "Grayscale Printing" which will disable the color printing and have your output from the printer only use the black cartridge. While you are looking at your print settings you might also want to look to see if your printer offers a less than standard print quality. Sometimes you will see a fast or economy mode, while decreasing the quality of the output, it also uses less ink.
Of course the easiest way to cut down on printing costs is to carefully choose what you print. Do you print e-mails with just a few lines of text just so you can read them later?
Consider a Laser Printer Instead of an InkJet.
The price of a black Laser Printer costs several times that of an inkjet, and the price of a toner cartridge will cost a lot more than an inkjet printer. Don't let the initial sticker shock scare you. If you calculate the actual cost per copy of laser printer, you are looking at something closer to the 2 to 4 cents per copy price range, which is significantly cheaper than the inkjet. Calculate the cost per copy savings over time, and figure out how long it will take to recover the initial upfront costs. It may not take all that long at all.
There are other advantages of a Laser Printer over an Ink Jet. Laser Printer documents hold up better than ink jet documents. Some Ink Jet documents smear if exposed to water or moisture, and fade over time. Ink cartridges may dry up, while toner cartridges have a longer life span if not in use.
In a business environment I strongly urge folks to focus on cost per copy, rather than cost per printer. The price of laserjets have dropped dramatically in recent years. If you have multiple workstations each having their own inkjet printer attached to them, it does not take long at all to justify the cost of a shared laser printer. If you are printing more than a few hundred pages a month, you should be looking at a laser printer.
Why not just replace the printer, instead of buying ink cartridges?
The analogy most often used to explain why the low end printers seem to cost so little is that of giving away the razor to sell the razor blades. In that sense, it does seem that every year there is a new razor being made that uses a new type of razor blade that is different than any other.
In the simplest scenario replacing the printer instead of buying ink cartridges may seem to make sense, but only at the very low end of the spectrum. A copier, fax, printer combination unit will cost a lot more than the simple printer, but still use the same ink cartridges. In this case it does not make sense to replace it when the ink runs out, so the other tips here come into play.
A very minor consideration, but potential issue, is that with every new printer you buy, that requires new drivers and software to be installed on your computer. Anytime you install a new printer you have the possibility of formatting issues with documents created for the old printer, using the old printer's drivers.
One more consideration, that comes up quite a bit in our world today is the waste in our world. How environmentally friendly is it to throw away a fully functional printer for the sake of saving a dollar on an ink cartridge?
With any device such as a printer or copier, that uses consumable supplies, like toner or ink, do some homework before buying. The cost of the device itself is only a small part of the total picture. Even on more expensive devices, what appears to be a bargain, because the cost of the device appears cheaper, may not be a great deal because of the price of supplies. Check out the price of the device, as well as the price and yield of supplies. Estimate your usage over time and calculate true costs,
Models of devices change often. The product chosen in this example was simply to illustrate the point and no endorsement is intended. The author has no connection to HP in anyway, prices and and information was taken from the hp.com website at the time the article was written.