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Cheap Printers....Expensive Operation Costs?

You’d think that finding a printer that fits your budget would be a simple task, but it’s not as easy as you might think. Many people overlook the cost associated with consumables, being lured instead by an attractive price tag on the printer. To find the most economic printer, then, you want to look at two things: how much print cartridges cost for the particular model and how much ink or toner you’ll use.

A cheap printer may save you money initially, but it’ll cost you in time. The general rule is: the cheaper the printer, the more expensive its consumables will be. PC World conducted a study comparing the prices of 56 inkjet multifunction printers over a two year period. Their study concluded that the average cost per page for cartridges compatible with a cheap printer ($200 or less) was consistently higher than those compatible with an expensive printer ($200 or more).

Does this mean an expensive printer is your best solution for a low total cost of ownership? Not necessarily. There are two all-important factors you have to consider: what do you print and how much do you print? If your only purpose for a printer is to print out boarding passes, concert tickets, grocery lists or other miscellaneous documents that don’t consume much ink, a cheap printer is probably your best bet. Why? Because you won’t have to suffer the high cost of replacing ink cartridges like someone who prints large, ink-consuming documents on a regular basis.

Those who seldom print and rarely print photos or graphics, then, have the most to gain from a cheap printer. However, if you’re a photo enthusiast or depend on your printer for large projects on a regular basis, an expensive printer with low-costing consumables is definitely your best option for long-term savings.

If you decide to opt for a cheap printer, you should try to avoid one that, instead of having a separate cartridge for each color, utilizes a single cartridge for cyan, magenta and yellow. The downside to tri-color cartridges is the fact that it has to be replaced as soon as one color has been depleted. Also, whether you purchase a cheap printer or an expensive one, high-capacity ink cartridges always offer the best savings over standard yield cartridges. If you infrequently use your printer, however, you may run the risk of not using the cartridge fast enough, allowing the ink time to dry within the cartridge.

Remember, cost is only one factor (albeit an important one) to consider when shopping for a new printer. If you’re in the market for a new printer, consult Consumer Reports for important qualities such as output, speed and features.