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How To Calculate the True Cost of Printer Ownership

As with many products, the real cost of ownership of an inkjet printer is more than just what you pay for it up front. Yes, features such as print speed and print quality are important. However, you have to keep in mind not only it's sticker price, but the cost of appropriate ink cartridges, paper, and maintenance. It is not hard to find a printer for around $100 or a bit more, but you have to ask yourself, why is it that price? To sell a printer at that price, the manufacturer is going to have to cut costs somewhere, and it will generally not be a feature-laden machine. When you look at printers that cost $150 or more, that is the price point at which the printers become more steady across the board and come with more consistent features.

  • Print cartridges - The printer cartridges you use are on way to reduce the money you put into your printer. You can buy an OEM cartridge, but often times there are compatible and equally good cartridges available from online discount ink cartridge merchants. If possible, try and choose a printer which offers separate tanks for each ink color. That way, if one color runs out, you can replace only one cartridge instead of dealing with what's left until the whole thing runs out.
  • Print software - The important thing to note here is that this is a distinction between the software that comes with the printer and any software you can buy that is compatible with your printer. One can buy ink management software which can help control the amount of ink your printer uses, but you have to weigh that against the amount of money you will save. It may be better to spend that extra money on a printer with individual ink tanks instead.
  • Printer maintenance - Some printers will be better workhorses than others. Keep in mind the amount and type of printing you are going to be doing and find an appropriate printer. The needs of a home user are going to be different than the needs of a home office or small business. The more you use your printer, the more maintenance it can require. Normal maintenance may cost money, but it probably won't compare to the money you spend if lack of maintenance leads to bigger and more expensive problems.
  • Print resolution and speed - If you are not planning on printing very detailed graphics, photos, or texts, you probably do not need a printer with a very high resolution. Often times the software that comes free and standard (HP is a good example) with even a low resolution can enhance images. You also have to consider print speed. If you have a little bit of patience (and plan ahead), you will probably be alright with a printer that doesn't print extremely quickly. Because of this, resolution is probably the more important factor to weigh between the two.

About William Elward

Founder of Castle Ink, William Elward has 20 years experience in the printer industry. He's been featured on CNN Money, Yahoo, PC World, Computer World, and other top publications and frequently blogs about printers and ink cartridges. He's an expert at diagnosing printer issues and has published guides to fixing common printer issues across the internet. A graduate of Bryant University and Columbia's Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program, he's held various leadership positions at The College Board, Bankrate, Zocdoc, and Everyday Health. Follow him on Twitter at William Elward's Twitter Profile