I know it has been mentioned a zillion times that this business model resembles the Razor and Razor blade business of selling us the product for cheap and nailing us on the consumables that we need to purchase to keep it going. But if you really take a look at it and calculate out exactly how much ink you are getting in those little cartridges, you would find that they are charging between $3000 and $6000 per gallon for ink. Wow! How do I get in on this?
The idea of simply purchasing a new cheap printer whenever you run out of ink sounds like a good plan but most manufacturers only include starter cartridges that only have a small amount of ink in them with a new printer. So you will be running out for ink within a few days anyway.
Sorting through the world of printing is very complex and what makes sense for one person may not make a whole lot of sense for someone else. You must take into account many factors:
1. How many pages do you print per month?
2. How many pages of those are color vs. Black and White?
3. Do you really need color pages or could you get away with printing more in Black and White?
4. What kind of Color pages are you printing? Are you just printing web pages and spec sheets or full color photographs?
5. Are you willing to put up with the mess of trying to refill your own cartridges?
6. Do you mind ordering off-brand or refilled cartridges and toners online?
The bottom line is if you only print a few pages per week or you find that you are only needing to replace ink cartridges once or twice per year, then you probably should just stick with what you have now. But if on the other hand if you are replacing cartridges once a month or more often, you may want re-evaluate what you are doing.
I have read a lot of bold and blatant statements such as simply "Get a laser". This may be a good solution for some, but not for others. And then there is the question of which one. For those of you that print a lot of photos, the Photo quality of a color laser is not even close to that of an Inkjet or some other technologies. And low cost color laser printers typically cost more per page than even the Inkjet printers. A full set of toners cartridges for a color laser printer can cost $350 to $400 and then there may be drum replacement costs too.
I found this out the hard way a few years ago. Having found, in the old days, that I saved a bundle going to a Monochrome laser from a Black & White Inkjet. I assumed that I would save a bundle and went out and purchased a $400 Minolta color laser printer to print my invoices (with color logo and some other spot color) only to find that I had to replace the 4 toner cartridges about twice per year at a cost of $89 each. That was over $700 per year plus the original cost of the printer. The printer started having problems after about 3 years so I finally went out and purchased a $100 inkjet printer and my cost has dropped to about $300 per year in ink.
Times have changed
Laser printers have changed over the years and what were once very cost effective for Monochrome printing have shifted the other way, especially for low end and color laser printers. The early black and white laser printers such as the HP Laserjet II, III and 4 printers as well as the higher end office printers had the Toner and Drum contained in the same unit so that when you replaced the Toner you were replacing the Drum as well. Many of today's printers especially the lower cost lasers have separated the drum from the toner and so not only do you have the cost to replace the toner but you also find that after a while you need to also replace the drum resulting in a not so nice surprise cost. This did lower the cost to manufacture the cartridge but the savings did not seem to be passed onto the consumer.
Inkjet printers have also gone through some similar changes. Many of the early Inkjet printers (especially HP) had the ink and the Print head together in one unit. This had the advantage of getting a new print head every time you installed new ink. This was especially useful for the person who did not print very often or the college student that would store the printer during the summer and the print head would dry out and clog. As soon as you replaced the ink, you were off and printing again. Epson and others that had a separate print head that would clog under light use or during storage and you would have to replace the printer or send it out to have the print head replaced. Today, most of the inkjet printers have done away with building the print head into the ink tank. Again, this has reduced the cost to the manufacturers but they did not seem to pass ALL of the savings on to the end user?
Pay more for the printer and less for the ink????
In many cases, if you purchase a higher end printer, especially a business grade printer, the cost per page will usually go down. But for some this may not make sense especially if you do not print that many pages. This article in PCworld does a nice job of explaining this scenario.
How to Reduce your Printing Cost
In the end if you find that you are replacing ink cartridges all the time and simply spending too much on printing, there are many alternatives or methods you can use to help reduce your printing costs. Here are just a few examples:
Research before your buy - A good starting place is to do a little research and pick a printer with a lower cost per page. They don't make it easy because the information is not readily available and it is not like they print it on the spec sheet or on the side of the box. Here are a few links to some comparison charts on printers that may help you a little:
PCmag 2013 - http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2373165,00.asp
This next one is biased toward Kodak but on page 5 it gives a nice chart of cost-per-page for many other printer models.
Refill your own ink - I have a few clients that do a lot of printing and refill their own ink and they swear by the process and the massive savings they realize. But, this can be a real messy process. However, if you decide to go this route, try to get a printer where the ink can be refilled the easiest. Some models have timers and other chips built into the cartridges to discourage or prevent this practice. I have been told that HP cartridges seem to be the most difficult and Canon the easiest, but that is not based on any personal experience I have. Note: You might find it helpful to Invest in a box of disposable gloves before you take on this process.
Purchase Discount Ink and toner online - There are hundreds of places online that are selling refilled/refurbished or 3rd party off brand ink and toner that can be 1/3 the price of the original manufacturer's ink. This is a great way to save money but if photos are your main concern, you may find the colors are off a little or the prints may not last as long as the manufacturer's ink. You may also run into the occasional bad cartridge and in some cases bad ink can clog your print head. But if you are starting with a $100 printer, then the saving may be well worth the risk. Many users have great success with these 3rd party inks. NOTE: Using these inks may void your printer manufacturer's warranty.
Print in Black and White - Printing in Black and White is cheaper than printing in color on pretty much any printer. You can change the printer settings to use Black only for the majority of your printing and then switch to color only when you really need it.
Print Quality Settings - Most printers will have a print quality setting in the printer preferences menu. If you change this to "Draft Mode" quality for your default setting and only use the higher quality settings when you really need it, you can cut back on ink usage. Depending on what types of things you typically print, many people will not even notice the difference.
Multiple Printers - This is the method that I use personally. I have an older monochrome HP Laserjet 2100M and a Laserjet 4m that I use for the majority of my day to day printing and then I have several Injet printers that I use for Color when I need it. I stopped using my Color Laser printer a few years ago. But this may only make sense for people that really do a fair amount of printing.
Stop Printing Photos - Printing photos on your own inkjet printer is expensive. The most economical way to print photos and usually the best quality too, is to send them out or have them printed online. It is far cheaper to have your photos printed at Walmart or online at Shutterfly or Snapfish then printing them yourself. You can get 100 photos printed for under $10.
Ink Saving Software - I cannot vouch for this personally, but I have seen special software that claims to reduce the amount of ink used when you print. If anyone has any personal experience with any of these programs, I would love to hear about it.
Stop Printing - This one is obvious but if you simply stop printing everything under the sun, you will reduce your printing cost. This may be a little silly, but, I have found that people tend to print less when you give them a larger monitor or even dual screens. I guess if your view of the website or document is better, your tendency to hit the print button may be reduced. Who knows? Maybe moving the printer to the basement so that everyone has to get up and go downstairs will discourage printing so much.
Whatever happened to the idea that we would all be paperless by now?