Have you ever bought a printer you thought was a great deal, only to realize the cost of printer ink and other consumables is much higher than you’d anticipated? It’s not an uncommon occurrence. The next time you buy a printer, here are a few questions to ask first that will keep you from going over-budget on your ink.
How much does the ink cost? Printer manufacturers make money selling ink, toner, paper, and other consumables—not selling printers. So it’s not unusual for a printer to be low-cost, making you think you snagged a great deal—until the ink runs out and you have to buy more. Many customers wind up spending much more on ink cartridges over the life of their printers than they spent on the machines themselves. Don’t get a nasty surprise when you next go to the store to buy ink. Instead, check out the prices beforehand and factor that into your cost-comparisons with other printers and brands.
Is this printer right for what I want to do? It’s not uncommon for some customers to buy more printer than they need—and get stuck paying for expensive ink when the cheap stuff would have worked just fine. If you’re printing mainly text, you don’t need a photo inkjet printer. You’d do just fine with a laser printer, which tends to costs less per page to use than inkjets, especially if you’re printing mainly in black and white.
Does it use a 3-in-1 cartridge or separate cartridges? Some brands, including HP, Lexmark, and Dell, build colour printer cartridges that combine three colours in one cartridge. You end up spending more on ink over the long term, because once one colour runs out, the entire cartridge is spent. Buy a printer that allows you to replace each colour cartridge separately, and you’ll be able to save money on ink over the life of the printer.
Does the company have a cartridge recycling program? If you care about the environment, don’t skip asking this question. Some companies will allow you to send cartridges back and may even give you a discount on original manufacturer’s ink if you have some cartridges to trade in. Others don’t. Check with the salesperson or the manufacturer to see if they have an established recycling program, how convenient it is for you to use, and whether or not recycling your cartridges with the company will get you a discount on ink in the future.
Do those cartridges have a smart chip? The smart chip is an electronic “brain” that some printer manufacturers, including HP, Lexmark, Epson, and Dell, build into their cartridges. It tracks how much ink your printer is using and notifies your printer when the cartridge is running low. The problem with smart chips is that sometimes printers will freeze up when the smart chip says the cartridge is empty—and sometimes the cartridge isn’t completely empty when the smart chip says it is. Some smart chips carry a time limit, so that after a certain amount of time has elapsed you’ll have to buy new cartridges even if your existing cartridge is still full. In addition, some smart chips prevent refilling, telling the printer the cartridge is empty even after it’s been filled with ink.
How widely available are compatible cartridges? Compatible cartridges are manufactured by a third party company using the original manufacturer’s specifications. They are typically sold for a dramatic discount, and many businesses and home users secure significant savings using them. However, they’re not widely available for all brands, primarily because some manufacturers have brought legal challenges to third-party companies who re-engineer their products. If you have your heart set on a printer with expensive ink, check some reputable online ink dealers to gauge the availability of third-party compatible cartridges.
If you don’t take time to research printer ink costs before buying a printer, you could wind up paying more than you planned on. It’s crucial to factor the price of ink and other consumables into your decision to buy, as well as the availability of third-party compatible cartridges and the addition of features that could keep you buying more ink than you want—including 3-in-1 cartridges and smart chips. Consider all these factors, and you should be able to find a printer that meets your needs without breaking your budget.