A Cheaper Alternative to Inkjet Printers?

It depends on what you need to print


Q: I have a printer problem but not with how it works: it's the cost of operation. We bought two inkjet printers for my kids to use in college. While the printers were very cheap to purchase, they have been very expensive to operate.  I am not sure which cost more - college tuition or the ink for the printers! Now that the kids have graduated, I would really like to find a printer that’s inexpensive to run and has decent print quality for occasional home use. Any ideas?

A: Inkjet printers are often cheap to buy, but they are notoriously expensive to maintain. When I was working for a certain office supply company years ago, I learned that the companies that make the printers actually make their money off selling the ink. But here's a question for you, how much do you really need to print? That question may sound crazy but, do you have a mobile device that could replace whatever you are using the printer for? In my house, we hardly print anything anymore because we have an iPad. You would be surprised at how much a tablet or good smartphone will replace printing stuff out.

Remember going to MapQuest and printing out directions before you went on a trip? A device with built-in GPS can take care of that. One of the main selling points for inkjets is that they are fantastic for printing out high resolution color pictures, but how often do you really need to do that? Again, that's something that a lot of folks who own tablets and smartphones don't need because the pictures look better on the mobile device, and if you want to show them off, most of them have a way you can show the pictures on your high def television screen. If you do need to print some pictures, your local print shop can probably do a much better job and do it cheaper, all things being equal.

My wife really only uses our printer for couponing and the occasional form that has to printed out and signed. You don't need a color printer for that. So, she did some research and discovered that the cheapest solution was actually a black-and-white laser printer. You can get a consumer grade laser printer for around $1-200, and the cartridges, comparably, are insanely cheap. They cost about $50, but they last for thousands and thousands of pages instead of the only 200-500 prints you'll get out of most inkjet printer cartridges. 

The next time you go into your office take look around at the printers and see if they are inkjets or laser printers. I'll bet you the majority are black-and-white laser printers because businesses know that these are the most cost-effective printers.

Unless you're a photographer or you print out a lot of color pages and you really need to have control over how they print, a color inkjet printer is probably not a good investment. So, if you do print a lot, I would ask how often do you need to print in color? If the answer is "Not often," get a black and white laser printer, because it's gonna be your best bet for the money. You'll get a great cost-per-page, and it’s usually a lot faster!

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