The Most Economical Printer: Laser and Inkjet Slug it Out.

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Round 1: Comparing Laser Printers Vs. Ink Jet Printers

This is the first of a multipart post comparing the ownership costs of a laser printer vs. an inkjet printer.

What is the most economical printer? Well, that depends on whether you’re talking about just the cost of the printer itself, or whether you’re factoring the cost of toner/ink. If you’re talking about cost per page, then in the long run common knowledge says a laser printer will be the most economical – but will it?  If you’re talking about upfront costs the consensus is an inkjet printer will be the cheapest. So just for argument’s sake, let’s find out what the most economical printer is, on Amazon.

When shopping for printers on Amazon look at the Amazon ink and toner finder to find ink specifically for the printer you’re buying.

To establish some ground rules, let’s look at black and white and color completely separately. Let’s assume we’ve got two users,

  • One casual user prints 100 pages a year (that’s a couple a week)
  • One user prints 500 pages a year (10 pages a week)
  • They both keep their printer 5 years,
  • We’ll factor in the cost of the printer.
  • We’ll also compare the cost of original vs. remanufactured ink cartridges or toner.
  • We’ll round up to the nearest dollar for ease of comparison.
  • We’ll assume that the number of copies per toner/ink cartridges that the manufacturers report, are accurate. (Probably not, but we need to start somewhere)

Let’s take a look at black and white printing first:

Ok, here we are with the casual user, original manufacturer consumables (toner/ink)

Ok, the cheapest laser printer on Amazon is the Samsung ML-2525 at $59 (decent reviews, most like it at 3.5 stars), it doesn’t say how many pages you can get from the toner that comes with it, but replacement Samsung toner lists itself at 1500 pages (there’s an aftermarket cartridge that gets 2500 pages for about half the cost), so we’ll assume that is what it comes with. The cheapest inkjet is the Hewlett Packard Deskjet D1660 at $30 (reviews are horrible, you’ll be lucky to get 4oo pages before it fails, some users report). We’ll assume that it comes with ink, and that the ink cartridge prints 200 pages, as many as the factory replacement the HP 60 black printer cartridge. So at 500 pages over 5 years, the Samsung printer will cost you $59, you won’t even have to replace the toner. You’ll have to replace the cartridge in the HP printer twice, at $14. So the inkjet will set you back $30+$14+$14 or $58. Advantage: Inkjet by $1. Consider the print quality of the laser printer vs. the inkjet and you’ll probably agree, and extra dollar is more than worth the quality increase.

Let’s do the calculation with remanufactured or generic ink. The Samsung won’t need anything replaced so the cost is still $59. The inkjet will need 2 cartridges, the cheapest generic is $10, so the overall cost is $30+$10+$10, or $50, Advantage: inkjet printer by $9.

Power user comparison with original manufacturer printer ink or toner.

Ok we’ll use the same printers as before, they’re the cheapest printer at the time of this writing. So at 500 pages a year, for five years, we’ll need 2500 pages printed. We’ll make the same assumptions about the Samsung printer toner, that is, we’ll get 1500 pages out of it. So we’ll need to buy the printer and one replacement toner cartridge at $53, so overall $59+$53 for $112 dollars.

We’ll make the same assumptions about the cost of the original inkjet and it’s replacement cartridges. We’ll need 2500 pages, so that’s 200 pages with the original printer, plus, we’ll need 12 more (actually 11.5, but we can’t buy half a cartridge) replacement cartridges at $14 for for a total cost of $30 + (12 x $14) = $198. Advantage: Laser printer, by almost a factor of two.

Let’s run the calculations with remanufactured or generic printer ink or toner.

Laser printer first. The replacement generic toner cartridge is $34 (it’s $30 for remanufactured) So, for printer and toner $59 + $34 = $93.

Inkjet printer now, we’ll need the printer at $30 plus those 12 cartridges at $10. So, $30 + $120 = $150. The gap has closed, but still the advantage belongs to the laser printer.

Now we’ve made quite a few assumptions here, for example that a printer cartridge that HP says will print 200 pages will actually do that. Most people report, and it’s been my experience, you’ll be lucky to get 2/3rds of that, probably more like half. In that case the laser jet would have a clear advantage. Another thing we’ve done is look at the cheapest of both kind of printer. Is the cheapest printer the “average printer” probably not, but we could’ve averaged the 5 cheapses and the 5 most expensive, but that would take lots of research, and I think my calculations here give us a good ballpark.

What’s the moral of all this? If you go and buy the cheapest printer you find at the store, then you haven’t bought the most economical printer. That probably applies to most electronic gadgets or most everything as well.

Tune in for round 2: The most economical printer: Color Laser vs. Color Inkjet.

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  1. Round 2: Economical Printers, Color Laser Printers vs. Inkjet Printers
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